R&B Distillers co-founder, Alasdair Day, embodies our whisky heritage. He is the great-grandson of Richard Day who began working life as an office boy in 1895 at what was then J&A Davidson in the Borders town of Coldstream, and it just so happens that his other great-grandfather, Allan Macdonald, hailed from the Hebrides.
Having inherited his great-grandfather Richard Day’s Cellar Book of blending recipes, Alasdair and his father often spoke that they should “do something with it.” But although whisky is in his blood, was it always the first choice in his cup?
Coming of ‘responsible’ drinking age our resident whisky man was naïve and strapt for cash, yet determined to learn to like his national drink. Starting on the blends from a young age, he admits with only a wee cringe that his first taste of liquid gold was Bell’s, or was it Teachers (either way – good but cheap blends), Whisky diluted with a generous slosh of that other famous Scottish beverage, the mighty Irn Bru.
It was a deliberate strategy to self-teach an appreciation for whisky. The Bell’s and Irn Bru seemed to have done the trick – perhaps he saw the error of his ways – as he enthusiastically jumped a few rungs on the ladder and moved onto Talisker and Laphroaig. At the time Laphroaig was as peaty as they came (don’t think too hard about how long ago that was), with the likes of Ardbeg Corryvreckan and Bruichladdich Octomore not even conceived.
In retrospect, he says, and his advice for new whisky drinkers setting out on their journey of appreciation, he would have begun with the lighter, sweeter notes of a grain whisky. Although, now, being a whisky ‘connoisseur’ of all things Scotch, his preferred tipple remains (a more refined) whisky with a splash of ginger ale.
And what of his favourite drams? He often turns to his lightly peated friends in Talisker, Bowmore, and Caol Ila. But he doesn’t believe that peaty whisky is necessarily roaring log fires and leather armchairs. These measures lend themselves to a particular frame of mind, such as when you need warming up out in the cold at a rugby match.
On other occasions, when he swaps his rugby scarf for a smart shirt, he likes to settle back with a sherry cask matured speyside nip from Glenrothes or Balvenie, or a sweet single grain. He also hasn’t stopped his whisky journey yet (and has no plans to do so!), currently exploring new world whiskies from Japan and Taiwan, as well as ryes and bourbons.
Crafting a New Path
From the outset of his own whisky tasting journey, Alasdair became more and more interested in his heirloom book of whisky magic. He set off on a hunt for those relevant whiskies that were still available, many being discontinued and thus long lost.
His obvious ingenuity and persistence paid off here and the modern Tweeddale was born. The blending began again in 2009. So after 25 years in the food industry, he’s been successfully handcrafting his great-grandfather’s.
At R&B we’re not only lucky to have Alasdair’s wealth of whisky knowledge, but also that he can lend his hand to some expert food pairings! Whisky and cheese anyone?
But Alasdair wasn’t satisfied; our R&B pioneers are big dreamers you see. A Borders distillery, over a century since the last one closed, that was the vision, and now it’s our plan.
When Alasdair met Bill, two ambitions to return production to the lands that whisky forgot joined forces and the Tweeddale had a new home with R&B Distillers, and Alasdair had a new journey to set out on – to Raasay.