Think of a whisky snob. For me it conjures up a stuffy, plummy voiced person, bespoke Saville row suit (more Gieves and Hawkes than Kilgour), lots of rules about how you have to do this or do that, they’d probably tell you that if you put ice in your whisky they’ll kill you. They’d probably do something stupid like throw whisky on the floor to “season the glass”. They’d be Robert Paterson. How is he not treated as the clown of whisky? The Ronald McDonald of Dalmore? He gave himself a nickname of “The nose” for God sake. What more does it take?!
When I first drank whisky as a teenager, it was Jack Daniels and Coke, with ice. After a while, I was told that I should never put mixers with whisky, so I ditched the Coke. A while later, I was told that I shouldn’t drink Jack Daniel’s because it’s rubbish; I should drink single malts. I was advised to try Highland Park or Talisker because the best single malts tasted like smoke, so I bought a bottle of each to try. Impressed, I carried on drinking them, until I was told that I shouldn’t drink them with ice because you should never drink whisky with ice in it. However, a touch of water was OK because that’s what the experts did.
However we look at our whisky drinking journey, we have all been ‘advised’ or ‘told’ what is best and how we should drink. Well, what if these people, as most people do, were talking shit? What if it’s OK to use ice? What if not all great whiskies taste of smoke? What if Jack Daniel’s isn’t…Too far. But, you get the point.
A few months ago, I attended a whisky tasting with Balvenie. The host for the night, the extremely knowledgeable and entertaining James Buntin, explained that you could completely change the smell and taste of the whisky with just two drops of water. This was a revelation to me. I tried whisky with and without the two drops and, on more than one occasion, for better and for worse, the taste and smell of the whisky change. Sometimes drastically.
Since then, particularly with cask strength whisky, I’ve nosed and tasted whisky without water to begin with, then with my now customary ‘two drops’. I know that I have witnessed changes and I’d be happy to argue this with anyone. As an active member of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, I’m also accustomed to seeing tasting notes that are written with and without water. I don’t know if an established, well respected organisation and an extremely experienced brand ambassador would suggest water if there was nothing in it.
Then, I read this:
An incredibly interesting article, this provided me with lots of scientific insight, some interesting suggestions for tasting whisky (a ‘tasting whiskies in different glasses’ post is on the horizon) and some really interesting views on the whole ‘two drops’ thing. Nevertheless, what the article did more than anything was highlight to me what I’ve grown to understand the more I’ve drunk whisky and the more I’ve read and researched tasting: if someone tells you to use two drops, that your retronasal finish is most important, or that you shouldn’t use a mixer, just drink and enjoy the whisky because that’s what it was made for.
Allow me to set the scene: Whisky Birmingham, March 2016. Tom and I are at the Springbank stand and we’re treated to an ‘under the counter’ dram, brought by our man for lucky people like us. He went on to explain that this was a new release from the distillery called Local Barley – a 16 year old, retailing at around £90. Blown away was an understatement. Shortbread and fudge, with a hint of smoke. Stunning. “But don’t expect to be able to buy one. Not for under £120.” This was only weeks after the release. Good luck finding one for under £160 now. Yet, I regularly talk to people who have never tried it, despite the 9000 bottle release. Fast-forward to February 2017. Springbank issue this statement:
I’ve tried for two days to source a bottle. What’s the betting I can buy one on an auction site next month for £150?
I know there’s nothing wrong with making money and people are free to do whatever they please with their own purchases. Just give a little thought to the whisky drinkers. The ones who want to buy a drink, to err…drink??
“If any of my staff have anything remotely like a cold, they come nowhere near me. If I pop over to the pub, the landlord will tell me if someone has a cold and I’ll walk out. I don’t even have sex during this time because from kissing you can pick up something, so it’s really miserable.”
Really Jim? Do us all a favour and just fuck off. Fuck right off. Let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time before you disappear up your own arsehole anyway, praise be.
Link here if you think you can stomach his bullshit, I give you 20 lines before you want to smash the screen.