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Whisky replaces champagne in UK ship christening

world Updated: Jun 30, 2014 23:45 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times
Royal Navy

A champagne bottle is usually smashed in a launch or naming ceremony of ships in the Royal Navy, but in a spirited variation of tradition, officials have decided to use whisky from a premier distillery in Scotland to christen the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

The ceremony on Friday at Rosyth, Scotland, will use whisky – the ‘water of life’ – from the Bowmore distillery on the island of Islay. The distillery was selected because it was the first visited by Queen Elizabeth in an official capacity.

Official sources here said on Monday that champagne has traditionally been used for such ship ceremonies, while submarines traditionally use bottles of ‘home brew’ beer. But historians say champagne has not always been used; the Nelson’s era likely used brandy or madeira.

One notable exception to the champagne tradition was HMS Sutherland in 1996, when Macallan Single Highland Malt whisky was used. Whilst unusual, this was justified due to the ship’s strong Scottish connections, including her Scottish dukedom name and affiliations to Sutherland and Scottish regiments.

There are no other records of whisky being used, ministry of defence sources said.

For the ceremony, the distillery will provide a bottle of ‘Bowmore Surf’ single malt, which takes inspiration from the sea; the sea spray saturates the peaty soil and a sea tang finds its way into the whisky which is a fitting tribute to the sea that shapes it.