Volume 14, No. 2 
April 2010

  Joanna Rek-Harrop


Front Page

Select one of the previous 51 issues.

Index 1997-2010

TJ Interactive: Translation Journal Blog

  Translator Profiles
A Professional (and Geographic) Journey
by Frieda Ruppaner-Lind

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
The Translator and his Client: Factoring external determinations into the translational activity
by Dr. Iheanacho A. Akakuru
by Danilo Nogueira and Kelli Semolini

  In Memoriam
In Memoriam: Josephine Thornton, 1937 - 2010
by Karen Brovey

  Translators Around the World
The Efforts of Translators in the Wake of the Haitian Earthquake
by Michael Walker

  Nuts and Bolts of Translation
English and Spanish 'Love' Collocations: A Historical Evolution
by Nuria Calvo Cortés and Elena Domínguez Romero

  Medical Translation
It doesn't go up, Doc? A stent may be the answer!
by Rafael A. Rivera, M.D., FACP
Handling Abbreviations and Acronyms in Medical Translation
by Małgorzata Kasprowicz
English-Spanish and Spanish-English Glossary of Ophthalmological Terms
by Concepción Mira Rueda

  Advertising Translation
Cross-Cultural Context Ambiguities. Case Study: Polish and English Commercial Advertisement Translation
by Joanna Rek-Harrop

  Book Reviews
The Untold Sixties—When hope was born: an Insider's Sixties on an International Scale
by Alex Gross, reviewed by Gabe Bokor
Iain Halliday: Huck Finn in Italian, Pinocchio in English: Theory and Praxis of Literary Translation
Reviewed by Anne Milano Appel, Ph.D.
La Fontaine's Bawdy—of Libertines, Louts, and Lechers, translations from Contes et nouvelles en vers by Norman R. Shapiro
Reviewed by Robert Paquin, Ph.D.

  Arts & Entertainment
The Role of Trans-modal Translation in Global Cinema
by D. Bannon

  Translators' Education
The Importance of Collocation in Vocabulary Teaching and Learning
by Zahra Sadeghi

Translators and Computers
Consider the Luddites
by Jost Zetzsche

Translators' Tools
Translators’ Emporium

  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor
Translators’ Best Websites
by Gabe Bokor

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
  Translation Journal


Cross-Cultural Context Ambiguities

Case Study: Polish and English Commercial Advertisement Translation

by Joanna Rek-Harrop
MA (University of Birmingham, UK), DPSI Law (Chartered Institute of Linguists, UK)


Brand marketers and advertisers are nowadays the biggest practitioners of intercultural communications, since aggressive commercial promotions and media are on a quest to reach even the most secluded communities if are perceived as potential new markets. This intercultural study assesses the impact of cultural implications in marketing translation of commercial advertisements on its international audience, the transfer of culture-bound concepts, the technique used to transfer these concepts from the source language into the target language, variations in meaning, and variations in tone.

Key Words: cultural transfer, commercial translation, cultural implications, social culture, international referencing.


1. Introduction

rand marketers and advertisers are nowadays the biggest practitioners of intercultural communications, since aggressive commercial promotions are on a quest to reach even the most secluded communities if are perceived as potential new markets. Brand marketing of commercial products requires transfer of meaning in order to win overseas consumers. Translation is expected to restate in the target language (TL), in the best possible way, the meaning embedded in the source language (SL). Culture is a strong governing aspect of this restatement. The major obstacle to transferring the original meaning in translation process is that there are no two identical cultures, which would have the same values, history, systems, and social norms; therefore, it is impossible for the effects of the ST and TT to be the same (Venuti 1995: 31-3). In dealings with cultural implications, emphasis is therefore given to finding the best possible way of transferring the original concept of the ST into the culture of the TT using the domestic system of referencing. Empirical studies have confirmed that the cultural background has an increasing effect on the behavior of local national markets as economic development and homogenization proceed due to globalization (e.g. de Mooij 1998:76).

This paper on intercultural transfer of meaning between the English and Polish languages, is a practical case study that assesses the impact of cultural implications in marketing translation of a commercial advertisement on its international audiences. It further assesses the transfer of culture-bound concepts, the techniques used to transfer these cultural concepts from the SL into the TL, variations in meanings, and variations in tone.

2. Cultural considerations in translation

2.1. Culture

There are no two identical cultures, which would have the same values, history, systems, and social norms.
Culture is described as 'the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievements regarded collectively... and the customs, institutions and achievements of a particular nation, people, or group' (Concise Oxford English Dictionary 2002), which means that there is a collective cultural relationship between members of any given nation or community, which reflects their social norms. The way of life of any such community or nation 'uses a peculiar language as its means of expression' (Newmark 1988: 94). This statement is further supported by a hypothesis of Linguistic Determinism formulated by the linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf (1956). The hypothesis states that a language and its structural differences from other languages determine the way how an individual thinks. The hypothesis maintains that 'language itself shapes a man's basic ideas' (Myers 2005:308).

2.2. Representation of the ST culture in the target oriented framework—theoretical background

Advertising is a form of social communication that represents a society's culture, as well as the values and norms associated with it. As target markets vary, so does its cultural context. This poses a need for variations of the advertising message in the international setting. The importance of culture as a part of an effective advertising message has been acknowledged in international advertising literature (e.g. Hite and Fraser 1990, Melewar and Saunders 1999, de Mooij 2004). Thus, the appropriate method to transfer cultural context is chosen depending on the TT readership, TT type, importance of the cultural word in the text and in a commercial text on requirements from the client. Translators when talking about translations of cultural meaning often use among others terms: 'cultural equivalence,' 'cultural transposition,' 'cultural transfer,' 'translational relationships,' and 'cultural adequacy.' The degree to which the original cultural perspective of the ST is translated faithfully into the TT varies depends on the method chosen by a translator. Harvey, Higgins and Haywood (1995: 20) suggest a scale of translation techniques for culture specific concepts:

a) Exoticism or cultural borrowing is when the TT retains the original cultural and linguistic features of the SL and is therefore the most faithful to the ST cultural background. The TT might be difficult to understand for public unfamiliar with the ST culture.

b) Calque is a literally translated fixed expression which often either does not make logical sense in the TT or its sense is different from the one the ST author had in mind.

c) Communicative translation uses communicative equivalents predominantly in terms of fixed expressions.

d) Cultural transplantation is when the ST is fully adapted to the TT audience often beyond recognition of being a translation itself.

Schleiermacher distinguishes foreignization and domestication of the TT terms as possible strategies for translating the ST meaning given by a cultural context:

The translator can either leave the writer in peace as much as possible and

bring the reader to him, or he can leave the reader in peace as much as possible and bring the writer to him. (Friedrich von Schleiermacher, 1838: 47, as translated in Wilss 1982: 33)

'Bringing the reader' to the ST would require the TT reader to process the translation in its original foreign context, which might serve to promote the ST culture. This approach seems to be predominant in the globalization of markets. While 'bringing the writer to the reader' would mean domesticating the ST to the context familiar to the TT reader.

While dealing with problems caused by cultural differences and culture specific words in translating, Eugene Nida suggests two methods, which he describes as 'dynamic and formal equivalences.' Dynamic equivalence is the aforementioned domestication of the ST, which aims to bring all 'foreign' and archaic concepts to the TT reader's social and cultural context. Formal equivalence, for Nida, should focus on 'gloss translation' and resolving all lexical and grammatical differences between the ST and the TT (1964:159). In translation of cultural terms Newmark suggests using two completely opposite methods: componential analysis or transference. The TT reader, the TT genre, the importance of a cultural word in the text and the requirements from the client affect the delicacy of the componential analysis, which also might be accompanied by a translation of the cultural term (Newmark 1988:119). Componential analysis focuses on message and is regarded by Newmark as 'the most accurate translation procedure' (1988:96). The transference, on the other hand, which is a concise celebration of local culture, tends to exclude the message by introducing a foreign word into the TT. Baker's approach is similar to the Newmark's, as she suggests translation of the culture-specific item using a loan word or a loan word plus explanation (Baker 1992:34). She suggests that the explanation is particularly useful if the word is repeated several times in the text and 'once explained, the loan word can be used on its own' (ibid.).

Another technique of translating a culture-specific word is cultural substitution. This involves 'replacing a culture-specific item or expression' of the SL with a TL item 'which does not have the same prepositional meaning but it is likely to have a similar impact on the target reader' (Baker 1992:31). Footnotes in the TT can also serve as explanations of complex cultural concepts, which are not present in the TL culture. This method is however recommended as the last resort when the explanation cannot be included within the body of the main text.

Many linguists, including Toury, favor any form of communicative translation or cultural transplantation, where it is functionally possible. 'Translations have been regarded as facts of the culture which hosts them' (Toury 1995:24). However, it has to be borne in mind that any form of cultural communicative equivalent is always approximate and thus very relative. Therefore, based on my experience, in commercial translation where the cultural replacement does not have the same effect on the target audience, it should be replaced by another local cultural aspect that better fits to the target consumer's system of reference.

The detailed cultural implications, analysis, and methods used to translate them are presented in point 5 of this paper.

2.3. The Source Text

Advertising is used by a company to increase the sales of its products or services or to promote a brand name. Advertising can also be used to communicate an idea or image. The manufacturer of the product. which is analyzed here operates in two different national markets; therefore the company in its branding message faces contradicting forces of homogenization and divergence. International interdependence and international trade increase the importance of understanding and communicating effectively with people of other cultural backgrounds (Gudykunst and Kim 1984). Globally standardized advertising can therefore be seen as an alternative to the high costs of localized advertising for different markets, as well as means to maintain a coherent global corporate image (e.g. Agrawal 1995, Laroche, Kirpalani and Zhou 2001). Nonetheless, standardization carries the risk of not corresponding to the values of these diverse markets (Watson, Lysonski, Gillan and Raymore 2002). With respect to the methodology used in the case study analyzed here it is also held by researchers that the global-local paradigm is a paradox since one cannot think globally. Every human being thinks according to his own culturally defined thinking pattern. For global communication however, the way of thinking must be immersed in local reality in order to be effective and must focus "on the particular, not on the universal" (de Mooij 1998: 11).

The role of commercial advertising is the same in Poland and in England. It involves commercial interests. In this study, the advertisement refers to Scotch Whiskey. The attitudes in Poland and in England towards alcohol are similar. Poles, across different customer segments, like alcohol and are not ashamed of consuming it. In fact, a moderate amount of alcohol is widely considered to be good for health. Therefore, the functional equivalent of English "cheers" is the Polish "Na zdrowie" ("to health") followed by joining full glasses of all drinkers. Alcohol is thus not a taboo subject, neither is it prohibited by religion or law, and its advertisements are widely distributed without restrictions to the content of the text. There is therefore no need for culturally enforced adjustments in terms of cultural values, perceptual sensitivity, or social rules.

The chosen text originates from a commercial advertising brochure of the Macallan Highland Scotch Whiskey. The advertisement presents the history and production of the traditional Scottish malt whiskey to those willing to purchase the product and it is deeply immersed in the Scottish culture. Apart from the Scottish culture the content of the advertisement also refers to the English cultural heritage. This is a commercial text and the purpose of its translation is to reach new international markets and to increase the company's profits. All cultural implications have to be considered accordingly.

4. The Readership

'The relationship between the receiver and TL message should aim at being the same as between the original receivers and the SL message' (Nida in Bassnett-McGuire 1991:26). In order to try to achieve this as much as it is possible within different cultural frameworks, it is required to define the readership first. According to Coulthard, defining an ideal reader is 'translator's first and major difficulty because all other decisions follow from it' (1992:12). The TT's ideal reader will most likely never fit the profile of the original ST reader as 'even if he has the same academic, professional and intellectual level as the original ideal reader, will have significantly different textual expectations and cultural knowledge' (ibid.).

At this point, it should be emphasized that the whiskey advertisement has been written for the ideal drinker i.e. the consumer, who for the purpose of this paper will be referred to as a reader. There are three types of readership: the expert, the educated generalist and the uninformed, and they usually require different types of translation (Newmark 1988:102). In the original text of the advertisement analyzed here, the author writes for a reader familiar with Scotland i.e. its geography, history and culture, who likes to drink whiskey and is interested in its production. The ideal reader also has a good level of linguistic competence and education, but most importantly s/he must be able to afford the whiskey.

The price of the the Macallan Highland Scotch Whiskey is currently £34 per bottle for 10-12 years old single malt (and can increase to £360 for the 80 year old scotch). In comparison to other whiskies on the market, it is not a product which a person with limited funds could easily afford on a regular basis. It is therefore safe to assume that although the advertisement is published for the general public, the producer has rather at least a middle-class buyer with a comfortable income in mind. This is reflected in the evoked meaning of the ST. Also the cultural references indicate a reader of more of an educated generalist background. However, it has to be remembered that this is a commercial advertisement and therefore it aims to seduce all who can afford the whiskey, regardless of their background or standard of education.

The target reader knows very little about the original message, as well as about the culture of the SL. The commercial brochure is predominantly addressed to those who are new to the Macallan market. Because of the price, it is assumed that the whiskey is more likely to attract the middle-class buyer with generally good income and relevant level of education but it should not discourage other buyers. The advertisement can also be read by connoisseurs. The translation therefore has to be precise and technically correct to satisfy experts and educated generalists, but most of all interesting and understandable to attract uninformed readers.

3. Cultural implications analysis

There is little cultural overlap between the English and Polish languages and their readerships. Additionally, the text contains references to the Scottish cultural background. In the proposed translation, These references are hidden in the lexis, grammar, customs, history, social norms, material items, natural phenomena and complex semantic connotations. The Macallan Distillers requested to translate the content of the advertisement in an interesting and widely comprehensible manner with a hint of sophistication and recognition of its Scottish background. All of the cultural implications have been dealt with considering the TT reader, the character of the translated text, and the requirements from the client.

3.1. Foreign cultural words

For the purpose of this paper I used Newmark's cultural categories (1988: 94-103), who adapted Nida to classify 'foreign' cultural words.

3.1.1. Ecology

Geographical and ecological features are perceived as cultural items if they are unique to their country of origin and have a degree of uniqueness (Newmark, 1988: 96). In translating this group of items, Nida points out that certain geographical and ecological features 'where they are irregular or unknown may not be understood denotatively or figuratively' by the TT reader (ibid.).

Scottish Highlands

The TT reader would not know that the Scottish Highlands is the mountainous part of Scotland to the north of Glasgow and Stirling. The above term is very familiar to the ST reader and it is unique to Scotland. Because the advertisement refers to the term frequently and the whiskey labels have always written on 'The Macallan Highland Scotch Whiskey,' the name was translated using componential analysis 'Scottish Highlands, górski region północnej Szkocji,' which in English means 'Scottish Highlands, the mountainous region of the north of Scotland.'

3.1.2. Material culture Food

'Food terms are subject to the widest variety of translation procedures' (ibid.) and the way a particular item is translated is flexible and most likely to change over time.

Whiskey, sherry and bourbon

It is safe to assume that the Polish person who reaches for a text about whiskey in most cases drinks alcohol and therefore knows what whiskey, sherry, or bourbon are, although perhaps s/he is not familiar with their production. Dictionaries explain that sherry's Polish equivalent is 'białe wino hiszpańskie' back translated into the SL as 'white Spanish wine,' or 'winiak hiszpański' back translated into the SL as 'fortified Spanish wine.' Bourbon's name is sometimes in general texts naturalized to a more familiar Polish spelling 'burbon,' and whiskey remains in its original name, although sometimes it is referred to as 'whisky.' However, the above Polish terms are rarely used nowadays. They have been replaced by anglicisms, which are well established, especially among Polish alcohol drinkers for whom the text was written. These cultural concepts would therefore be the best conveyed in the TT by using the original names without explanations. Clothes

The translation method depends mainly on the importance of the clothing item in the text, however, 'national costumes, when distinctive, are not translated' (Newmark 1988: 97).


Kilt is unique to Scotland and forms part of its national costume. The cultural word is easily recognized by the ST reader, but it would not be recognized by the TT reader. The aforesaid term has been translated by a loan word adding an explanation consisting of two components: one descriptive and one functional 'męska, plisowana spódnica, strój narodowy Szkotów' which translated into English means 'pleated skirt worn by men, the Scottish national costume.' It also helps the TT reader to understand what kilt is and why forbidding Highlanders from wearing it was a punishment and therefore makes the text transparent. Using the loan word also adds 'an air of sophistication' (Baker 1992: 25) to the TT, which is perhaps welcome in advertising a luxury product. Flora and Fauna

Local species of flora and fauna are cultural items. 'They are not translated unless they appear in the SL and the TL environment' (Newmark 1988:98).


The text mentions grouse, which is a game bird of many species. The term grouse could be translated into Polish as 'kuropatwa,' which is the general name of order of the game bird which inhabits many countries. Although the text is not specific to what species it is referring to, the ST native reader would have known that the ST talks about the red grouse, a particular specie characteristic to the heathery moors of the Speyside region, frequently referred to as Scotland's national game bird and often depicted on the whiskey's label. The translation into Polish should therefore be hyponym 'parwa.'

Red deer

The red deer is Britain's largest native land mammal and lives mainly in Scotland. Although it is not a zoological translation the animal is characteristic to Scotland and therefore the text could lose on its Scottish cultural uniqueness if it is not translated precisely. The specific local specie of red deer has been translated (via Latin language) as 'jeleń szlachetny.'

3.1.3. Social Culture

'In considering social culture one has to distinguish between denotative and connotative problems of translation' (ibid.).

Hoi polloi

The aforementioned collocation needs further explanation as it has cultural connotation in the original SL. The term comes from the Greek language meaning 'the many,' 'the most of the people.' The ST cultural term meaning is the common people or plebs and it is recognized by the educated ST reader. Therefore my assumption is that the writer of the original advertisement had more in mind at least the middle class buyer with the relevant level of education). The cultural connotation is not recognized by the TT reader. In this case the translation used a descriptive equivalent 'plebs' in order to represent in the TL the cultural concept of the SL.

3.1.4. Social Organisation Historical terms

Newmark suggests that historical terms should be transferred unless they have generally accepted translations. However, 'in popular texts, the transferred word can be replaced by the functional or descriptive equivalent' (1988:101).


This term has historical connotations and is easily recognized by the ST reader. The redcoat was a British soldier so called of the scarlet uniform of most regiments during the late 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The word is unlikely to be understood by the Polish readership. To transfer the term would render the text opaque. The use of componential analysis would be inappropriate as the text type is an advertisement and the cultural word does not have much significance to the text. The proposed translation used a descriptive equivalent 'angielska armia' which back translated into English means 'English army.' This method allows the TT to convey the same message as the ST implication.

3.1.5. Gestures and habits

While dealing with the above category of items, translation should make a distinction between description and function (Newmark, 1988:102).

To pull/tear hair out

This gesture shows in the SL a great degree of exasperation, vexation or fretfulness. It is however understandable in the TL as it shares the same connotations. The literal translation is therefore possible in this case allowing the TT cultural message to be the same as the ST cultural meaning.

3.2. ST cultural references

'But the Scottish temperament being what it is'

This is an example of an opaque cultural reference for the TT reader. For the ST reader this reference promotes a stereotyped behavior which supports Scottish morality and cultural values. The Polish reader is unfamiliar with the local history, which in many ways influenced and shaped the Scottish character. In the above statement the author is referring to the stubborn and courageous nature of Scottish people and in particular the one of the Scottish Highlanders, who despite very hard living conditions and by invading armies, had an independent spirit and undauntedly continued distilling whiskey. To enable the TT reader to understand what the original author wanted to say, the above reference was explained and translated indirectly 'Jednak dzięki nieugiętemu szkockiemu temperamentowi,' which translated back into English means 'But thanks to the relentlessness of the Scottish temper.'

3.3. TT cultural context not envisaged by the SL original communicator

'...as punishment for the temerity of their uprising (of the rebel highlanders) and to rub salt in the wounds inflicted at Culloden'

The above clauses have a hidden cultural connotation which although is not a topic of the translation it has direct emotional significance to the TT reader and therefore it is useful for the purpose of the advertisement. Between the end of the eighteenth century and the year 1989, which was significant, not only for Poland, but for the entire former Soviet countries block, there were approximately 93 national or regional uprisings in Poland, which in most cases were severely punished by the government or invader (which sometimes were the same). The willingness to fight for independence is therefore well understood and held in high regard in the Polish culture. This is certainly a very good point for the commercial aspect of the Macallan whiskey advertisement.

'...without a Government license..., hundreds of illicit stills were silently operating'

These clauses have similar hidden cultural connotation as the paragraph above. The concept of operating illegally was well known in Poland, especially from the communist period, when high-quality luxury products were available only from the illegal market. This connotation has associated positive emotional meaning deeply rooted in the Polish culture that might support sales of whiskey.

Polish folk hero—highlander 'Janosik'

It is worth mentioning that the cultural equivalent of the highlanders' way of life portrayed in the advertisement is familiar to most Poles and has very positive cultural connotations due to the popular legend of the Polish folk hero, the highlander called 'Janosik,' from the Tatra Mountains. The legend was adapted to the television series for family viewing and broadcast several times in the recent three decades. This cultural connotation is helpful for the purpose of the TT, because the TT reader will react more quickly to an advertisement that has a familiar cultural background.

4. Lexis and cultural connotations

Different societies have different cultural perceptions in labeling words. An inaccurate lexical choice can seriously influence the cultural context or change the register of the TT which can easily make the translation misleading.


In the clause '...they have never challenged the mystique of its production,' the author is praising the Macallan's managers for not changing and commercializing the production of whiskey and therefore retaining its traditional and very unique character. By doing so, the author underlines how important it is in production of the best quality whiskey not to skimp on the finest ingredients and labor and also indirectly justifies the high price of the final product. As this is a translation of an advertisement, the price justification is a significant aspect. The word challenge has in the Polish language a very positive connotation. Polish people like a challenge and have a long history of challenging systems, governments, and science. They are also a rather pragmatic nation and have a tendency to save rather than spend money and therefore they do not like to pay for unjustifiably expensive products. To convey the original message, the aforementioned term was replaced in the TT by its functional equivalent but of more relevant implication 'podważyli,' which translated back into English means 'impair.'


In the English language this word has a positive overtone. It describes someone who is a guardian or keeper and takes protective care of something and/or someone. A direct translation of the word into Polish is 'nadzorca.' This Polish word with the same denotation has negative connotation, as it is usually used with relation to prison guards or security guards. In order to transfer the original meaning of '...a handful of unconventional custodians...' the TT used Polish word 'dozorca' which translated back into English means 'caretaker.'


This term is unique to Scotland and it describes a person who lives in the Scottish Highlands. Since the name Scottish Highlands was previously explained in the TT (and the way it was done is presented in the category of Ecology), a Polish descriptive equivalent 'góral' was used in the proposed translation. From the context the TT reader understands that the text talks about a person who lives in the Scottish Highlands. By using this method the TT retains its original SL cultural effect.

4. Conclusion

Cultures have their own particular ways in perceiving and naming the world and it is a translator's task to consider measures to bring these worlds closer together. These various measures have been analyzed and used in the proposed translation of the Macallan's advertisement. The technique used to transfer cultural concepts in the commercial translation analyzed here focuses on the TT being fully culturally adjusted to its readership and therefore very easy to assimilate by the TT audience. Because of the change in cultural context between the SL and the TL and most importantly a change in the readership, the transfer of culture-bound concepts had a certain degree of variation in meaning and also in tone. Sometimes in order to avoid jeopardizing the original message of the ST, it was necessary to add certain information to the TT. As the TT shows, even in the commercial advertisement cultural implications can make a paramount difference in impact they have on the ST and the TT readers. The in-depth knowledge of the SL and the TL cultural backgrounds and the ability to use appropriate methods in conveying the message in secondary communication situations proves to be the most important aspect of this type of intercultural communication since, as it was presented, the way of thinking must be immersed in local reality in order to be effective and must focus on domesticating the detail, rather than referring to global universal meanings. In addition, the translator must be commercially astute since the advertisement, let's not forget, is about marketing a product.



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Appendix I

The source text: commercial advertisement of the Macallan Highland Scotch Whiskey

How the best whiskey was created?

Officially, it all began in 1824 when the Macallan was one of the first distilleries on Speyside to be licensed. But in truth, the tale starts a little earlier.

After 1745, the Scottish Highlands were, on the surface at least, under the thumb of the English redcoats mostly recruited from the hoi polloi. And as punishment for the temerity of their uprising, and to rub salt in the wounds inflicted at Culloden, the rebel highlanders were banned from wearing the kilt, carrying arms and distilling whiskey.

But the Scottish temperament being what it is, distilling continued undaunted. And it flourished. Because with or without a Government license, highland whiskey was in strong demand across the nation and beyond. So, by the early 19th century, in farms the length and breadth of Speyside, hundreds of illicit stills were silently operating to meet an eager market.

Why Speyside? Well, the earliest distillers knew a thing or two about the relationship between location and fine malt whiskey. The Spey valley is a magical place with a wild beauty. Flanked by the Grampian Mountains—home to red deer and grouse—the valley rolls out through dense woods, lush green fields, heathery moors and golden fields of barley. And through it all flows the River Spey—rising out of cold granite to pass through limestone and over soft Scottish peat.

These elements, and the fickle Scottish climate—soft and temperate or bitter and harsh—are essential to any highland malt. But only when combined with a couple of hundred years of experience, a handful of unconventional custodians and some downright peculiar production methods, do you get a malt with the remarkable and wholly unique character of the Macallan's whiskey.

It wouldn't be wrong to claim that the whiskey's character has been shaped by the people who have protected and sustained its production over the decades.

Since 1824 the distillery has changed hands only a few times, and the thread of production continuity has never been broken—by man or by method. Successive owners and managers have stamped their influence on the whiskey's development, but they have never challenged the mystique of its production by changing ingredients or process, however expensive or labor-intensive these may be today.

Today, this Scottish whiskey is still created in a way that would make many accountants pull their hair out over their profit margins. But today's Directors are an enlightened and civilized bunch, refusing to substitute quality for cost savings. And since the Macallan whiskey has risen from relative obscurity to become one of the best-selling malt whiskies in the world, you could say that the proof of their belief is in the drinking.

So what's so peculiar about the Macallan's production?

For a start, every drop of the malt is matured in sherry oak casks. Maturation in oak casks was made law in 1903. Latterly, however, the vast majority of distillers have abandoned sherry casks, in favor of considerably less expensive ex-bourbon casks. Not the Macallan. From the purchase of the wood from the forests of Northern Spain to the specification of the sherry fermentation itself, the distillery oversees the entire process. It might cost ten times as much as bourbon cask maturation, but it's the only way to guarantee the quality of the casks.

Indeed, as one of the Macallan's competitors declared in 1864: "It is well known that whiskey stored in sherry casks soon acquires a mellow softness which it does not get when put in new casks; in fact, if the latter are not well seasoned, they will impart a woodiness much condemned by the practiced palate. In sherry casks, the spirit likewise acquires a pleasant tinge of color which is much sought after."



The target text: the proposed translation suited for the Polish market

Jak powstała najlepsza whiskey?

Oficjalnie wszystko rozpoczęło się w 1824 roku, kiedy destylarnia Macallan została jedną z pierwszych zarejestrowanych w rejonie Speyside. Jednak tak naprawdę to ta historia rozpoczęła się trochę wcześniej.

Po roku 1745 Scottish Highlands (górski region północnej Szkocji) był, przynajmniej powierzchownie, pod panowaniem angielskiej armii w większości rekrutowanej z plebsu. Jako karę za zuchwałość powstania oraz żeby zajątrzyć rany zadane w bitwie pod Cullodem, zabroniono zbuntowanym góralom noszenia kiltu (męska, plisowana spódnica, strój narodowy Szkotów), broni oraz destylowania whiskey.

Jednak dzięki nieugiętemu szkockiemu temperamentowi, destylację kontynuowano niezrażenie. I to z powodzeniem. Niezależnie od tego, czy było pozwolenie rządu czy nie, w kraju i za granicą istniało duże zapotrzebowanie na góralską whiskey. Tak też przed początkiem dziewiętnastego stulecia, żeby zaspokoić zapotrzebowanie rynku, w gospodarstwach rolnych wzdłuż i wszerz Speyside, po cichu działały setki nielegalnych kolumn destylacyjnych.

Dlaczego Speyside? No cóż, najwcześniejsi destylarze wiedzieli coś na temat związku pomiędzy miejscem i rafinowaną słodową whiskey. Dolina Spey jest magicznym miejscem o dzikiej urodzie. Dolina ta rozciąga się wzdłuż gór Grampian—domu jelenia szlachetnego i pardwy—poprzez gęste lasy, bujne, zielone pola, wrzosowiska i złote połacie jęczmienia. A przez to wszystko przepływa rzeka Spey—wzbierająca z zielonego granitu, przepływająca przez wapień i poprzez miękki szkocki torf.

Te elementy oraz zmienny, szkocki klimat—łagodny i umiarkowany lub przykry i ostry—są podstawą każdego górskiego słodu. Jednak jedynie, kiedy połączy się kilka wieków doświadczenia, garść niekonwencjonalnych dozorców oraz kilka zupełnie osobliwych metod produkcji, otrzyma się słód o niezwykłym i całkowicie niepowtarzalnym charakterze whiskey Macallan.

Nie jest błędem twierdzenie, że charakter tej whiskey ukształtowany został przez ludzi, którzy uchronili i utrzymali jej produkcję poprzez dekady.

Od 1824 roku destylarnia ta zmieniła właściciela jedynie kilka razy, a nić kontynuacji produkcji nigdy nie została przerwana—czy przez osobę, czy metodę. Następujący po sobie właściciele i kierownicy mieli swój wpływ na rozwoju whiskey, ale nigdy nie podważyli oni sekretu jej produkcji poprzez zmianę składników lub procesu, jakkolwiek mogą być one dzisiaj drogie czy pracochłonne.

W dniu dzisiejszym ta szkocka whiskey jest wciąż wytwarzana w sposób, który powoduje, że wielu księgowych wyrywa sobie włosy z głowy ze względu na mały zysk. Jednak dzisiejsi dyrektorzy są oświeconym i cywilizowanym gronem, odmawiającym zastąpienia jakości oszczędnością kosztów. Ponieważ stosunkowo nieznana whiskey Macallan stała się jedną z najlepiej sprzedających się słodowych whiskey na świecie, można stwierdzić, że słuszność ich teorii sprawdza się w piciu.

Jednak cóż jest tak szczególnego w produkcji Macallana?

Na początek, każda kropla słodu dojrzewała w dębowych beczkach po sherry. Prawo o dojrzewaniu w dębowych beczkach ustanowione zostało w 1903 roku. Później, jakkolwiek, większość destylarni porzuciła beczki po sherry na korzyść, znacznie tańszych beczek po bourbonie. Nie Macallan. Destylarnia nadzoruje cały proces, od zakupu drewna z lasów północnej Hiszpanii do specyfikacji fermentacji sherry. Może to kosztować dziesięć razy więcej, aniżeli dojrzewanie w beczkach po bourbonie, ale jest to jedyny sposób, aby zagwarantować jakość tych beczek.

W rzeczy samej, jeden z rywali Macallana oświadczył w 1864 roku: „Doskonale wiadomo, że whiskey przechowywana w beczkach po sherry szybko nabywa dojrzałej łagodności, której nie uzyska ona gdy trzymana w nowych beczkach; w rzeczy samej, jeżeli te drugie nie są dobrze zaprawione, udzielą one drewnianego posmaku bardzo potępionego przez obyte podniebienie. Ponadto, w beczkach po sherry spiritus nabywa przyjemnego odcienia, który jest bardzo poszukiwany."