Talking Whisky

My younger self considered the taste of whisky to be similar to an accidental ingestion of petrol. It gave a burning, chemical sensation, filling the nose with vapour, and the sense that the liquid just shouldn’t be there.



In July 2014, my wife ordered a bottle of Jura Origin for her father’s birthday. The Tesco delivery driver dropped off two half bottles instead. The bottles also had the security tags still left on them. Not what you would call a ‘result’.

I’d phoned Tesco and they said “return the bottle to the shop”. No, said I. We don’t get home delivery so we can return stuff to the shop. That’s not how this is going to work. They refunded the money and my wife got a replacement bottle. I pried off the security tags, eventually, and we had an extra two bottles on whisky.

We gave one of the half-bottles of Isle of Jura to my father in law along with the other full bottle. That left a half bottle, which I said I would try.

I poured a glass. It was far too strong. I popped in an ice cube and left it to sit a moment. Much better. I sipped it and it was completely different. There were flavours and tastes and subtleties and a depth to it that the diesel fumes of a neat whisky hid from me.

Big Grin

After experimenting, I discovered that my preferred way of drinking the whisky was with a splash of water. It was incredibly enjoyable.

I noticed that the effect of the whisky on my manner was different to beer, wine or other spirits. Whisky made me sit there with a big grin on my face. It had a relaxing, calming, amusing way about itself.

At the age of 41, I liked whisky.

My Christmas presents that year consisted, in no small part, of lots of bottles of malt whisky. Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie and Glenlivet. All of them were completely individual and yet similarly delicious.

Experience taught me that I preferred non-peaty whiskies. Any whisky took a glass or two to adjust to. Once properly acquainted, lifelong friendships were made.

I believe that many people get put off whisky because of that initial overwhelming burn of a straight measure. It’s a shame. I believe that many non-whisky drinkers are potentially able to enjoy whisky if they persisted to find the method of serving that would suit them. Water or ice may help. Maybe soda. My discovery has clearly encouraged me to present myself as a whisky ambassador.

And so as I go on with my whisky travels, discovering new distilleries and their work, making notes, and developing preferences, I invite you to join me. I won’t write as a whisky expert because I am not an expert. I will, however, write a novice’s guide to whisky and describe them my own way, perhaps providing a little info on the way that may help you discover a new whisky that suits your palette.

Are you a whisky fan? Are you prepared to give it a try?


  1. Chris
    9 February 2016

    Yes, I agree. It is a drink that grows on you so you have to give it a chance.
    My Irish friend got me into it when I visited Dublin years ago. He got me a ‘hot whiskey’ which is Irish whiskey, sugar, cloves, slice of lemon and hot water. It was delicious. The sugar got rid of that initial burn you describe. I was hooked. Trouble is, when you ask for this in the UK, they look at you blank. Yet, they probably have all the ingredients right there. Sooo, I have to describe to them how to mix it ! They still look confused. I think its the kettle part that gets them.
    On my Scottish holidays I try something off the top shelf – a single malt – or even better, Drambuie. I consider it engaging with the local culture.
    Last year in Austria, it was called Grog – which made me laugh. So it may come in different disguises.
    We also have visited Irish and Scottish distilleries and really enjoyed them, especially the shop part at the end.
    Funny thing is, I rarely drink it at home. It’s a holiday thing for me.
    BTW Grant, how have you got away with this – are you not in Scotland?

    • 9 February 2016

      I am in Scotland, which makes my late discovery of whisky even more ridiculous. For a while, I lived between the Auchentoshan distillery and the Edrington factory (The Macallan). My father-in-law loves whisky and has a beautiful collection. It was all right there!

      Still, I’m there now. Santa brought me a bottle of Drambuie at Christmas. It’s a wonderful way to finish off a special meal. Whisky liquers are lovely. Have you tried a whisky cream liquer? Arran Gold was a revelation!

  2. 9 February 2016

    I really struggle with drinking Whiskey…it burns! The only time I like it is when I have a cold. I mix it with hot water, lemon & honey. Whiskey fans would probably be horrified…but it helps me sleep when I’m ill!

  3. 9 February 2016

    I can’t drink but some of my closest friends adore whisky and swear by it to get them to sleep!

  4. 9 February 2016

    Oh I am so sorry – I have tried whisky but to me it just burns! The only spirit I like is gin! So sorry! 😉 Kaz

  5. 9 February 2016

    I don’t think I’ve ever tried whisky. Might give it a go when I’ve finished breastfeeding x

  6. 9 February 2016

    I’ve never been a whisky fan, but being just a few years short of your age, perhaps I should give it a go!

  7. 9 February 2016

    I always loved a glass of Grouse and lemonade at the end of a shift when I worked in bars and bourbon (Jack Daniels) and coke was a night out tipple. I haven’t drank the stuff in 20 years now!

  8. 10 February 2016

    I’m not really a drinker (well, the occasional champagne, prosecco and spritzer, plus Pimms at weddings and BBQs), but I’m not generally a spirit drinker. The nearest I’ve got to whisky was a jack daniels and coke when I was younger. It was ok but whisky’s not something I see myself trying. This goes totally against my genes because a good whisky was my mum’s favourite drink.

  9. 10 February 2016

    Yay for whisky! I was very much like you – not really a fan but Little Pickle’s Dad loves a good whisky (and my own Dad loves whisky even more so they can often be found having a wee dram on a Sunday evening together). We went to Scotland for our honeymoon and as a treat, I organised for us to have a visit to the local distillery – Dewar’s Aberfeldy, which included lots of whisky sampling! And you know what?! I REALLY ENJOYED IT! I think having learned about the process beforehand made me appreciate the drink a lot more and you’re bang on the money with a dash of water – that’s how they say whisky is meant to be drunk don’t they? Whilst I think I still prefer a glass of wine over a whisky, occasionally, I’ll have a bit of whisky and all the glorious memories of our honeymoon will come flooding back. Looking forward to hearing more of your whisky adventures!

  10. 10 February 2016

    Have to admit I am not a fan but its my step-dads birthday next week and he loves the stuff

  11. 10 February 2016

    I think I’ve only tried whisky once and I wasn’t a fan … I didn’t have any ice though, maybe that’s the key!

  12. 10 February 2016

    oh my word this takes me back to being 15 and the night before my English exam I decided I was going to outdrink friends and half a bottle of southern comfort later you can guess … yes I still got up went to school and sat my exam and yes I got a B it should have been an A but I couldn’t even read what I was meant to do ha

  13. 11 February 2016

    If I am unwell (like now) then I do like a small amount with some hot lemonade, wrong I know, but it is good x

  14. 11 February 2016

    I agree that whisky is a drink that grows on you over time. I hated it in my younger years but I love it now with a mixer or even neat 🙂

  15. 12 February 2016

    I love me a good bottle of some strong spirit but whisky seems to knock me dead I am yet to learn to enjoy it.

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