The Bon Accord peers over the M8 motorway through a spartan row of trees in that colorblind space between Glasgow’s red-stone downtown and green West End. Behind the shining Bon Accord sign and planters overflowing with flowers, Paul McDonagh curates a collection of single malt Scotch whisky. The bottles glitter like a chest full of gold pieces kissed by torch light. The back bar is a trophy case of elixirs handpicked from the reaches of Scotland, from the wind-blasted Orkney Isles to rain-soaked Islay to sunny, lush Speyside and all the moorland in between. There are tarry potions and amber syrups, clear bottles of liquid sunlight and stumpy green flasks of dreaming tinctures.
I flick through the options on Paul’s iPad. It’s an incongruous moment of high technology meeting ancient craft. The origins of making whisky might be lost to the eraser of time, but the druids worshipped oak and water. That’s enough for me to slap down a £20 note and order a dram of Bruichladdich’s Black Art 2. Paul pulls down an opaque, Satanic black bottle with a gold pentagram and carefully pours a dram the color of a red winter sun setting on the mountains. The draught wafts into my nose. Caramelized sugar, polished leather, stewed currants, pipe tobacco, and woody red wine. The aromas reintroduce themselves on my palate, just in case I’ve forgotten. I still haven’t.