It is hard to say the exact date when I first had a drink of, or began enjoying whisky. I would hazard a guess at the end of 2004. I remember the period in my life as it was during my time with Waitrose. As part of the security measures in the branch, a member of staff, or partner as they are called, would have to patrol the alcohol section, face up when products were removed from the shelves and note down when spirits were purchased. This effort is no longer conducted, but it was during my employment there. It meant many a day or evening walking around the section, noting all the different kinds of alcohol available to stem the boredom. Whisky has always been appreciated as a 'mans' drink and during my time walking around the aisles, it was the selection of whiskies that predominately caught my eye. After all, everyone knows that a whisky has its own defining taste, texture, aroma and colour, which cannot be said in the same way about other spirits.
As I say, I cannot exactly remember the first time I tried whisky. However, I do remember my first bottle. It was a Balvenie Double Wood. It was on offer, as the time frame we are talking about was over Christmas. This was good, as along with the discount, I would have also got my employee discount, making the price even better. I do not remember this particular whisky that much, I couldn't describe the nose, texture, notes or finish, however I do seem to remember enjoying it. This cannot be said of some of the later whiskies I have had since then, up to now.
Following the Balvenie, was a Macallan 10 year old, which I remember longing to end so I could move onto a different distilleries whisky. I remember not enjoying the Macallan, though I am willing to re-review this.
As it was in the preceding period to Christmas, it was of course that time of year when you will see the little miniatures available in the seasonal aisles. I purchased a couple of these, the Glenfiddich one and a Glenmorangie one. I still have the little bottles which adjourn a shelf in my room. Glenfiddich is perhaps my earliest memory of whisky, as we visited the distillery as a family in a holiday to Scotland. The enduring memory is of my brother sticking his head into a vat of whisky and almost knocking himself out from the fumes in the process.
Following the ending of the Macallan, I seem to remember a blended whisky, but as I am only going to focus on single malt whiskies, this is a mute point.
Next, an epiphany in whisky drinking. The whisky goes by the name of Highland Park. Without a doubt, the single most pleasurable whisky I have enjoyed. I was at a food show, when I stumbled across a stall for Highland Park. There they had on trial the 12 year old and the 18 year old. I tried both and preferred the 18 year old. The price was a show special and around £50 for the bottle. I frantically gathered the cash from my wallet, along with that of my girlfriends and friends in order to purchase this bottle. A wise choice as it turned out. This 18 year old will always have strong memories for me. It was following the death of my grandmother that this bottle was opened. It was there for me during some tough times and it is by far the most drinkable and enjoyable whisky that I have ever had.
Additionally I have also enjoyed a Talisker 10 year old, a Highland Park 12 year old and I was also given a Highland Park 25 year old miniature. Although I am not mentioning blends, I have a small amount left of a Johnnie Walker Blue, quite something in terms of a whisky, but I do not believe it compares to a fine single malt.
So why now, do I have the focus on writing about my experiences with single malts. I enjoy some nice things in life, primarily fine food and travel, which are my two guilty pleasures. In addition has been the odd bottle of whisky here and there. I am the average Joe, Mr Middle of the Road and so, I want to approach my thoughts and taste of a whisky just like that. In the past, short of the Highland Park 18 year old, I have otherwise purchased whisky from the supermarket due to a special offer or an attractive box. I want to appeal to the average person, so I will present the whisky how I see it, as the average taster. Help them make an informed choice, be it buying on the high street or by mail order.
The taste of whisky is extremely subjective. Some people like the taste of peat, others oak and others fruit, so I will bear this in mind.
In enjoying fine food, and I have eaten in some of the best restaurants in the United Kingdom. The most recently being The Fat Duck. One of the many courses on the tasting menu is Whisk(e)y Gums. A take on wine gums using whisky. It takes you on a tour of 4 Scotches and then over to Tennessee to Jack Daniels. The experience of the four Scotches stuck me and prompted me to make the decision to write of my experiences with single malt whisky. Frankly, the Jack Daniels inclusion into the course is a touch disappointing, I have never liked the stuff and how can you compare it to Glenlivet, Laphoraig, Highland Park or Oban?
So this leads me on to my current collection. I have a Glenfiddich 12 year old, Talisker 10 year old and Glen Moray (without a stated age) currently open. I also have waiting for me to enjoy, their chance to shine in this world, a menagerie of Highland Parks, 12, 15 and 18 year olds. Then come to wildcards. My Uncle, knowing my appreciation of whisky, had two unloved, uncared for and unopened bottles sitting on his sideboard. These are an Auchentoshan 10 year old and a Lochnagar 12 year old, which are many years old. I almost inadvertently donated the Auchentoshan to a charity event once, but, having inquisitively checked the value of one online, found the bottle to be worth £80. So I kept it! I kindly donated a bottle of Jim Bean, which quite frankly I find disgusting.
So, onwards and upwards and I will get cracking for you – enjoy!