A bit of history in a rather unusual place

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Pakistan is a strongly Muslim nation 97% to be precise. Now what the hell is a Brewery and Distillery doing there... From Der Spiegel Online:
Distilling the Muslim World's First 20-Year-Old Whisky
An almost 150-year-old brewery in Pakistan is preparing to bring the Muslim world's first 20-year-old single malt whisky to the market. Murree Brewery, however, can only sell to non-Muslims, who comprise 3 percent of Pakistan's population.

The heart of the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi is dotted with paradoxes.

Amidst the foliage of the Jinnah National Park, an expansive garden that houses the prison where former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Bhutto was hanged in 1979, the giant "M" of an American fast food chain rises like a monolith.

Behind it runs the National Park Road, a leafy, residential avenue replete with road blocks and bearded men carrying submachine guns. Hanging over it all is the distinct and unmistakable smell of fermenting alcohol.

What, in Allah's name, is going on here?

The 150-year-old Murree Brewery is teeming with activity. One of the Islamic world's most successful breweries will soon launch a rare, one-off product of its distillery: a 20-year-old single malt whisky that is the first of its kind in the Muslim world.

But the armed police are not here to guard the amber fluid. They're here to protect the brewery's equally famous neighbor on National Park Road and currently the man most wanted by Islamic terrorists in the region: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, the country's leader and teetotaller-in-chief.

"The irony is lost on nobody," chuckles brewery owner Minoo Bhandara, peering through his glasses at the tall gates of Musharaff's house across the street as he takes a sip of a beer brewed from Bavarian hops. But he insists that the existence of a brewery in a country where the 97-percent Muslim majority is barred from drinking alcohol is not some freak occurrence: "It merely reflects an age-old tolerance which the West is ignorant about."
The brewery has quite a pedigree:
Murree Brewery was founded in 1860 by relatives of the British mountaineer Edward Whymper, who, five years later, became the first man to scale the Matterhorn. It is named after the misty, western Himalayan town of Murree, located some 50 kilometers away from Rawalpindi and the city in which the brewery was originally founded to quench the thirst of British troops in colonial India.
And the brewers are not slouches:
International recognition is nothing new for the company. Murree Beer was awarded a medal for product excellence at the Philadelphia Exhibition in 1876, and various other international awards over the past 140 years. The company's 8-year-old single malt whisky has already received lavish praise from none less than three-time Glenfiddich Whisky Writer of the Year Jim Murray.

"Not only does (Murree whisky) compare favorably, it is much better than a number of less-known Scotch malts," Murray writes in his Complete Book of Whisky. "Crisp and delicate ... so good is this whisky that ... (you) smell a drained glass in the morning and you are swamped by its fabulously honeyed riches."
And it sounds like a great place to work:
Murree will launch its real jewel, its 20-year-old single malt, as part of a one-time limited edition offer next year. There will be 200 cases of 12 bottles each, priced modestly at 2,500 Pakistan rupees (around $40) a bottle. The brewery is also thinking of selling posters and souvenirs of the original, lithographic calendars and paintings of the Murree hills made by the Whympers family.

In the dark, cool cellars of the Murree distillery, many of the employees handling the huge oak casks wear Muslim prayer-caps. Murree can even boast a female bookkeeper. Of course, not all employees drink, but those who do are not afraid to admit it. Perhaps most importantly, none are ashamed of their job, no matter what their conservative neighbors might mumble.

"Most people don't really care where we work, but some do," says US-trained brewer and technical manager Mohammed Javed. "There are lots of other, more serious evils which the Koran forbids, like hurt and torture -- why don't they focus on eliminating those?"
Hmmmm... Wonder if any of this nectar will reach the states. Their website is here: Murree Bewery Corp.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on August 21, 2007 10:45 PM.

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