Who’s this then?
It was a muggy London evening. The venue: a member’s club in Soho whose air conditioning would have been more effective had it consisted of two asthmatic men blowing from opposite ends of the room. The occasion: the new packaging launch for the Glenfiddich 21 year old.
I am not, I hasten to add, a member of said club. Being based in Reading it would be a hell of a long stagger home, and I doubt very much whether I’d be able to afford the fees anyway. But it was there, as I melted in an ill-considered jacket, that I first met the Great (and Powerful) Dram himself, Greg Dillon.
Fast forward six months and my own blog, The Whisky Pilgrim, is more or less all wound up, and my transfer to the position of ‘Great Drams Scribe (Jnr)’ complete. (Talking of ‘transfers,’ I half think Greg just took me on because we both support Liverpool. Anfield is riddled with whisky enthusiasts; complimentary miniatures of Clynelish are stashed under the seats at the Kop End.*)
Anyway, back on point: who am I, and what will I be bringing to the tasting table?
I was a bit of an early bloomer on the whisk(e)y front, having been hauled reluctantly round my first distillery (Arran) aged eight. I’d wanted to play crazy golf instead. Somewhere far south of ‘proper’ I realised that Scotch got you lit up more quickly than cider did, and at the back end of my teens my Universe expanded to include Bourbon. Again, reluctantly – but that’s another story. I love the stuff now at any rate.
Since those youthful beginnings I’ve visited fifty-something distilleries around the UK, have trips to Ireland, Tasmania and Kentucky in the rather pricey pipeline and have spat out more delicious whisk(e)y from all around the world than I care to think about. Though fear not; my liver groans beneath the weight of the samples that do go down the right way.
I don’t work in the industry, which grants me a fortunate freedom of speech and the ability to criticise where I think appropriate. If I don’t like something, and especially if I believe something to be inappropriately priced, I’ll always say so. However, like Greg, I try to take a circumspect approach to my writing. There’s not much fun to be had from blinkered rage, or one-dimensional points of view – and I imagine it’s exhausting anyway. Bottom line: honest, considered opinions. And a bit of fun. There’s not enough of this in whisky writing; for a liquid-based subject things tend to get ironically dry.
Oh, and I’ll always mention if I’m reviewing from a free sample, but ninety-nine times out of a hundred I’ll have given my wallet an airing for any whisk(e)y I taste.
So what sort of scribblings will I be inflicting upon you?
In my old lair on The Whisky Pilgrim I ran a couple of series’ looking to find interesting whiskies from around the world for under £50. After all, that’s my price-cap more often than not when I’m buying by the bottle – as I guess it is for most people. There’s smashing value to be found within that category, so I’ll frequently try to sniff out the heroes (and indeed zeroes).
Everyone needs a good bar or two – whichever city they find themselves in – and if you’re anything like me you want to find somewhere that’ll stand you your glass of aqua vitae and/or perhaps a cheeky cocktail. So each month I’ll be visiting a new city somewhere in the UK and checking out a few of the local whiskying holes. (And don’t worry – I may be based in Reading, but I’m a born-and-raised Northerner – when I say we’ll be looking at cities around the UK, that’s what I mean. Not just the ones south of the Watford Gap. Scotland and Wales will feature prominently too).
Whisk(e)y is so much more than just Scotland, Ireland, USA and Japan. I’ll hopefully give extensive coverage to whiskies made outside of that group, and make the tastiest recommendations I can.
Beyond that, stand by for miscellaneous opinions, flights of core ranges, pseudo-rants about tasting notes and interviews with whisk(e)y personalities. Doubtless punctuated, as Whisky Pilgrim readers will be thoroughly unsurprised to hear, with a fair amount of nonsense about anything from KitKat Chunkies to Mariokart. Because that’s my thing.
Right. I think that’ll do to be getting on with; guess I’ll see you next wee…what’s that? My favourite whisk(e)y? Oh you sod! No, too hard – can’t do it. Ok, fine. I guess, were I at the point of death; able to manage just one final pour, I’d like it to be…no, changed my mind again. Not happening.
All in all, best not to think about it. Catch you in the new year.
*This isn’t actually true. Kop End connoisseurs famously prefer Islay malts. They blend them with another favoured Merseyside tipple to create a drink called Laga-special-brew-lin.