Now there’s often a bit of good-natured rivalry between neighbouring farms where similar enterprises are run – and this competitive spirit can extend to cross-border banter between counties.

While I’m a Perthshire lad through and through, I’d own up that one of my grandfathers was born and raised in Fife. So I feel I can say a few things about our neighbouring county – or as they would modestly have it, Kingdom – without being harangued for being overly prejudiced or biased.

I also know a lot of farmers from that part of the country, many of them good people – but I’d have to say that there’s a noticeable tendency for the denizens of Fife to stick together, a fact which is maybe highlighted in the old sing-song greeting:

“Whaur ya fae?”

“Ah come fae Fife.”

“See’s yer haun. Whit pairt o’ Fife?”


“See’s yer twa hauns.”

I suppose family holidays and day trips to the seaside towns of St Andrews and Elie formed my earliest memories of our neighbouring county, with its rich rolling farmland dotted with bright orange pan-tile roofed steadings running up to the more industrial areas where the seams of coal which underlay the land fuelled the industry above it.

Our landlords also hail from Fife and in the good old days before the factoring was outsourced to one of the big land agent companies, they never demanded too much in the way of hat doffing, or fore-lock tugging when the rent cheque was delivered to the estate offices at the castle – but a journey there always seemed to be like moving into a different country.

I guess it was probably during my years of study, though, that my views of the good people of Fife were really moulded, when there was a considerable contingent from the area who had all come up through the Young Farmers together.

They were a decent bunch and often managed to put up with the rough manners of their poor cousin from Perthshire.

And while I knew that the bulging intervention grain stores of the day probably bank-rolled the seemingly endless procession of Ford Fiesta XR2s, the Mark 3 Escort XR3-Is and RS Turbos which my poor old Mk 1 sometimes struggled to keep up with, I never felt jealous of my mates from the Kingdom.

But I’d have to admit that the green-eyed monster reared its head a bit the other week when I was attending an agronomy conference and we heard from the managing director of a new distillery which has been set up recently in Fife.

Now, there’s a bit of a feeling that new distilleries seem to be 10-a-penny at the moment – but this one sounds to be a bit different from the run of the mill still.

Headed up by whisky industry veteran, Ian Palmer, who gave an insight into his business model at last week’s Scottish Agronomy agm, he made it clear that it wasn’t going to be yet another visitor centre and tea room which just happens to have a distillery attached in an attempt to draw the crowds. “We want to make money making whisky, not selling coffee,” he said.

Nor will the enterprise be pedalling any of the weird and wonderful flavours of gin – which, as this spirit needs no statutory maturation period, has been propping up the early years of what will likely be a large number of pretty iffy malt whiskies set to hit the market in a few years’ time.

Even the sleek lines of the distillery buildings near Kinglassie are a million miles away from the usual Grannie’s Hielan’ Hame image which often sees distilleries trying to claim to have had Robert the Bruce, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Queen Victoria all somehow playing a key role in their brand’s history.

Instead, the £10m Inchdairnie distillery will concentrate on technological advances which not only make it highly efficient, but which also allow it to be highly flexible.

Mr Palmer pointed out that, rather than selling a dodgy, half-baked history, flavour would be the unique selling point of his whisky – with a range of different cereals and yeasts being used to allow the company to extract a range of flavour notes from the distillation process.

So, it was heartening to see that someone seemed intent on doing the job properly – and actually caring about the product and giving his customers something more than just marketing spin.

But the slight tinge of envy which I felt was due to more than just the fact that this far-sighted enterprise was based in Fife, for the other unique part of the distillery’s strategy is going to be its provenance. He wants his product to be “grown, distilled and matured” in Fife and all the grain involved in making the whisky is to be sourced from within the borders of the Kingdom!

While he already uses both winter and spring varieties of barely to create his whiskies, Palmer said the use of a mash filter rather than a mash tun will allow the distillery to investigate the use of rye, oats and wheat in an attempt to build a singularly unique flavour profile for an identifiable Fife whisky.

Not only that, but he is keen to co-operate with variety trials to find out what different barleys – both old and new – can bring to the flavour palate which he maintains will be provided by the raw material rather than the addition of caramel or flavourings later in the process.

Putting forward a pretty cogent argument, he said that under the present regime, barley varieties suitable for malting are judged on two criteria – how well they yield at farm level and how much spirit they yield at the distillation stage: “And flavour is completely ignored,” he pointed out.

Unsurprisingly, the attentive audience wondered if growing the more flavoursome older varieties would be worth their while: “Don’t ask me if I would be willing to pay more for older, lower yielding varieties,” said Palmer, “because I already am. And that’s what will give us the flavour which we need –without that, we have nothing.”

So, while the farming world has traditionally viewed the commitment of the malting and distilling trades to using solely Scottish barley with some well-deserved scepticism, it was a breath of fresh air to hear the promise of such loyalty.

And so I found myself thinking that while many of the big brand names in Scotch whisky might no longer have their headquarters in their traditional homelands of Perth and the surrounding countryside, they still make the most of their roots in our rolling fields, hills and glens in their marketing blurb – and it’s the same for the many other areas of Scotland which find themselves part of a whisky trail which has no real connection with the raw materials used in its production.

Therefore, it would be nice to think that other distilleries might be willing to make a similar sort of commitment – and view their raw materials not simply as a cheap commodity for a multi-national business, but rather give them the recognition which they deserve as key components which play a pivotal role in the creation of a unique high value product.

And then we could all say ‘cheers’ to the whisky trade – wherever we lived!