Whisky, I love the stuff, never used to, but I do now — in moderation of course.
But Whisky is a topic that brings about much debate. Blended or Malt for starters, and if a malt, where in Scotland is it made. Yes Scotland, I know the Irish make a tipple or two and so does everyone else these days, but the good stuff — like, say Champagne — is just that little bit better for its heritage.
Now I’m not a great expert on whisky, I know what I like and what I don’t. I have spent a fair few years serving a variety of good whiskys in bars across the Northern Hemisphere, I have a little bit of Scottish heritage and I’m sitting next to seven bottles of the stuff, so I’d hope my opinion makes sense.
Before my better half started working with Johnnie Walker and introduced me to JW Double Black, you wouldn’t catch me anywhere near a bottle of blended whisky. It was Talisker all the way for me, with my love of smokey, peaty Islay whiskys blinding me from everything else.
Now Talisker, which happens to be in JW, remains my favourite tipple and a good Arlberg always goes down well too, but as I write this it’s the Double Black which is often where I’ll turn for a cheeky snifter when relaxing.
Many whisky drinkers in the UK, especially any Scots, plastic-Scots or anyone living in Scotland will tell you that it’s all about a single malt. In many ways they are right, as a good single malt is just fantastic and the varieties — much like wine — offer completely different tastes. As mentioned a Islay and is peaty and smokey, an Speyside is much softer, almost vanilla-like at times and a highland whisky is smokey and smooth.
When it comes to blended whisky there is a conception that it’s not as good. If you are comparing JW Red Label, J&B or even Bells — though even mentioning Bells makes me feel dirty — to 12 year old single malt, then you’d be right. But if you compared JW’s latest whisky, which I am looking forward to getting hold of, JW Platinum to a bottle of 12 yr old Glenfiddich you’d quickly realise how wrong you were.
Drinking blended whisky is the same as malt, you need to spend £30+ on a decent bottle of the stuff and to find one you like. When Double Black was blended by Jim Beveridge it was almost as if he was making something just for me, it is so Islay like it’s untrue and includes my favourite malt in the blend. I expect Platinum to be a smoother whisky and JW Black Label is the mixer whisky we have in the house, great for making a sours or whisky and ginger.
If I’m celebrating, then an 18 year old single malt is what you will most likely find me drinking, relaxing at the weekend will usually be my Three Wood or 12 yr old Auchentoshen, and for those occasions where I just fancy a whisky, or need a night cap my Double Black hits the nail on the head.
Just remember, whisky is in many ways like wine, spend as much as you can afford and find the distillery and region you like and you’ll be laughing. AND don’t be scared to try a blend, as long as it’s not attached to an optic you’re probably heading in the right direction.