What do you do when you have a vision for the ideal pub in your mind – but it doesn’t exist in your home town? If you are Jenny and Randy Boyd in Knoxville, Tennessee in the United States, there’s only one answer – you set about creating it yourselves.
The couple had travelled to Scotland and fallen under the spell of the country, its pubs and its traditional music scene. But back home in Knoxville, there was no equivalent venue.
“I used to dance in a ballet company, and when I became too old for that hobby, playing music took its place,” says Jenny. “I started playing violin, and ended up getting into traditional Appalachian and Scottish music.”
Jenny and husband Randy travelled to Scotland and loved the local pubs and their music sessions.
“After that trip, I came back complaining that we had no place in Knoxville for adult musicians to meet and share our tunes,” says Jenny. “East Tennessee is rich in its Scottish and Irish musical history, as most of our ancestors came from these countries. So, Randy bought the building for me here six years ago, and we found it to be the perfect pub setting.”
The extensive refurbishment of an empty bar saw the launch of Boyd’s Jig & Reel in Knoxville’s historic Old City, where Jenny added instruments to the walls for people to join in the regular music sessions, and introduced Scottish pub food – served by waiting staff in kilts, of course.
But what’s a Scottish pub – even with music, food and kilts – if it doesn’t have a decent whisky collection?
“The pub started out with a music mission, but my husband thought that if it was a Scottish pub, it should have as many Scotch whiskies as we could carry,” says Jenny. “We enlisted the help of our then manager, Nathan Johnson, who is also my cousin, and he made it his mission to add to our Scotch collection. I’m very proud of the work that he’s done and the name that we’re acquiring around the world for his efforts. And now we’re very proud to be a partner bar of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.”
Boyd’s Jig & Reel currently has 844 bottles of whisky and whiskey behind its bar, the majority of them Scotch but with bottlings from both the US and Canada as well as Irish, Welsh, Japanese and Indian distilleries. There are also almost 100 green bottles sitting on the shelf, testimony to a thriving partner bar relationship with the SMWS.
“Learning all about the Society’s different flavour profiles and reading the Tasting Notes is what helps to drive my passion for whisky,” says bar manager Anton Quinn. “Our senior bartender Patrick Tubbs was a member of the Society and one of our most valued whisky experts. Tragically, he died unexpectedly in December last year, but I’ll always remember his passion for whisky in general and the Society in particular, and I want to pass on his enthusiasm for telling the story of the SMWS and to show our patrons that integrity and quality are of the upmost importance.”
With a combination of live music almost every night of the week, plus regular whisky-focussed events, there’s always something happening at Boyd’s Jig & Reel.
“Our whiskey events vary from traditional Scottish celebrations such as our Burns Supper and Hogmanay party, to more modern events like whisky pairings with strange and wonderful dishes,” says Anton. “We also host a whisky festival every spring, and are always honoured to host master distillers from all over the world whenever they come into town. It’s always great to meet these amazing people who have years of knowledge and experience working in the industry, where you get to hear some behind-the-scenes stories and their insider secrets.”
So whether you’re ready to join in with a traditional music session – or simply take a seat at the bar with a Society single malt – Boyd’s Jig & Reel is the place to be. If only we could all create our own perfect pub…
OUR PARTNER BAR NETWORK
Boyd’s Jig & Reel is one of almost 100 of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s partner bars around the world, where you can receive a discount on drams by producing your member card. We’re adding new partner bars all the time – for a complete list, visit smws.com