As with many of my whisky connections, the world of social media has played a part and introduced me to many people I probably would have never met. Paul and I somehow crossed paths and he wrote to me about blog sharing. I know it may seem simple to travel, visit a distillery and then write about it, but it is a lot of work. I’m not saying it’s the hardest job. I get to travel the world and try new drams and brands, but it is very time consuming to get things as accurate as possible and to write an interesting story. It is hard to keep a blog going, especially since it definitely can’t the bills anymore.
In-between all of my distillery visits I have found it quite helpful to look outside of the physical brand and distilleries and learn how other parts of the industry work. Paul and McLean’s is no exception. I remember when I first started planning my trip to Scotland. The first question was how to get around? Here are the issues if you are an American: most cars are manual, the roads are tiny, their highways curve around mountains and lochs, driving on the other side of the road and you want to be boozing! These all seem like deterrents for a successful Scotch whisky trip. Tourism and tour companies like McLean’s are essential to keep the visitor centers open and to provide access to the vast whisky world. I wanted to take a deeper look of how a company like this works and I hope it can give others looking to visit Scotland an idea of how it can be done. So I hopped on a call with Paul and here is the McLean’s story.
The McLean’s team consists of two very important people. As Paul puts it, the team includes: himself and the brains/organizer, Liz. Not a large company by any means, but I think that represents Scotland as a country. A small country putting out some amazing whisky products and experiences with passion. Paul himself comes from the advertising agency world and started McLean’s in 1996. Although he currently resides in Scotland, he was raised in rural Ireland and has also spent significant time in England. This gives him insight not only into the Scotch whisky world, but also the quickly developing Irish, Welsh and British whisk(e)y scenes. At the moment, most of their tour requests are for whisky distillery visits to Speyside and Islay, but don’t forget the lifestyle that typically associates itself with Scotch. They have also organized golf & whisky tours, father-son trips and many other unique set-ups. That is the beauty of Paul and Liz. You make the call and they create a custom experience for you.
New whisky drinkers may feel a bit intimidated by this whole situation, but Paul boasts touring with everyone from rookies to experts. He has coordinated and hosted the likes of families, individuals, whisky clubs, suppliers, etc. He is also the chosen guide for Ingvar Ronde, the author of The Malt Whisky Yearbook. Now that I have sold you on his qualifications and references, what do you get if you choose to go with McLean’s? They can plan as much and as little as you would like from accommodation, specific distilleries, regions, historical locations etc. For example, he told me a story about how a few high-level executives from the states were picked up by helicopter in Edinburgh after their business meetings and then brought to specifically see Springbank and Campbeltown. Now if you don’t want the helicopter, don’t worry, you also get a fully guided experience with history, whisky stories and drams throughout the route.
Next up for McLean’s is of course growth, because the whisky industry is booming with no end in sight. With Paul’s roots back in Ireland, he looks forward to growing their Irish whiskey business. They also have been asked to do custom visits in other parts of Europe as well. Having visited so many distilleries and tried so many drams in his 20 years of doing this, I had to ask Paul what his drink of choice was at the moment (always at the moment since we all know it changes!) Right now Paul’s favorites are Glen Moray 25, Nomad Outland from Whyte & Mackay and Black Bush. Quite a range in his list, but I think that just shows you that there is a little something for every kind of client when you tour with McLean’s.
You can contact Paul and Liz to discuss arrangements of your next whisky adventure @ http://mcleanscotland.com/