How do you keep millions of pounds worth of matured whisky safe and secure?
The Scotch Watch, that’s how.
While Ballantine’s aging whisky awaits the expert nose of Master Blender Robert Hicks, it is important to keep it undisturbed. Guarding stocks of whisky as precious as 17 Years Old is a weighty responsibility. Ballantine’s warehouse complex at Dumbuck is protected by electronic surveillance, a detail of security guards and a line of defence effective since at least 390 BC.
Ballantine’s famous gaggle of ferocious white geese – the Scotch Watch – has been featured in international TV documentaries, magazine articles, even record covers.
The security value of geese has been well known since Roman times. The best known story of their effectiveness dates from when enemy Gauls stealthily advanced towards Roman soldiers as they slept in their hilltop fortress. The first invader was almost over the ramparts when the geese, kept by Romans as sacred birds, began screeching to alert their masters of the attack.
It was this legend that sprang to mind when Dumbuck’s security arrangements were being drafted in the late 1950s. The civil engineer in charge of the new 14-acre site was Brigadier Ronald Cowan, who happened to be a keen ornithologist. He suggested that geese, with their acute hearing and eyesight, would make a perfect line of defence against intruders; and prove cheaper to feed than guard dogs, too.
Soon afterwards, Ballantine’s employees were greeted by the strange sight of senior executives carrying cardboard boxes of live geese through the gates at Dumbuck. The original core of the now famous Scotch Watch fed off the grass surrounding the maturation houses with a little grain to supplement their diet. Since then, the lawns have remained immaculately trimmed and the West of Scotland Agricultural College has organised a breeding programme to keep up the flock’s numbers.