‘Scotch on the rock’ mystery forges partnership between Glenturret whisky and Chinese resort

A year after it hit the headlines around the world, the story surrounding a giant piece of rock in China engraved with the name of Glenturret whisky has taken an exciting turn.

The two parties thrust together thanks to the ‘Scotch on the rock’ mystery are now talking about working together in the future.

The mystery of how a giant rock with the name of Scotland’s oldest working whisky distillery, Glenturret, ended up in Moganshan, a mountain-top region of China, has never been solved. Yet it has had members of the public and academics putting forward theories since the rock was uncovered during excavation for a tourist resort in early 2016.

Last week, the owners of naked Retreat resort in China paid a special visit to Glenturret Distillery in Crieff to discuss what they say is “too extraordinary a story to ignore”.

Following the discovery of the rock last year, authors and academics came forward to confirm that the original owner of the property, Scottish missionary Dr. Duncan Main, had named his house Glenturret. They also suggested that he may have had links to a steamship called Glenturret or lived on a Glenturret Street in Glasgow.

Whatever the true story, the Glenturret in China mystery has done wonders for Scotland-China relations, with Glenturret staff in constant correspondence with Grant Horsfield and Delphine Yip ever since.

Stuart Cassells, general manager of Glenturret Distillery, home to The Famous Grouse Experience, said: “We’ve been keeping in touch with Grant and Delphine and we all remain intrigued  by the ‘Scotch on the rock’ mystery. When Grant told me he and Delphine were visiting Scotland, we knew we had to make this meeting happen.”

Grant Horsfield said: “Our meeting with Stuart was excellent – really informative, and what a treat to see Scotland’s oldest working whisky distillery. As I told Stuart, the Glenturret in China story is just too extraordinary to ignore. We’re looking forward to continuing this special partnership and to see what the future holds.”

Last week’s visit to Glenturret Distillery comes some 20 years after Grant first visited the Perthshire distillery. He enjoyed a tour in September 1997 and bought two bottles of Glenturret whisky and still has the receipt from his trip, which is now on display along with the story of Glenturret beside the engraved Glenturret rock at naked Retreat.

After Glenturret released the story last year and it gained worldwide media attention, the resort owners along with academics in the U.K. and the U.S.A. tried to fit together the pieces of the puzzle. Here’s what they know:

  • Some of the property in Moganshan used to belong to Dr. Duncan Main, a Scottish missionary doctor who dedicated 45 years of his life to working in China in the late 1800s and early 1900s. One of the most famous missionaries in China at the time, Dr. Main had a castle on the property that was used as a summer retreat by him and his hospital staff.
  • It was built in 1910 as a sanitoriumand known simply as #1 Moganshan. It passed into the hands of the governor of Zhejiang for a short time during China’s nationalisation and then was handed back to Dr. Main’s son, S. Duncan Main. It was then sold to the Jiangnan Auto Company and operated as the Green Shade Inn. However, it was not well maintained and was torn down in the 1960s.
  • Author, historian and China expert Robert Bickers of the University of Bristol uncovered a cutting from a China newspaper story in 1929 which confirms that Dr. Main named his house Glenturret.
  • Further investigation by Glenturret Distillery found that Dr. Main worked for a time at a shipyard in Glasgow. Dr Mark McLeister, a lecturer in Chinese Studies at The University of Edinburgh, suggested that there may be a link between his shipyard work and a steamship called Glenturret. The Distillery has learned that the ship was part of the Glen Line fleet owned by McGregor, Gow & Company in Glasgow and served the China tea trade.
  • Dr McLeister, who worked through archival material and books about Dr Main, added: “There is also a Glenturret Street in Glasgow. Maybe that was somewhere he stayed while working in the city? The name obviously had significance for him in some way. There is the possibility that he made connections with family members from the Glenturret Distillery whilst living in China.”
  • The area around Moganshan grew as a resort and a holiday getaway for foreign missionaries working in Shanghai and Hangchow, where the heat was sweltering in the summer months. Dr Main had planned to open a sanitorium but never did, according to Professor Christoffer Grundmann, a Professor of Religion and the Healing Arts at The University of Indiana, USA.. But he did open rest homes for ministers and workers on this particular site. “From the photograph of the rock, it would suggest that this was a marker at an entrance of a property or estate inhabited by Scotsmen during the hot summers. Therefore it may carry significance not just for Dr Main but for one or more of the other Scotsmen living there.”
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