Andy Burns has been selling whisky for 23 years. He grew up in Kirkconnel in the South West of Scotland, Rabbie Burns country so to speak.‘No family relations there, although Robert did put it about a lot. I started my working life down the coal mine, followed by a variety of jobs. Then me and Carol moved to Inveraray in 1997’.
Fyne Malts of Inveraray
Andy found a job in the construction industry and that’s where he met his new employer, Richard Joynson. ‘Because I was doing building work at the time, Richard asked me to do some renovation work at the grocer’s shop he had just bought. It needed to be knocked about a bit’. When the job was done, he asked Andy to stay as a sales worker in his whisky shop and that’s what he did. ’It was great working for Richard, but when he sold out to the whisky boys, Carol and I started Fyne Malts of Inveraray in November 2015’. One of the reasons being that I really got interested in the amber nectar’.
There’s a painting hanging in the far corner featuring Andy with one of his Alsatians, Zeus. ‘Families sometimes come in just for the two dogs Thor and Zeus. So, I had these postcards made featuring me and Zeus’. The glass showcase opposite the counter is the shop’s treasure trove. ‘There was a good clean out over the Easter weekend. The Highland Park Valhalla did OK. People spend money on whisky these days’. The shop bell rings and customers enter. They inquire about the Campbeltown whiskies. Andy explains:’ They’re all from the same still; Springbank: lightly peated. Hazelburn, triple distilled and no peat and Longrow: heavily peated. They do the whole process all by themselves.’ ‘Ohhhhh, is that so ?’ they breathe out simultaneously.
Ian Macleod Distillers
I buy a bottle of ‘As We Get It. ‘This is the second style with Islay whisky in it, cask strength and 60% abv’, Andy teaches. ‘The first one was a Highland whisky which was bottled at 66% abv; Macallan that was, I believe. A great blend, bottled by the famous Ian Macleod Distillers, who own Glengoyne and Tamdhu’. I am surprised to know that our national booze retailer Gall & Gall in The Netherlands shelves a 57.1% abv Islay expression. Looking around the small shop it suddenly dawns on me. Of course, Ian Macleod also do the wonderful Pig’s Nose, The Feathery, Sheep Dip and Isle of Skye.
‘The winter was very poor for us. Some say it’s Brexit, I don’t know, it’s a crutch. Sales are going down for shops like us. Mail order business is soaring, but that’s not what we want. I want to go home at five-thirty because I don’t want to work 14 hours a day’. Andy loves his freedom where he lives now. ‘I can play my music loud, fall over and nobody bothers’, he adds with a big smile. ‘I open the shop at ten in the morning, cause we’re not allowed to sell alcohol before ten in Scotland. So, no point in opening’. Andy talks about the time he bought the place. ‘It used to be a family owned fishing tackle shop. It’s small and we like that. We just re-fitted the shop with a wooden counter top and wooden shelving. That’s it. You see, my wife and I are not chasing a second car or TV in every room’.
Not every whisky brand is obtainable from Fyne Malts of Inveraray. ‘I like Campbeltown whiskies and Tomatin. Those mini-bottles are mainly bought by the bus tourists’. On the left I spot my favourite blend, Te Bheag, next to the MacNaMara, produced by Pràban Na Linne. I had hoped to find a bottle of the old 46% here, but helas. ‘Edradour is coming in and a few single cask bottlings. Oh, yeah and there is a Springbank single cask 24 year old coming in on Monday; only 294 bottles – from a first-fill sherry cask. For the UK only’, Andy adds.
Andy and Carol have no intention of stopping because their small but very special Fyne Malts of Inveraray is an eye-catcher for everyone driving into this lovely town.