Charlie MacLean: at the vanguard of Scotch whisky writing

Charles MacLean is one of the very few people who can be considered a true legend of the Scotch whisky industry.

Often described as “whisky’s finest guru” and a Master of the Quaich, Charlie has written extensively on the subject for over 30 years now, including ten books, countless magazine articles and innumerable tasting notes.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The writer and sometime actor (making his film debut in 2012's Angel's Share) says his career path took on many twists and turns before settling upon the one that he would come to love .

Charlie says he spent much of the 70s trying to decide what he would do. He secured a degree in art history before setting out to become a lawyer, however, he says it was his love of writing and a chance meeting with a young law lecturer - now more famously known as author Alexander McCall Smith - that led to him setting up Scotland’s first literary agency.

Several years of ghostwriting and copywriting followed before the publication of his first book about Scotland’s fishing villages in 1992.

It was through copywriting that Charlie became acquainted with the history and the production of Scotch.

In the late 1980s he decided to write a book on this new subject.

“I had a sufficient track record, and indeed interest, in whisky to make a proposal for a book about Scotch to a publisher and that was accepted and published in 1992, frankly since then my so-called career has swerved towards whisky, I was lucky to be given the chance to be able to pursue something that I am fascinated by.”

On the subject of the best way to drink whisky, Maclean, makes a distinction between enjoyment and appreciation.

“For sheer enjoyment; drink it as you like, you can mix it with ice, coke or ginger ale or whatever (although I think it’s a total sin to do that with malt whisky).

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"For appreciation, only drink the whisky straight or with a little water.

“Water almost invariably improves the drinking, it’s easier to nose and to taste if it’s reduced in strength a little bit, so never be shy of water.”

Related topics: