The unlikely origin of one of the world’s finest liqueurs

A base of blended Scotch whisky, with smooth honey, zesty tangerines, sweet almonds and aromatic spices.
A base of blended Scotch whisky, with smooth honey, zesty tangerines, sweet almonds and aromatic spices.
Promoted by Glayva

Think of Scotch, and you think of rolling heather-strewn hills, babbling brooks. Not so for the creation of this distinguished tipple, we learn.

The soot and smoke of post-war Edinburgh wouldn’t necessarily be the setting you’d have in mind as the birthplace of one of the world’s most venerated whisky liqueurs.

As winters bite begins to grip, Glayva is particularly delicious in a cup of rich roasted coffee

As winters bite begins to grip, Glayva is particularly delicious in a cup of rich roasted coffee

But it was in ash-hued Leith in the winter of 1947 that Glayva was first poured, for residents looking for a drink that would warm their bones against the biting chill blowing off the Forth.

As any whisky distiller will tell you, location can mean everything when it comes to taste; from the water source you use to the local peat you cut to malt your barley.

The local Leith dockyards of the late 1940s would have been teeming with ships arriving from distant shores, a mass of billowing funnels and cranes unloading cargoes laden with spices and alluring fruits.

Inspired by this flavoursome cargo, local whisky merchant Ronald Morrison decided to contrive his own whisky liqueur – a new drink to brighten the spirits of the war-weary people of Edinburgh.

To a base of blended Scotch whisky, he added smooth honey, zesty tangerines, sweet almonds and aromatic spices, including cinnamon, until he discovered the perfect harmony of ingredients. As with any true alchemy, the exact recipe remains a closely guarded secret.

Morrison must have known he’d struck liquid gold when, handing the nectar to one of his warehouse men to try, he replied with a hearty “Gle math”, or “very good” in Gaelic.

Garnering acclaim from around the world, the liqueur, with its warming character, has chased away many a dreich day over the last 70 years.

Morrison’s creation was a continuation of the long-standing connection between Leith and the whisky trade.

In its heyday, the area had around 100 bonded warehouses packed to the rafters with maturing single malts from some of Scotland’s most eminent distilleries.

Blended whisky in particular - the foundation of Glayva - has a special place in the annals of Leith’s history, which was known for producing some of the best blended whiskies on the market.

This pedigree is continued today with Glayva, which has been awarded fourteen times at the International Wine and Spirits Competition, making it literally the best liqueur in the world.

The drink itself is a complex liqueur enjoyed neat on the rocks or chilled - or mixed as a tall drink with apple juice.

As winter’s bite begins to grip, this golden wonder is particularly delicious in a cup of rich roasted coffee. Special Glayva gift cartons are available from your local supermarket now, featuring a free pack of Edinburgh-based Brodies ground Colombian filter coffee - the perfect Christmas present (if you can bear to part with it, that is).

Or head to the Glayva Bar at Edinburgh’s Christmas on George Street until 24th December to try a Glayva and Coffee and put a spring in your step as you brace the cold blowing over Edinburgh’s cobbles.