It became possible to travel by rail from London through to Scotland by the late 1840s, and a train from the south by both West and East Coast routes would come to be known as a ‘Scotch Express.’ Perhaps the most famous began running to Edinburgh in 1862, although it was not until 1924 it officially received the title ‘Flying Scotsman’. The early trains at first did not run to fast schedules, and it was only towards the end of the 19th century the term ‘Express’ could properly be applied.
Regardless of how quickly they got there, the new influx of visitors to Scotland helped to bring about a great expansion of the Scottish railways, with five major companies bringing services to all corners of the country until they merged with the British network in 1923.
Each bottle in the Scotch Express series pays tribute to a classic Scottish railway operator, with beautiful artwork by Robin Barnes bringing new life to the locomotives that once ran these rails. Our whiskies are sourced from distilleries along the routes – the expansion of rail having brought new connections to these Scottish industries, and opened them up to the world.
“These bottles celebrate the routes that brought people and whisky together”
THE GLASGOW & SOUTH-WESTERN RAILWAY
The Glasgow & South-Western Railway served a much more compact area than its peers, the Highland, Caledonian and North British Railways. One can trace its origins to the Kilmarnock and Troon colliery line – a pioneering 10 mile stretch that carried Scotland’s first passenger services, and in 1817 (temporarily) ran the first steam locomotive in Scotland. A consolidation of various smaller railways in the southwest in 1850 produced the G&SWR, which was to become one of the five great Scottish Victorian railway companies, and a great boon to the industrialising city of Glasgow and its attendant ports.
The G&SWR’s central hub was at St. Enoch Station in Glasgow, a mighty edifice including the imposing St Enoch Station Hotel – the first building in Glasgow to be fitted with electric light. As well as connecting to Scotland’s busy southwestern routes, regular services to England were run down the west coast via Carlisle. The route was acknowledged to be slower than competing east coast services, so compensated for this by letting passengers travel in far greater style and comfort.
Always slightly compact in scale, the G&SWR favoured running smaller tender locomotives on their services. Towards the end of the railway’s life, the engineer Robert Whitelegg joined the company and brought with him a knowledge of large tank engines. The G&SWR 540 ‘Baltic’ 4-6-4T were a Whitelegg design, and incredibly well engineered, built to the highest specifications. Despite high maintenance costs, they performed exceptionally well and were kept in service for many years after the G&SWR was absorbed into the British railway network in 1923. We chose the Whitelegg Baltic for the bottle label, to show the G&SWR at its most confident.
INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED RAILWAY ARTIST ROBIN BARNES
A 1940s childhood passed within sight and sound of a busy main-line railway on which every train was hauled by a steam locomotive, many of them bearing names to grip the youthful imagination – Golden Eagle, Royal Lancer, Sayajirao, Irish Elegance, Jingling Geordie and Wizard of the Moor – led inevitably to a fascination with trains and railways, which over time broadened into a wider interest in other forms of transport too, on the sea and in the air.
Without Robin’s artwork, this series would not exist. He has captured iconic locomotives in highly detailed watercolour on the bottles, and scenes of the railways in their wider Scottish context for our magazine advertising.
On our bottle, Robin has shown a G&SWR 540 class ‘Baltic’ 4-6-4T under full steam away from its home base at Glasgow’s St Enoch railway station, passing through the urban landscape of Industrial Glasgow. The concentration of people, industries and harbours in Scotland’s southwest was the bread and butter of the G&SWR – and this label is an ode to the progress and affluence of Industrial Scotland in the 19th and 20th centuries.
In our print advertising, Robin has painted a more humble (but equally beautiful) offering – the steam powered ‘railmotor #1’ on the G&SWR Catrine branch. Essentially a small tank engine mashed together with a 50-seat saloon carriage, they were unsuitable for long routes due to constant shaking of the passengers by the pistons. For short hops, though, these railmotors were ideal, and they neatly encapsulate the compact efficiency of the G&SWR.
THE AUCHENTOSHAN DISTILLERY
Of the several whisky distilleries located in Glasgow, Auchentoshan is the best known and longest established, sitting on the north bank of the river Clyde since 1817. Unusually for Scotch Whisky (but more common for Irish), Auchentoshan triple distills every drop of spirit, creating a whisky that is light in body and very sensitive to oak maturation. It is a midsize Scottish distillery, with a capacity that is considerably lower than some of the big dogs, but since no Auchentoshan malt is used in blending, this sought after malt whisky has a weighty impact on the industry perhaps disproportionate to its size. One might be tempted to make a comparison to the small but mighty G&SWR here…
The closest point of the old G&SWR network to Auchentoshan is the Renfrew Wharf on the south bank of the Clyde – over the river from the distillery. This is part of the route that connected Glasgow with Ardrossan harbour – a very lucrative branch that the G&SWR maintained full control of for over 40 years, until the battle for Ardrossan’s trade began to escalate between the G&SWR and Caledonian railways.
Ardrossan was a hard working international port, and Auchentoshan whisky may well have found an easy path to the rest of the world by running on the old G&SWR lines.
Raise your glass, then, to the abiding need for whisky to travel, and for the railways and ships that enabled it to do so!
THE SCOTCH WHISKY EXPRESS
Glasgow & South-Western Railway
Aged: 10 years
Cask type: Refill Ex Bourbon
Bottle size: 70cl
ABV: 51.0 % Vol
A lively start on the nose, with strong and classic notes of vanilla and meadow flowers. There are signs like distilled fruits, like cognac or plum schnapps. A breath of the steam off a pan of caramel follows.
Sweet beginnings like heavy custard tarts, dusted with a little oaky nutmeg. Then a little sharpening reveals lime zest, and the long finish is reminiscent of crêpes suzette flambéed with a hefty whack of excellent brandy.
A drop of water adds smoothness, and you get brandy snaps and apricots.
The Scotch Express Series: The Glasgow & South Western Railway is now shipping. The fourth release from the popular series will be another highly limited release. reserve your bottle today while supplies last.BUY NOW