Some people just fall into things by chance, and to an extent Ian Horne is one of these people. From contractor to the North Sea Oil and Gas Industry. To what can only be described as a ‘designer of all things Whisky.’
For the last thirty years Ian has been plying his trade in the UK’s North Sea Oil and Gas sector. His job as a Scaffolder was ultimately his route, to what can only be described as a blend of passions that combined to a business. The passions, ‘Photography and Whisky’. The business, ‘Whisky on Tour’.
For twenty four of the last thirty years that Ian has worked offshore, he has been lucky enough to be steadily employed on the Alwyn North Platform. That is an extraordinary long run for any contract position. To this Ian freely admits, he is unusually fortunate. However, this led Ian being duly awarded a long service award for remaining faithful to the company over the years. This was around 10 years ago, and this is where his story begins.
Voucher in pocket and no idea what to get with it, Ian’s wife Elaine suggested a camera. So the decision was made and a camera it would be, a Canon 1000D was to be the order of the day. It turns out at first, the camera was not the revelation that it has now turned out to be. Elaine and Ian went on holiday and the hardest work the camera got was the dial being turned to Auto and everything was ‘Point and Shoot’.
A little time passed and by this point Ian was starting to pick up a few more tips other than ‘point and shoot’. His next break came however when, on one of his walks to take a few pictures he lifted a bottle of ‘Old Pulteney’ from the house to use as a prop.
‘”Old Pulteney” I here you ask?’ Well, Old Pulteney is a whisky from Ian’s home town of Wick in the extreme North East Highlands of Scotland. It also happens to be his favourite tipple.
The result however, when posted of Facebook caused a bit of a stir with his online friends, and friends of friends. Ian continued to take and post pictures, many of them included his ‘favourite prop’. He then decided to take it one step further and have a few prints framed, not in any run of the mill frame though. Ian searched out someone who could use the staves (wood) from old whisky barrels and keep in the character and uniqueness of his subject.
Alas, ‘Whisky on Tour‘ was born.
It turns out though that Ian is not the only entrepreneur or individual with talent in his family. Elaine his wife mentioned earlier, played the bagpipes for Wicks Girls Pipe Band, the first all ladies band of this type. Elaine took her talent for music from her parents who were both fiddle players her father playing for the Scottish Wick Dance Band. She also passed this onto her daughters, Amanda and Tanya who are accomplished in both the Bagpipes and Accordion.
Ian’s daughters are both mapping careers out for themselves building their own companies. Amanda the eldest, is an award winning florist having won silver medal at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Florist of the Year, as well as various International Magazine competitions. Tanya his youngest, has her own dance school and also judges and examines at events. Tanya in her own right reached a high level with her own dancing, having twice reached the final of the World Championships.
In Ian’s own words, “My wifes side were strongly steeped in Scottish Traditions. My side, that’s where the whisky comes in!”
Back to the main topic though, ‘Whisky on Tour’ has continued to move from strength to strength. Although not without the odd hiccup along the way, like many a new start company. Promises were made that ones could help with this or supply that. Others gave costs or quantities that could be supplied for the initial product. However, upon order these details would change to the point Ian would be unsure if they talking about the same deal that had been earlier struck. Like most, Ian thought was the irritation really worth it?
Looking at his products though, you can see his perseverance has produced nothing less than artwork.
With many of the initial teething problems now behind, Ian has expanded his product range to include many other offerings such as; Bottle and Nosing Glass Holders, Barrel Lid Shelves, Clocks, Cribbage Boards, Lamps, Coat Hooks,Tea Light Holders, Walking Sticks, etc. The list is endless, and if Ian hasn’t already thought of it, he is more than happy to discuss custom designs.
There is now a team of people that Ian has found, who are able to attain the levels of service he requires to keep the cogs of his well oiled machine turning. Barrel Creations in The Cabrach near Dufftown are the steady supplier of the ‘staves’ which without, ‘Whisky on Tour’ would just not be the same.
Willie Bain is Chief Engraver/Blaster who sandblasts and engraves the writing onto the whisky staves and iron rings from the barrels. Thurso Photo Lab laser etch his beautiful pictures onto the slates and supply his prints and Tricia Crowe does the Sign Writing.
Recently Elaine (his wife) as a present, had a small workshop fitted out and his brother in-law made some jigs for Ian to do much more of the actual woodworking elements himself.
It should also be said that Ian was recognised in his own right by winning a Photography Competition ‘Home to Glenfiddich’ ran by the Glenfiddich Distillery back in 2014 and he was presented with a signed print from the 2012 Landscape Photographer, Simon Butterworth. Another feather to Ian’s cap however is his continued support of the Wick Lifeboat, where a 2015 calendar he photographed and published himself sold out and allowed him to donate over £400. This has led to ‘The Friends of Wick Charity Calendar’ which again Ian oversees. Details of this can be found on an Facebook page he has set up for this. Friends of Wick lifeboat
Fortunately ‘Whisky on Tour’ has built a following to the point an increasing number of Distilleries are happy to allow Ian to picture their premises and wares. Which in turn allows him to increase his portfolio. ‘Whisky on Tour’ products are now for sale in multiple outlets including a couple of the Distillery shops .
The list of supporting outlets are as follows: Thurso Photo Lab, Blue Tree Gallery in Wick, Ackergill Tower, Old Pulteney Distillery Shop, Balblair distillery Shop, The Speyside Cooperage and the Blackstairs Highland Wear Shop in Wick. Of course all his products and contact details are available direct from Whisky on Tour. You can also follow Ian at the Whisky on Tour Facebook page where he will have you bursting with laughter from ‘Stories of Wee Jeannie’ or ‘Wullies Word’s oh Wisdom’ not to mention the endless supply of outstanding pictures.
Slàinte Mhath to Whisky on Tour (Good Health to Whisky on Tour)
As a small Thank You to Ian, some time ago I wrote a verse that you can read ‘Old Pulteney, Gold From Silver‘ (it’s the 5th poem on the page)