Thursday, June 25, 2009

Keepers of the Cumhachd - an apology

Tocasaid is pleased to offer an apology to the Keepers of the Quaich who had been previously slandered and much maligned in these very pages - see below. We are only too happy to point out that the KotQ are a modern, inclusive and progressive organisation who do not discriminate on grounds of income or class.

As proof, we have kindly agreed to reproduce the above photo in which we see the KotQ's 'Dark Chapter' perusing their tasting notes for Lidl's 'Queen Margot' ("Bit rough but otherwise, f****n barry"), Sainsbury's Islay Malt ("mare smoke than a Glaswegian schoolkid's breath, a snip at £16.99") and finally ye olde fave Hundred Pipers ("man, this kills yer liver but aye, does ye the world of good").

Viscount 'Thirsty' Thurso also expressed his support for Gaelic as an everyday living language. He explained that 'quaich' itself is from the Gaelic 'cuach' and that his current most-played MP3 is 'Ramalair Ruisgte' , a Gaelic tribute to the Naked Rambler, by Edinburgh's Gaelic speaking streetpunks Oi Polloi. "And ye dinny argue wi them boys." he added with faux-menace, shaking his substantial pube-like beard for comic effect.

Keepers of the Quaich - masons in disguise?

Or maybe just masons?

I was unlucky enough to pick up a copy of their rag 'The Keeper', edited by grey-haired toff Roddy 'horny-handed son of toil' Martine. The mag is basically an industry love-in. Somewhere between Tatler and an upper-class version of 'Hello'. Pages are given to glossy photos of company CEOs, various aristo-types, rugger-bugger private-school graduates and the odd bit of upper-class fluff. There are fragments of the Gaelic tongue here and there but it comes across like some kind of ceremonial secret-language to which only the privileged have access, like Latin is for advocates, and not the still-very-much-alive tongue that is spoken by tens of thousands of Scots.

There's also pics of yachts, castles, a Lib-Dem Viscount (!!!) and various other grey-haired chinless types.

Enough to put you off your dram.

Evidence though that the rich will always ape the 'cool proles'. "?" you say with a puzzled fizzog? Well, take a look at almost any menu in almost any top Scots' restaurant... haggis, shellfish of various types, cranachan, black pudding (usually from a suspiciously swine-free Stornoway), stovies and other items that were once the preserve of those who lived of the land and took what was immediately available to them. Even in the stinking closes of Auld Reekie, the great unwashed would live of claret and oysters - if you believe the evidence found by archaeologists in an 18th century midden.

Should the rich and industry high-heid-yins be allowed their private clubs? Let them do what they will but... i, for one, look forward to the day when distilleries are owned by their communities in much the same way as numerous crofting communities own their own land. Bear in mind that crofting as a concept is more or less the same age as most distilleries are - since their 'legal' conception anyway. Who would have envisaged two or three decades ago that the islanders of Gigha or Eigg and the crofters of Asainte or Bhaltos would own their own communities?

This aint communism or anarchism. It's just progress. Let ordinary Scots enjoy the fruits of their land as much as possible. Uisge-beatha was once made by the poor for the poor - to erase memories of warfare, to forget their days of toil, to celebrate weddings and to drink a 'deoch-shlàinte' to whatever deeds needed toasting. And, even if we're not as poor as we once were, it's still better that many benefit as opposed to just a privileged few.

Lets put the distilleries in the hands of the communities once more and lower these FCKN taxes!!!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Whiskies and their Gaelic pronounciations

Scotland is a country where most of the population cannot pronounce and/or explain the majority of her placenames. And it's not just in the 'Gaelic' Highlands - Gaelic names are found as far south as Berwickshire and even into Cumbria. Evidence of the extent of Gaelic speaking communities who named their habitat some 1000 years ago.

Whilst some names use archaic Gaelic and others have been Anglicised beyond easy comprehension, a knowledge of Gaelic is a valuable key to Scotland's core identity. Uisge-beatha is a good example. Many may mock Americans or Sasannaich for their perceived inability to pronounce 'ch' as in 'Lock Lomond' but many Scots are equally guilty of mangling their nation's topography. So, here's some thoughts on our Gaelic whisky names... in no particular order.

Allt a' Bhainne (owlt a bhan-ya) - the Burn of the Milk. The pronounciation of 'bainne' varies greatly according to the Gaelic dialect. In Skye, it is roughly 'benya', in mainland and 'standard' Gaelic it's 'banya' with a soft slenderised 'a' and in Lewis it's 'bonya'. Unless an expert in Srath Spè Gaelic can tell me otherwise, then it isn't 'vane'. A great name though. I've yet to drink from this particular allt.

Dailuaine (dal oo-ane-ya) - the green meadow. Many seem to have difficulty with the 'oo-ah'. 'Dail' itself is apparently a loan from auld Norse and common throughout Scotland.
 Gaelic whisky name
Bruthach a' Chladaich (broo-aCH a CHlattiCH) - the brae of the shore. Pay attention, Laddie PR folk. There is no 'k' in your name! See above. As a native Gael from Port Weymss, just down the coast from Bruichladdich said when i queiried if the native Ilich had replaced 'ch' with 'k', "Amaideas!" (nonsense). The 'Brook Laddie' may wash with the English and American markets but let's face it, the Sasannaich and Yanks are to linguistic diversity and respect for indigenous cultures what Gary Glitter is to childcare.

Bun na h-Aibhne (boon na havfen-ye) - the mouth of the river. Usually seen in it's slightly incorrect rendering of Gaelic's notorious genitive case, 'Bun na h-Abhainn', you can see the correct grammar in it's Ileach neighbour 'Port na h-Aibhne' or Portnahaven. Take note. Meanwhile, for such blatant dereliction of our tongue's grammar, stand in the corner with a double dram of Ledaig.

Until the next time when i may tackle the likes of Auchentoshan, Bowmore and Edradour then you can check out the Scottish Place-name Society here, if you need guidance on the linguistic wealth that is Scotland's topography.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Nòs Ùr 2009 - 20/6/09

Co-fharpais ciùil airson nam mion-chànan Ceilteach. An-uiridh, chunnacas Oi Polloi is eile à Alba ach mar bu dual b'e na Cuimrich a b'fhionnaire! A' bhliadhna-sa, se Na Gathan agus Sunrise not Secular a chuireas rudeigin ùr fainear nan Gaidheal. Eden Court, an Inbhir Nis air 20mh an Og-Mhios. Nach math gum brosnaichear daoine oga a' bhliadhna-sa ge-ta. Siuthad!

A Eurovision type competition to choose a winner from the Celtic nations for the Liet International competition. Last year saw lots of 'nice' and safe but predictable folk music from the Gaels with only Oi Polloi pushing the boundaries. As per usual, the cool Cymrus walked it. This year, we have Na Gathan and Sunrise not Secular to try something new for Gaelic music.

In an important step forward though, there's more emphasis on encouraging young Gaelic speakers to write and compose new music in Gaelic with under 16s getting in free as well as a 'Nos Og' competition.

Nos Ur 2009. More info here.

If only we had the likes of Ramoneurs de Menhirs...! Fadachd orm am faicinn a-rithist an cois na Polloi agus na Gathan! Click here to see them playing Breton folk-punk with Breton port-a-beul accompanying. Direach sgoinneil.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

If drams were political parties...

...just who would they be?

With Euro election day almost upon us and the likelihood once again that less than a third of voters will bother to turn up, let's have a whisky slant on the proceedings. Actually, a 30% turnout is probably a gross overestimate, given the current wave of scrutiny that is sweeping the mutha of parliaments in London town and leaving all kinds of nasty, foul-smelling detritus in it's wake, much to the distate of the mob. Btw... this probably won't be a comprehensive list due to the sheer bewildering number of parties and attention seekers standing in this election. Apparently, Susan Boyle, Richard Branson and Robert Kilroy-Silk were too busy on other platforms to take part. Shame.

Ok ma-tha... here we go. In no particular order.

SNP - Ardbeg Renaissance. Exhaling confidence, Salmond's Fianna are strong, smooth and full-bodied. Apart from one or two minor aberrations, can do little wrong at the moment.

Labour - SMWS's Dirty Dram for Mary Poppins. Despite being from the same distillery as above, this indie bottling is described as being like an ashtray. That's Labour for you. Foul smelling and nasty, there's very little that's positive about it. In fact, it may seriously damage
your health.

Tory - Ledaig. As sickly as Labour, it's never really taken off in Scotland. Tries very hard to be smooth but ends up being kind of soapy. Imagine the Billy Bunter-esqe David Cameron (Camshron in Gaelic means crooked nose. Wonder if that carries any significance? Maybe just crooked will do.) painting boot polish on your tongue. You know you don't want this.

Green Party- Benromach Organic. It might not set the heather alight - too much carbon release there - but it's fairly inoffensive and actually quite tasty in an honest sort of way. Wholesome. This is a policy that others may soon adopt. Bruichladdich has one in the pipeline. Expect Gord Broon to jump on the bandwagon soon.

Lib Dems - Jura Superstition. Was temtped to type in 'Babycham'. It's kind of superior to the bog standard but it's not the kind of stuff that really inspires. Kind of wishy washy and not really gonna do anything. Er, that's it.

BNP and UKIP - Lidl's Queen Margot. Cheap and nasty. Appeals to the lowest scummy denominator. Only good for cleaning windaes. In fact, leave it in the (white) trash where it belongs.

No2EU: Yes To Democracy - Famous Grouse. Hmmm, this is difficult. For a start, just who TF are they? Well, Tommy Sheridan is in it. It may have some good points but then again... So, like the FG, you may have voted for it once upon a time but now you no longer wish to feed it's ego.