The final instalment in our Vintage Scotch Whisky series, we look at the vibrant neon era of the 1980s and delve deep into the infamous Whisky Loch and its impact on whisky production throughout the decade.
Despite over forty years having passed, for many of us the 1980s feels as though it occurred just yesterday.
A decade of distinction, no doubt, perhaps it is the lacking subtly of the bright neon lights, discothèque dancehalls, spandex and tightly ringed perms of the era that has impressed such a recall on our memory.
The 1980s was a period of great change for many and as pop bands lamented about the anxieties laying under the surface of the ongoing threat of a Cold War, closer to home, the Whisky industry was faced with turmoil of its own in the form of the ill-fated Whisky Loch. Jump in the DeLorean and join us as we head back to the age of techno.
The 1980s and the World
The 1980s is fondly thought of by many. It is not unusual to hear peers proclaim they were “born in the wrong era”, alluding to the cultural significance of the time.
From Madonna to Michael Jackson, the decade birthed some of the most iconic hits that today still dominate primetime radio shows. The 1980s were a period of outward expression – a far cry from the relatively refined behaviours of the 1960s and 1970s – more than likely fuelled by the bold lyrics of bands such as Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Ultravox, commentating on the topics of the time.
Pop culture hit a peak – and the public embraced media in all its glory – from consuming film classics such as Back to the Future, Die Hard and The Breakfast Club with a voracious hunger in cinema, to embracing the commercially available additions of video cassettes and cable TV closer to home.
This same unapologetic way of living was mirrored in almost every aspect – from psychedelic tropical cocktails, complete with sparklers and pop-up mini umbrellas, to garishly garnished prawn cocktail starters, or even in the way of cosmetic make-up with both men and women alike adorning heavy eyeliner, glitter and rouge to welcome in the new age.
In politics, the decade ushered in new conservatism as the western world turned its eyes to a new US president, Ronald Reagan, and the UK’s first female prime minister Margaret Thatcher – two divisive and evocative characters who served their terms as consumerism and “Yuppie” culture rose, while communism began to crumble, concluding in the eventual fall of the Berlin Wall.
With such upheaval and activity in everyday life, it should have come as no surprise that the whisky industry itself would not escape unscathed.
The 1980s and Whisky Production
The successes of the whisky boom in the 1970s would envelope the industry in a false sense of security, for the 1980s, and particularly the mid-1980s would bring a tidal wave of turmoil to the industry, in the form of mass distillery closures.
Unfortunately, the ambitious hunger of the 1970s had been overly enthusiastic and by the turn of the decade, demand began to decline due to preferences trending towards lighter and white spirits, resulting in an industry-wide overabundance of whisky inventory.
Combined with other economic and geopolitical challenges, this made the trading environment for Scotch Whisky especially challenging and in a response to the landscape, cost cutting measures were put in place resulting in the closure and shuttering of a swathe of distilleries, with some being bulldozed out of existence. The human cost of this was also great, contributing to the widespread unemployment issues of the 1980s.
Some distilleries were lucky enough to escape a doomed fate, but to survive the trying time, producers scaled down production significantly, the inevitable consequence of this being less vintage whisky from the decade being readily available today, making expressions of the time truly rare, just like those within our House of Hazelwood collection.
Embracing the Eighties: Our Vintage Whisky Selection
Sunshine on Speyside
If a whisky could embody an era, Sunshine on Speyside, a 39-Year-Old Blended Malt, would make absolutely no apologies for its rambunctious representation of the 1980s. Hailing from the region of Speyside, this unabashedly bright character is reminiscent of the flamboyant tropical cocktails of the decade, offering up a cornucopia of pineapple, mango, barbecue smoke and zesty citrus.
Far from a subtle character, but then again, the 1980s was an era of expression.
By the time the decade of the 1980s came to an end, just a smattering of Lowland distilleries remained, with the future of those still in operation looking bleak. Despite this challenging economic landscape, producers continued to manufacture a wonderfully optimistic spirit: light, grassy and fresh in nature – the metaphorical tonic to trials of the time.
Within The Lowlander, a 36 Year Blended Scotch, referred to as the epitome of the region, you will find this fighting spirit bottled, expressing evocative notes of vintage cars, granite, spun sugar and meadow grass.
The Eight Grain
A grain distillery to represent every decade leading up to the 1980s, The Eight Grain is an exceptional tribute to producers present and past within this brilliant Blended Grain Scotch Whisky. Offering up bursts of baked sugar and banoffee pie, imbibing a measure of this decadent drop will conjure up nostalgia for ice cream, toffee sauce with a big banana split landing right down the middle.
A rare opportunity to travel back in time – just make sure not to forget to remember your leg warmers.
Vintage Whisky – Explore the Series
Enjoying a trip through time with a glass of vintage whisky in hand? Why not take a look back through the years and explore the world of whisky in the 1960s and 1970s?