How does a country that has the unicorn as its national animal and the thistle as its flower become the birthplace of European Enlightenment? The Scots for whatever reason picked the thistle over the rose that England chose or the daffodil of Wales or even the shamrock of Ireland. This is not to suggest that the thistle doesn’t have its own beauty and elegance to bestow. Quite the contrary. What may be less appreciated than its looks, like the rose or daffodil, has instead a story of its own making.
One of the best-known thistle legends takes place in the mid 13th century during a surprise invasion by the soldiers of the Norse king, Haakon, at Largs (one of western Scotland’s coastal towns).
The story goes, that after coming ashore this Viking force planned to creep up on the Scottish Clansmen and Highlanders and overcome them while they slept.
This amount of stealth required that they go barefoot – which proved to be their undoing.
Unfortunately for these unwary invaders, one of their soldier’s bare feet came down hard on a Scottish thistle and his cries of shock and pain were enough to wake the sleeping Scots.
Leaping to their feet, the clansmen charged into battle and the rest, as they say, is history… and yes, the fiery Scots were victorious.
Legend has it that because of the heroic role the plant played in the outcome of the battle, the thistle was immediately chosen as a national emblem. [retrieved from Scottish-at-heart.com]
Although this may sound like a prickly tale, it is a reminder that the single malt is equally as beautiful and elegant as the flowering thistle, but like the thistle it too can be ‘prickly’ (or peaty!) to the taste for the uninitiated imbiber.