Scotch and Czechs

Scotland’s national drink...

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Scotland’s national drink is enjoying a new boom in the Czech Republic with more Czechs than ever drinking Scotch, and reveling in all things Scottish. According to Scotsman, Kenny Mitchell, who will be leading a Scotch tasting at Bar and Books on 16 May, the Czechs may even be drinking more of the stuff than the Scots.

>> Learn more about the tasting..

“The Scotch industry at the moment is more successful with marketing Scotch outside of Scotland. A point of fact that there is more whisky drunk in Europe than in Scotland, among the 20-30 age group,” claims Mitchell who is a council member of the British Institute of Inn Keepers.

Vasek Rout who runs whisky tastings regularly from his Scottish shop in Vinohrady, says that Scotland “is an obsession for him.” He founded the Friends of Scotland Society two years ago, which now has over 700 members. Every year they host Highland games, bag piping events and cooperate with the Caledonian Club which features kilted Czechs who perform traditional Scottish dances.

When I asked Vasek why so many Czechs would be interested in Scotland, he was not able to answer. “People like different things, some like the music, others like the history, others like the whisky.”

Scotsman Colin Clark points out that ‘there is a strong Celtic link.” Clark has been living near Usti Nad Labem, where he lectures in the English department at the Unvisersity, for the past five years. “Czechs see a parallel between their own National history [and the Scots],” comments Clark, and consequently both cultures share a “hatred of hypocrisy and people setting themselves up to be above one another.”

Clark adds that of course “both cultures are soused in alcohol.” So while the Czechs have traditionally drown their sorrows in the slivovice and beer, the Czech entrance to the EU has made Scotch more assessable and cheaper. Before EU entrance, single malt Scotch suffered a 10% import tax, making it prohibitively expensive.

Now Czechs are buying more Scotch, and better quality says Michal Kratochvil who runs Kratachviliovci, a high end spirit shop on Tynska 15 in Old Town, where he offers 350 different varieties of Scotch. He too has boarded the Scottish boat. He excused himself from our meeting when his mobile phone rang to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.

When talking about single malts, Kratochvil lights up, with a twinkle in his eye that warns me that he could talk about Scotch indefinitely. “Single malts have so many flavors. It doesn’t exist with any other kind of alcohol.” His current connoisseur’s passion is a 1992, Blackadder, Rawcask.

At 62% you can see why it’s called raw, raw because it goes straight from the cask into the bottle, sediment and all, without extra processing or artificial coloring. The Blackadder website proudly boasts that “the only thing we do when bottling is to use a small filter to ensure that splinters of wood from the cask do not inadvertently pass into the bottle.”

This type of product appeals to Czechs, claims Mitchell “The Czech people’s love of strong spirit has made it a ripe market for Scotch.”

Anyone interested in learning more about Scotch, can stop into Tynska Bar and Books anytime for a tasting. Czech owner Martina Pestova offers “Tasting Flights” where you can try six half whiskies of your choice, and every third Tuesday of the month she sponsors Whisky Night, when whisky is offered at special prices. If you want to try the Blackadder turn up at Bar and Books this Tuesday, 16 May at 19:00 for the Connoisseur’s Guide to Scotch Whisky, a guided tasting.

According to Kenny the Scotch tasting will be lots of fun, featuring labels such as Laphroiag, Glenmorangie, Caola Ila, and The Famous Grouse. “And,” says Mitchell, “Scotch in best enjoyed in a Scotsman’s company, especially if he’s wearing a skirt…a kilt that is.”

Top Five pubs in Prague to enjoy Scotch Whisky:

Tynska Bar and Books, Tynska 19, Prague 1
The Alcohol Bar, Dusni 16, Prague 1
Club Zero, Dusni 8, Prague 1
Velryba, Opatovicka 24, Prague 1.
Dinitz Café, Na porici, Prague 1.

- Liz Bishop

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