Hard-to-find

Skooshy Wee Number

It’s oft suggested that our other national drink here in Scotland is Irn-Bru, the mysteriously-flavoured bright orange beverage brewed by Barr’s. I’d like to argue the case for Red Kola though.

The crimson ‘sparkling fruit juice’ was concocted years ago by Curries of Auchinleck in deepest East Ayrshire. With a similarly closely-guarded secret recipe, and marketed as ‘Special Cola’, Red Kola has in recent times, I suspect, also undergone a slight recipe redesign. Unlike the hoo-ha created when Barr’s bowed to the combined pressures of the sugar tax and healthy eating campaigns by lowering the sugar in Irn-Bru (reducing both its flavour (bad thing) and waiting times in dentists across most of Scotland (good thing)), Red Kola’s subtle shift in taste seemed to bypass even the most sugar-fuelled soft drinkers. And unlike the Facebook racketeers and profiteers who advertise ‘original’ glass bottles of Irn-Bru at prices not too dissimilar to what you’d pay for a decent Jura malt, no one (as yet) has found a stockpile of Curries ‘Special Kola’ at the back of the cupboard just waiting to be ‘Pepsi Challenged’ against a just-off-the-shelf plastic-bottled Red Kola from the Spar. Trust me though, as the bottle I’m currently guzzling – for research purposes of course – proves, as with Irn-Bru, it’s still the same drink….just different.

Red Kola has been championed in song by another of East Ayrshire’s best-kept secrets, Nyah Fearties. Brothers Stephen and Davy Wiseman have a rare way with an arrangement; take an acoustic guitar and batter it furiously until it sounds like it’s being assaulted by a Brillo Pad then weld it on top of a backbeat held together with clanging pipes, hob nailed stomps and a wing and a prayer and play at 100 miles an hour until out of breath. The regularly likened-to Pogues might’ve had flowing Streams Of Whiskey but the ‘Fearties noisily and beautifully romanticised Red Kola.

Nyah FeartiesRed Kola

(Oor) guts are dyed wi’ Rid Kola.

That’s a line the equal of Burns, that is.

Nyah Fearties debut album, A Tasty Heidfu‘, was re-released after 30-odd years to little fanfare at the tail end of 2018. A clattering, caterwauling sound clash it is, like our national drink(s) an acquired taste. It’s also something that gets under your skin and flows through your veins, the very nectar of life itself. You should head here toute de suite and give them your hard-earned.

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