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Max Maartense, The Whisky Experience Guide in Scotland
Episode 20829th January 2024 • Your Positive Imprint • Catherine Praiswater
00:00:00 00:21:35

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Max Maartense is a guide at Scotland’s 'The Whisky Experience’ located on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Max takes you on a journey from his origins in Netherlands to Scotland, home of the Scottish whisky and brilliant distilleries. 

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Catherine:

Hello there.

Catherine:

I'm Catherine, your host of this variety show podcast.

Catherine:

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Catherine:

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Catherine:

Thank you again for listening and for your support of this podcast.

Catherine:

Your positive imprint.

Catherine:

What's your PI.

Catherine:

Well, hello, hello.

Catherine:

And I am so excited to be back as your host with your Positive Imprint Podcast.

Catherine:

It's January and we're just finishing up ringing in the new year.

Catherine:

I know it's the end of January, but we're still ringing in that new year, 2024., another year with awesome positive imprints from around the world.

Catherine:

Well, my 2024 is going pretty well, especially after a clean bill of health from my doctor, well, with the exception of my eyes, of course, but I'm ready to share positive imprints with you in another year here, 2024, and I'm starting out in Scotland.

Catherine:

So what is it that comes to your mind when you're thinking about Scotland?

Catherine:

Today's guest is Max Maartense.

Catherine:

On the day of our recording in Scotland, the weather brought a downpour of rain and loud rumbling winds, and we couldn't find anywhere quiet or dry except for this fabulous staircase in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Catherine:

And we were quieter than what we would have been had we been outdoors.

Catherine:

Well Max was my guide for the whisky experience.

Catherine:

That's where I met him.

Catherine:

We're a little bit more subdued on this episode because we're here in the museum, when Max is in front of a tour group, he's charismatic and his knowledge of Scottish whisky allows for a brilliant and entertaining tour.

Catherine:

And you don't have to drink whisky to enjoy the fantastical adventure and learning experience with Max.

Catherine:

Cheers!

Catherine:

Skol!

Catherine:

Salud!

Catherine:

Sláinte vá!

Catherine:

Max Maartense is from Southwest Netherlands in an area called Zeeland.

Catherine:

Here, he describes Zeeland before coming to Scotland.

Max:

Yeah, I've grown up there.

Max:

Um, spent my whole life there until I was about 22, 23.

Max:

So, yeah, pretty good, uh, everything very nice.

Max:

A small village, uh, not too many people, not too big a city.

Max:

It was, not really too industrial, I'd say.

Max:

, just a bunch of families, but we got quite a few tourists as well, mostly from Germany, uh, going to the coast.

Max:

, because I wasn't exactly at the coast, but very easy to get to the coast from there.

Max:

There was businesses as well, of course.

Max:

Get everything quite local, I'd say.

Max:

Uh, so like local farmers, Mostly, yeah, quite simple stuff like potatoes, carrots, all of that.

Max:

Uh, but quite a bit of fruit as well.

Max:

Really?

Max:

Yeah.

Max:

Oh my gosh.

Max:

Uh, so, think about like pears, apples, uh, berries.

Max:

At one point my dad actually had a pear farm as well, or like a pear orchard, , which we get some pears from.

Max:

uh, of course big shops as well.

Max:

, but just a nice, nice wee town.

Max:

and pretty good as well.

Catherine:

You decided not to go into the pear business or the farming business.

Catherine:

You decided to do something else.

Catherine:

So what was your schooling

Max:

in?

Max:

So, um, my schooling was initially in, , sociology, economics and rhetoric.

Max:

Uh, but then didn't really know where to take that or what to do with that initially.

Max:

So I thought, why not move to a different country, Scotland in this case, uh, and learned something about that culture, shared the knowledge that I've gained, uh, in my past with the people here, and vice versa.

Max:

And, uh, then, uh, yeah.

Max:

Got into this job, and now, tour guide at the, the Whiskey

Catherine:

Experience.

Catherine:

Yeah, which is an amazing experience.

Catherine:

But why Scotland?

Max:

So, it was a mixture of things, definitely.

Max:

Yeah, when I came to, about 22 years, I'd finished education, finished my university, and I thought, why not go somewhere else?

Max:

My girlfriend really wanted to go here as well.

Max:

, she, is doing her Master's here now, I really like walking through the hills as well, , which, of course, we don't really have in the Netherlands.

Max:

I loved whiskey.

Max:

My dad was a huge whiskey fan already as well, so I kind of got it from him.

Max:

, he had a lot of bottles around the house and he was always quite into it.

Max:

He often went to Scotland on holidays as well.

Max:

Uh, just traveling around with his friends, visiting distilleries.

Max:

Uh, so that kind of thing got passed on to me as well now where I kind of had that.

Max:

Feeling to background and the gain to whiskey as well.

Max:

Yeah.

Max:

Yeah So that's why I'm now in

Catherine:

Scotland.

Catherine:

. Yeah, and so now the whiskey experience it was amazing and on the Royal Mile, up close to Edinburgh Castle.

Catherine:

You brought a lot of, flamboyancy, you brought charisma,

Catherine:

you were telling a story

Catherine:

I don't want to give it away, but the grand finale of the opening of the doors was like watching a host on a TV show, just the way you did it.

Max:

Yeah, well, I'm really proud of and why I enjoy this job so much as well is that we really all have a genuine love for whiskey and that's why most of us are doing it.

Max:

So instead of, , just trying Delivering a spiel, we just try to share our love for whisky with other people, uh, and we've got all the knowledge,, we've visited a lot of distilleries, we get master blenders and distillers coming to tell us about their craft, and they've got that same kind of passion, of course, for the, for the spirit, , and then we get to share that with people as well, which is, That's why I enjoy this so much, why it's so satisfying, , especially then hearing the positive feedback off of people, , like yourself as well.

Max:

So I did not know about the whisky experience on beforehand.

Max:

, but when I came here, uh, I, of course, first had to get a visa and once I had that all sorted, uh, I had made up my mind that with my, my background, , in, in what I've studied, , that I did want to do something with, with tourism, with people.

Max:

Then initially also something that was kind of typically Scottish.

Max:

, and then very quickly I then came to, to whisky and then to the whisky experience as well.

Catherine:

Good tour guides make the experience, and I like that they use that word, experience, the whiskey experience,

Catherine:

it's a very fantastical experience.

Catherine:

Historical first.

Catherine:

And you do feel like you're in a wizard shop of some sort with the colors.

Catherine:

Yes.

Max:

Basically the tour, um, that we do tries to cover as much as possible.

Max:

, we're not just owned by ourself, we're owned by the entire industry as well.

Max:

So we really try to, to fairly shine a light on all the different distilleries and cover all the bases.

Max:

, So yeah, we tried to take people on that journey through Scotland, showing them what whisky is all about.

Max:

And then of course, with our magnificent whisky collection as well, , that just Wows people every single time.

Max:

Again, even though I've done it a thousand times, it still wows me as well.

Catherine:

Sure.

Catherine:

And how many distilleries about, approximately, are in Scotland now?

Max:

Um, I would say it is, uh, getting close to 150, not quite yet.

Max:

, but lots of new ones are opening up as well.

Max:

Uh, so there's definitely been a boom in the last couple of years.

Max:

For example, in Edinburgh itself, there used to be no distilleries at all.

Max:

The closest one was about 40 minutes away.

Max:

Whereas now, very recently, about 2 or 3 more have opened up as well.

Max:

, so it's a massive boom.

Max:

It's about, of those 150 distilleries, I think about 80 or 90 percent are our stake and shareholders.

Max:

, they really put a lot of, you know, effort into us.

Max:

And we as a business try to give back by just, again.

Max:

, sharing the whiskeys and sharing their stories.

Max:

The regions in Scotland where the whiskey is from matters a lot, of course, , to what it tastes like.

Max:

The lowlands here, as they say, quite low, quite soft.

Max:

So the whiskey's a bit softer as well.

Max:

The highlands, rugged terrain, a bit more rugged whiskeys.

Max:

, but with notes of heather as well, of course, quite typically Scottish that.

Max:

Speyside, the most popular whiskeys tend to be from there, because the river Spey is simply so soft.

Max:

Then Campbelltown, a very small region, , with only three distilleries there, , but they're quite salty because of their maritime climate there.

Max:

And then of course Islay is where the smoky whiskeys tend to come from.

Max:

, and that's what we cover during the tour as well.

Max:

More magnificent and like you said fantastical Yeah,

Catherine:

oh, yeah, it was awesome.

Catherine:

And so we're here sitting in the National Museum of Scotland, which is an incredible museum Much like the Smithsonian in the United States.

Catherine:

But what they have here is a section on The whiskey, which of course, of course they would.

Catherine:

But what I really didn't know, and we were, you and I were talking about this on the tour, is prohibition in the United States in the 1920s

Catherine:

caused the shutdown, the out of business of how many, more than 30 distilleries?

Catherine:

Yeah,

Max:

that was really just in Campbelltown alone, of course, there were lots of distilleries which partially had to close due to that, , lack of export during the time.

Max:

And same in the lowlands.

Max:

There used to be lots of distilleries, , all around, but they had to close because their main focus was export.

Max:

And then of course, when the U.

Max:

S completely banned whisky.

Max:

Um, it was very tough for a lot of distilleries, , to still function around.

Max:

So yeah, it's definitely that worldwide impact already back then.

Max:

, you can clearly see in that history of Scotch whisky, uh, as well, that they struggled sometimes during prohibitions, did well other times when it was, , going well in other countries

Catherine:

as well.

Catherine:

Isn't that incredible, just to think, That what one country does is truly going to impact the economics of another in that sense.

Catherine:

Cause I, I never, ever, never did I even think about the,

Catherine:

repercussions.

Catherine:

Yes.

Catherine:

I never thought about the repercussions of What prohibition would have done worldwide to the other countries who were exporting.

Catherine:

Yeah, yeah.

Catherine:

And that's something to think about for, of course, as we move forward in the future.

Catherine:

Not that we're trying to protect the economy of another country.

Catherine:

But still, yeah.

Catherine:

So, the fantastical part.

Catherine:

Who put all of that together?

Max:

Uh, so, yeah, it really is like, I'm making sure the tour has been developing over the, the last years because of course the, the whiskey experience been there since 1988 already.

Max:

Uh, but across those years we've grown a lot, we've changed a lot.

Max:

, now as well, , we're still, you know, changing, adding to the tour.

Max:

, so yeah, the, the whole industry again.

Max:

, they tend to meet up, our board of directors, , which has people from.

Max:

All across from different companies, , in it.

Max:

They will just, uh, kind of make these decisions.

Max:

And then of course talk to us, the tour guides as well.

Max:

Because after all, we are the ones that have to deliver it.

Max:

, so we get a say in that as well.

Max:

, so that we're, uh, kind of, yeah.

Max:

We, we can, you know, give our impact.

Max:

Because, , we have to deliver the tour at the end.

Max:

So we want to make sure that we're comfortable with it.

Max:

That we're able to do it.

Max:

And that we're happy with what we're saying as well.

Catherine:

We met up with a woman from, I forget which country, but she was here last year, and they rolled her in a barrel.

Catherine:

Oh, yeah.

Catherine:

So that was another part of the fantastical parts.

Catherine:

This year they don't roll you in a barrel, do you have a favorite whiskey?

Catherine:

I'm

Max:

Hard to say I find it really hard to pick favorites It's almost like no picking your favorite song for many.

Max:

It really depends what you know, what the mood is How many whiskeys you're having or what you know who you're drinking with as well , but what I like about it the most, I think, is the variety.

Max:

How with such simple ingredients and quite a similar process of making it, they can create so many different flavors, tastes, and aromas.

Max:

, in that, again, quite simple but magnificent drink.

Max:

, and I like that it can be smoky, fruity, , yeah, spicy, all of those different things.

Max:

It's actually just barley, , water and yeast, uh, and by, , Scottish legislation to kind of protect Scotch whisky as well.

Max:

They actually can't add anything else, , so it's just those three things.

Max:

And all the other flavours come from making it, come from the casks, and of course, yeah, from Scotland itself as well.

Catherine:

That's interesting that it's legislated for just the three ingredients, that nothing else can be added.

Catherine:

Yeah.

Catherine:

That

Max:

keeps it pure.

Max:

It does, and there is, um, again, to protect Scotch whisky, or the name thereof, Uh, there is quite a few rules, , that distillers have to follow, , like they can only use oak barrels, um, they have to make it in Scotland, And many of those kind of rules and technicalities that they have to, kind of, Adhere by just to protect Scotch, , so that you don't get any, , fake, or, or, or, you know.

Max:

Other things out there that will maybe tarnish what Scotch is, , as a, as a brand.

Max:

So you know that if you buy a Scotch whisky, it'll always be according to those certain standards and qualities, which is, , something that I think is quite nice as well.

Max:

The barrels, , in Scotland here, they get them from all over the place.

Max:

Generally, historically speaking, , again, quite nice because we're in a history museum here as well.

Max:

, historically speaking, they, got them from Spain a lot.

Max:

, European oak, , that had previously had, had, had sherry in it.

Max:

And that combination with the European oak and the sherry gives the whiskies a bit more spicy flavor.

Max:

Nowadays, they tend to get more casks from the U.

Max:

S.

Max:

as well.

Max:

American oak, which has had bourbon in it, giving the whiskey a bit more of kind of a sweet vanilla flavor as well.

Max:

And that's simply because, of course, the sherry industry is not doing so well anymore nowadays.

Max:

Not an awful lot of people drink sherry, which then again has an impact on the scotch whiskey industry.

Max:

Because the casks are a lot more expensive, whereas from the U.

Max:

S.

Max:

we can buy them still relatively cheap because bourbon is very popular as well, , more so than sherry I'd say.

Max:

What is sherry made from?

Max:

, so it is just the fortified wine.

Max:

Uh, so it's from the region of Jerez.

Max:

in Spain, where they basically just have wine, put it in casks, they add more yeast as well, , so that it fortifies it, just like they would port, , or other fortified dessert wines.

Max:

So yeah, it's definitely, I'd say, sherry, not as well known as well as some of the other ones.

Max:

It's, , but it's, It's quite tasty in my opinion, , but I'd still rather drink whiskey, of course.

Catherine:

The blended whiskey

Max:

so, that just basically means it's, it's a mixture of, of different whiskeys altogether.

Max:

On a basis of grain whiskey as well, , which is slightly different than all the single malts you might see.

Max:

, it's a bit lighter, a bit milder, , and that kind of adds to the popularity of the blended whiskeys as well, , because they are so much lighter and milder.

Max:

They tend to appeal to people a lot more, , as opposed to maybe your very, , intense, rich, , depth, full, , whiskies that sometimes scare, , drinkers off a bit more, , of the whiskey.

Catherine:

Let me ask you about economy, or economics up here.

Max:

So, yeah, it's pretty good.

Max:

Um, uh, but especially with my job, there is like a lot of benefits that they give us.

Max:

With the NHS, the National Health Service, you can just get free healthcare everywhere.

Max:

And besides that, , a lot of the stuff for retirement as well.

Max:

They'll, uh, you know, make sure that you can save a bit of your, your wage for that and they'll match that as well so that once you retire, , you've got all of that.

Max:

So it's, it's pretty good.

Max:

, definitely very well, , well done, I think.

Max:

, especially compared to the Netherlands, I find that, it's pretty good here whilst not paying too much taxes because the taxes in the Netherlands are a lot higher.

Max:

Netherlands, , you do pay a lot of taxes, of course, , with the All the roads, they're, they're really good, so we have to pay taxes for that.

Max:

But also, , the waterworks, since Netherlands, of course, below the water level, so they have to, , maintain all the, the, the dams and the, the dunes and all of that.

Max:

So we pay a lot of taxes for that as well.

Max:

, so, that's why I do like it here also, that it's, , you get more of what you earn, but you still get lots of great perks and things like that.

Catherine:

What are the five steps to take that first sip?

Max:

Yeah, so, uh, they're very simple steps.

Max:

You basically just start with looking at the color of the whiskey.

Max:

, again, it could be lighter colored.

Max:

, which will indicate likely, uh, a more kind of softer, , or more bourbon influence.

Max:

If it's very dark, amber colored, generally the whiskey is a bit richer, , with more like a sherry flavor to it as well.

Max:

Second step then.

Max:

It is giving the whiskey a swirl in your glass, again, might look a bit pretentious, but it definitely has a use as well, , because that is where you kind of look at the oiliness of the whiskey.

Max:

, so if it really sticks to the sides of your glass, , it is a very oily, heavy whiskey that will stay on your palate for a while, whereas if it flows down, it's very light and just vanishes straight off the bat.

Max:

The third step, smelling, nosing, of course your nose is where most of your taste and senses are happening compared to your palate.

Max:

So, very important to nose your whiskey as well.

Max:

The fourth step is tasting it, which of course is going to be a bit fiery, especially if you're not used to drinking whiskey, but it should mellow down as well after a few sips or a few drams perhaps.

Max:

And then of course the fifth step is the, the finish or the aftertaste.

Max:

, the feeling you get after you've swallowed the whiskey, , could change in flavor, could even linger for a while.

Max:

Of course, what the smoky whiskeys are tend to be known for.

Catherine:

Wow.

Catherine:

Well, I love the five steps and we'll be heading out to do those five steps here in a little bit.

Catherine:

Of course, I'm here in person with Max Maartense from Netherlands.

Catherine:

It's exciting that we met you, and exciting that we're here, and exciting that you have all this knowledge on whisky.

Catherine:

I learned so much on that fantastical tour experience, and I certainly, anybody that comes to Edinburgh must do it.

Catherine:

It's incredible.

Catherine:

So last inspiring words

Max:

So I think all I've got to say is really just do what you enjoy doing, , and try to, you know, find a job or, or something that you just enjoy every day, , wake up, go to your job and share that, that love for whatever you have with other people as well, , which I'm very grateful for that I get to do that here and now, , and just, yeah, have a good time and share that good time with other people as well.

Catherine:

Well, thank you for sharing the good time, and thank you for sharing the knowledge.

Catherine:

And I'm glad you followed your dream over from the Netherlands here to Edinburgh,

Max:

Scotland.

Max:

Indeed, yeah.

Max:

Thank you very much for allowing me to be on your podcast.

Max:

Oh,

Catherine:

absolutely.

Catherine:

Thank you for your positive imprints.

Catherine:

This is amazing.

Catherine:

No worries.

Catherine:

Max, thank you.

Catherine:

Your positive imprint.

Catherine:

What's your PI?

Catherine:

To learn more about whiskey in Scotland, go to scotch-whisky.org.uk and also go to scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk.

Catherine:

And by the way, whiskey is W H I S K Y.

Catherine:

Well, we're having a brilliantly amazing time and I can't wait to share more positive imprints with you.

Catherine:

Don't forget to leave positive reviews and visit my website, yourpositiveimprint.

Catherine:

com to learn more about this podcast and access over 200 positive imprints from around the world.

Catherine:

Sláinte Mhath until next month, your positive imprint.

Catherine:

What's your PI?