A new episode of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature is now available

Podcast Logo1Can you believe we are now halfway through our twenty-fifth anniversary year here at Birlinn with this sixth episode of our podcast The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature? Kristian and I are very much enjoying our travels along the highways and byways of Scottish writing, and we hope you are too. This episode sees us journeying to fantastical worlds, and in particular, taking a look at Naomi Mitchison’s childrens’ fable Travel Light.

Naomi Mitchison was really a force of nature in writing – and in public life – throughout the twentieth century, so it was hard to decide which book of hers to focus on! She’s written classic historical novels, fantastic poetry, powerful plays, fascinating memoir and genre-defying science fiction, as well as very curious children’s tales. And Travel Light is definitely a very curious beast indeed being an intriguing coming-of-age story with a strong dash of Norse legend and Eastern fairy tale.

Walking MountainWe stay with the fantastical in an interview with the brilliant Joan Lennon, who has now written two excellent books for us on our BC Books imprint. Her latest novel, Walking Mountain, is set far, far into the future and begins with the end of the world. If you want to find out what happens after that, you’ll just have to listen to the podcast, and buy the book. Joan also treats us with a great reading of that amazing opening.

So, if you want a little break from the real world, have a listen to the podcast. We’ll get your imagination racing!

Vikki Reilly
June 2017

Have a look on our website at some similar titles:
Walking Mountain
Silver Skin
Folk Tales of Scotland

You can listen to the podcast, and catch up on all previous episodes, on iTunes, or listen below on SoundCloud:

The latest episode of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature available now

Podcast Logo1Kristian and I are carrying on our travels along the highways and byways of Scottish literature with the fifth episode of our podcast, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature, our digital escapade that’s part of Birlinn’s twenty-fifth anniversary celebrations. This episode is dedicated to one of Scotland’s most prolific and celebrated authors, Iain Crichton Smith, and in particular, his classic novel, Consider the Lilies.

A lot of us are probably more familiar with his poems and short stories – mainstays of the Scottish curriculum – and yet Crichton Smith is also a very fine novelist indeed. Consider the Lilies is regarded as one of his best, and it is a beautiful and finely drawn portrait of a Highland widow having to deal with the consequences of the Clearances, still an emotive and controversial subject today.

Set Adrift Upon the WorldWe stay with the Highland Clearances with an interview with one of Scotland’s premier historians, James Hunter. His many books have shone a much-needed light on Highland life through the ages, and his most recent, and award-winning, book Set Adrift Upon the World is a fantastic exploration of the Sutherland Clearances. It’s shocking, thorough, and necessary reading. We round things off with the marvellous Kevin MacNeil performing some of Iain Crichton Smith’s poetry.

So, if you want to introduce yourself to two fantastic writers and a hugely important subject, have a listen. We hope you enjoy it!

Vikki Reilly
June 2017

You can listen to episode 5 below on SoundCloud, and on iTunes:

Get your eBook of Consider the Lilies here. Get your copy of Set Adrift Upon the Word here and find out about all of James Hunters books here.


Blair Bowman and Nikki Welch prepare you for World Whisky Day

Following on from last week’s blog post by Blair Bowman and Nikki Welch, authors of The Pocket Guide to Whisky, we give you another guest blog from these two guides, who will take you on an amber adventure into the world of whisky. In this week’s blog, Blair and Nikki give you some golden tips on how to explore some of your favourite whiskies, and how to edge onto a new line on the WhiskyTubeMap.

The Pocket Guide to Whisky - flexi-cover artwork‘To help you get started we have created a couple of journeys around the WhiskyTubeMap and some fun ways to ‘pimp’ your tasting to test all your senses.

Sightseeing tour
Our sightseeing tour takes in a stop on each line of the WhiskyTubeMap, giving you a broad spectrum of whiskies to try. Each line on the WhiskyTubeMap represents a different flavour profile, and alludes to the types of flavours and textures you’d expect from whiskies situated on that line. If you don’t want to do all seven you could just pick four or five that you fancy to start with.

Easy Loop
The Easy Loop, does what it says on the tin, here you’ll find easy going, every day whiskies.
Suggested stop: Johnnie Walker

Intrepid line
Here you will find whiskies from the ‘brave new world’ of whisky distillation. Expect bold and perhaps sometimes foreign flavours.
Suggested stop: Hibiki

Heart Line
The ‘heart’ of a distillation run is the part of the spirit that is held back to make whisky. The Heart Line cuts through the landscape of the WhiskyTubeMap, with a broad spectrum of flavours and origins of flavour are represented as you go along the line.
Suggested stop: Glenfiddich

Amber Line
These are simply classic sweet, honeyed and fruity tasting whiskies but are not in the least bit boring. Expect good bang for your buck in terms of flavour from your dram.
Suggested stop: Glenrothes

Decadent Line
These whiskies are rich, deep and unctuous. Luxury in every sip, to be savoured and enjoyed.
Suggested stop: Macallan

Coastal Line
This is where influences of sea, smoke and peat start to appear on the WhiskyTubeMap. There is a gradual build up in intensity as you begin to approach the Outliers island.
Suggested stop: Highland Park

Outliers Line
A welcoming dram awaits you on board the ‘ferries’ to the Outliers island. Once you are on the island you will start to find more smoke in your whisky. With a gradual build up of smokiness at the terminus, Ardbeg.
Suggested stop: Lagavulin

Just starting out tour
If the map feels a bit daunting, you are totally new to whisky or it has been a long time since you’ve had a dram the sightseeing tour might be a bit much. To help ease you in we have created three ‘starting’ points on the map, these stations are marked with an arrow. Try these three first, then decide which one you prefer and go exploring from there.

Starting point 1: Johnnie Walker
Start here if you want to begin with a very easy drinking, not overly-complex blended whisky.

Starting point 2: Glenfiddich
Start here if you want to begin with a juicy, fruity and sweet single malt whisky.

Starting point 3: Highland Park
Start here if you are after something a bit more complex with a hint of smoke.

Getting Braver Tour
The Getting Braver tour will take you out of your comfort zone and show you some whiskies you might never have thought of trying before. Prepare your taste buds for exciting new experiences and flavours.

Stop 1: Glenfiddich
A tasty starting point for your ‘getting braver’ tour. Look out for apples, pears and green fruits in this whisky.

Stop 2: Virgin Wood Finish
Whiskies from this station might be more woody than you are used to. This gives you a great way of tasting how important the influence of wood is on whisky.

Stop 3: Sullivan’s Cove
A deliciously rich and slightly spicey single malt from Tasmania, Australia. Probably the furthest you could get from the highlands of Scotland but a tasty whisky.

Stop 4: Single Grain Whisky
An often misunderstood cousin of single malt whisky. Single grain whisky is complex and peppery but offers a refreshing alternative to traditional single malt.

Stop 5: Springbank
A malty and slightly maritime dram. This is whisky is like an iron first of flavour in a silk glove.

Pimp your whisky tasting

Why not ‘pimp’ your next whisky tasting by adding fun multi-sensory elements or music as part of the tasting.

It’s all gone a bit fifty shades of whisky! Give everyone in the tasting a blindfold and try tasting the whisky with the blindfold on. Does it taste different without the sense of sight?

Now try tasting the whisky again while touching a rough texture like sandpaper, or a soft texture like silk. Did the taste or texture of the whisky change?

Try one whisky with a piece of dark chocolate and then milk chocolate. The darker chocolate will bring out the bitter flavours of the whisky and the milk chocolate will give your whisky a smoother texture.

However you do it, have fun!
Happy Exploring!’

And remember The Pocket Guide to Whisky is available from World Whisky Day on the 20th of May, but you an pre-order your copy here.

WWD_Master_LogoAnd don’t forget, you can find out more about World Whisky Day, which is on 20 May 2017, here. Events are popping up all over the globe. If you want to get involved and raise a dram with the world, head over to the website where you can register your own event. It’s completely free, and anything goes – whether that’s a dram with friends at home, a tasting flight put on at a local bar, or a full-blown street party.