What are your top three GreatDrams?
William Grant’s have some amazing whiskies in the portfolio, which makes it really hard to choose, but at the expense of upsetting many of my colleagues I’ll plump for a blend, a single grain and a single malt of about the same age – Grants 25YO, The Girvan Patent Still 25YO and Kininvie 23YO batch 1
What moments and/or memories do they evoke?
Grants 25YO is just a stunning, stunning whisky. My fondest memory is sharing this at a special event at Gordon Castle with a group of Australian consumers who had won a prize to select one our Rare Cask Reserve blends. It was one of those great whisky moments: great camaraderie, great surroundings, shooting the breeze with one of the best whiskies in the world! For any malt snobs who turn their noses up at blends, they should try this. And you can buy it in the UK for less than £200. Unbelievably good value.
The Girvan Patent Still 25YO is proof that aged single grain, in great casks, with great wood management is every bit as good as aged single malt. We only use first fill bourbon casks for the range, which gives the 25YO an amazing ‘liquid crème brule’ flavour profile. The best moments are the reaction from people at tasting events I do; a real “Wow!” factor. From knowing nothing about single grain, people come away genuinely loving it. That’s hugely motivating in my job.
Kininvie 23YO single malt batch 1 is a beautifully balanced Speyside single malt. 80% matured in first fill bourbon and 20% sherry cask, it combines buttery notes with dried orange peel and a distinctive floral character. When I think of batch 1 I always remember the launch in Taiwan. A reclusive venue, with no signs, no fuss, no pomp – We just let the whisky do the talking. And boy what a whisky tasting and food pairing! Things like Longan Honey Duck with orange, sautéed scallop and asparagus, salmon with kimchi…for someone who loves wine with food, I came away with a new perspective on how certain foods can work with whisky.
What is the best whisky you’ve never owned? i.e. tried it at events or with friends but not owned the bottle
I was at Whisky Luxe in Edinburgh in 2012, where I saved up my tokens to splash out on Macallan Oscuro. Of course I was expecting something heavily sherried, but this had incredible intensity and complexity of flavour. Like drinking liquid Christmas pudding.
What whisky would be on your bucket list and why?
Since experimentation is at the heart of innovation, I am fortunate in my role to taste some great cask samples of whisky that will never see the light of day. One such was a 1968 Girvan single grain matured for 47 years in 100% sherry cask. Incredible taste! Like nothing else I’ve tasted. Completely outside the box as far as flavour goes. You cannot buy it, but I’d like a bottle of that!
Apart from whiskies you represent, what release in the last couple of years has impressed you most?
I picked up a bottle of Box Distillery’s Archipelago before it sold out on the Viking Line whisky cruise in Stockholm earlier this year. For such a young whisky it has a great depth of flavour and balance and was surprisingly smooth. But I love all that Box are doing; genuinely innovative, a craft ethos yet really well made and not afraid of marketing – great Scandinavian design aesthetic (which of course is very appropriate!)
I am also a belated admirer of the Hibiki 12YO – which of course you cannot get any more! But the replacement, Japanese Harmony, isn’t bad either.