By Richard Thomas
Perhaps the defining characteristic of the U.S. 2016 Presidential Election has been Republican candidate Donald Trump’s immaturity and petulance. He lashes out at anyone who crosses him, whether it be Khizr Khan or Alicia Machado, no matter how ill-advised that eruption proves to be. If things aren’t going his way, Trump whines that the system is rigged against him, as if the ugliness of the aforementioned petulance had nothing to do with it.
These character traits of Trump’s are nothing new to whisky enthusiasts or residents of Scotland, however, because they’ve seen it all before, four years ago in fact. That was when Donald Trump decided he didn’t like the man chosen for the 2012 Top Scot, and spat his venom at The Glenfiddich.
Muscling Into Scotland
The Spirit of Scotland Awards is an annual event sponsored by Glenfiddich, naming an exemplary Scot in nine categories: art, business, environment, food, music, screen, sport, writing, and the overall “Top Scot.” For Top Scot, the award is open to whoever the public wants. Some past winners have included tennis champion Andy Murray (2013) and National Museums Director Gordon Rintoul (2011).
Enter Michael Forbes, a part-time salmon fisherman who owned a farm adjoining Trump International Golf Links. Forbes ran afoul of Trump when he refused to sell the real estate developer his land, who responded in the style now familiar to the entire world: with nasty insults and ham-fisted attempts to bully Forbes and other neighbors. The Scotsman was compared to a homeless beachcomber, and Trump said of Forbes: “His property is terribly maintained. It’s slum-like, it’s disgusting. He’s got stuff thrown all over the place. He lives like a pig.” Trump illegally erected fences on Forbes’s land, as well as that of David Milne and other area residents who refused to sell to Trump, and attempted to bill the area residents for them. Construction projects on Trump’s golf course were done in such a way as to cut off his neighbors’ water supply for weeks at a time.
Although he was never the only target of Trump’s tactics, Forbes was the most vociferous and highest profile of the golf course’s victimized neighbors. He became the primary subject of a 2011 documentary about the case, You’ve Been Trumped, and as the spotlighted figure in the story, was voted the Top Scot of 2012. Forbes defeated Andy Murray to win the award, who would win Top Scot the next year.
Trump Vs. The Spirit Of Scotland
Trump’s response to a high profile opponent of his pet project winning a popular award followed Trumpian form: he accused Glenfiddich of using voter fraud in retaliation for Trump choosing to develop a “Trump Whisky” for his golf course through another distillery. Trump took to insulting Glenfiddich on Twitter, claimed that no one at his hotels ever ordered or drank the whisky, and called upon the Scottish people to launch a nationwide boycott of the single malt brand.
Yet the reason Forbes was celebrated as Top Scot was simply that, by 2012, Trump’s welcome in Scotland was decidedly wearing out. Alex Salmond, the former Scottish First Minister and Scottish National Party Leader who first became involved in advocating for Trump’s golf hotel when he was just a Scottish MP, turned against Trump at around this time, when Trump’s promises of £1 billion in investment and the creation of several thousand jobs never materialized. Just last month, Salmond described Trump as an emotionally stunted “manchild,” and said that the prospect of Trump becoming President should “give us all the heebie-jeebies.”
Since this time, Glenfiddich was supplanted by Glenlivet as the world’s top-selling single malt, and I’m quite certain Trump doesn’t know anything about it, because one can easily imagine what would have happened had Trump known. After all, that man never passes on any opportunity to relive old grievances.
Remember that June day after the historic Brexit vote?
As indicated before, this is all very familiar to Scotch whisky enthusiasts. We’ve seen it all before.