I found myself perambulating, the other night, through the various movie options ‘Sky on Demand’ has to offer, and hesitated at The Adventures of Tin Tin: Secret of the Unicorn. When I was a boy, Tin Tin was available only in the form of large format paperback comic books and I remember loving the crisp clarity of the artwork, the daft humour and sheer European-ness of them. It was all a long way from Green Lantern, Batman, Spiderman and other American Marvel or DC comic characters, all of whom appeared to wear tights. Tin Tin was unashamedly a news reporter, always in search of The Story. And he was, always, The Hero. I sometimes think my future career choices were settled as soon as I saw him wielding a typewriter.
The supporting cast was also appealing. Captain Haddock, he of the memorable but somehow innocent curses (‘Thundering Typhoons’, for example – and check out the Captain Haddock Insult Generator for hours of fun. Fancy Dress Fascists!), Snowy the dog and of course The Thompson Twins.
And then there was the whisky. I’d forgotten all about the whisky.
Watching the Stephen Spielberg/Peter Jackson Tin Tin movie is a strange experience, and not just because of the motion capture technology used to render Daniel Craig as Tommi Iommi from Black Sabbath and Jamie Bell’s Tin Tin somewhere between a young Edwyn Collins and David Cameron. It’s the drinking. And it’s the portrayal of Haddock as quite the most high-functioning and sympathetic alcoholic in the history of movies, not excluding WC Fields. Not only does his consumption of medical alcohol save everyone’s bacon when his breathing of fumes restarts an aeroplane engine, but imbibing surgical spirit enables him to remember some crucial plot points, just when the audience is becoming so confused they are reaching for a drink in desperation.
Mostly, Haddock drinks whisky, however. And in the comics, that whisky is always Loch Lomond.
Herge probably chose the name ‘Loch Lomond’ originally, in the 1938 story The Black Island , to simply conjure up an image of Scottishness. There was no Loch Lomond whisky as such until the 1960s, when an old dye factory in Alexandria was converted into a distillery. Now, various Loch Lomonds are available, including an 18 and 21 year old, a single malt and, uniquely a ‘single blend’, the only one in Scotland. This is because Loch Lomond has a grain distillery as well as a unique single malt still house, featuring two conventional pot still and four ‘Lomond’ or ‘semi-Lomond’ stills which have columns instead of swan neck and adjustable rectifying plates within those columns. These can be controlled so as to produce all kinds of whiskies from the same stills, from heavy to light. Theoretically, the operators of this distillery, set right on the Highland Line, can ‘dial in’ almost any style of spirit you can imagine before sending it off for warehousing. It’s a fascinating, if controversial place. The parent company, Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouses Ltd, is the biggest independent bottler of spirits in Scotland, owns the Glen Scotia distillery in Campbeltown, and produces High Commissioner, one of the best-selling blends around.
It’s also worth pointing out that the distillery, again unusually, sells whisky direct from its own website, and at incredibly low prices (not quite as low as they at first appear, as VAT needs to be added; but still amazing ). The limited edition single-cask bottlings are particularly good value. Alas, they do not send to my postcode in the far-off Shetland Islands. Or, for that matter, and puzzlingly, my shipping company in Aberdeen. Though presumably, if you live on, say Inchmurrin in Loch Lomond, a bottle of Captain Haddock’s favourite will be supplied easily enough. One of their whiskies is called Inchmurrin, for goodness’ sake! On the other hand, you could try Amazon for just a little extra. Or you could charter the good ship Unicorn. Blistering Barnacles!