As a whisky fan, desperately trying to achieve his lifelong goal of free whisky for eternity, I have spoken to many ambassadors, aficionados and connoisseurs of the ‘water of life’ during many tastings, shop visits and twitter tete a tetes. However one comment sticks in my mind from a tasting in Ronnie Scott’s bar a few years back. “Drink it with water, drink it with ice, drink it upside down in a batman outfit for all I care, just drink it!”
If you are looking to dive into the world of whisky I would recommend paying a visit to the iconic Milroy’s of Soho. Founded over 50 years ago and remaining in the same site ever since, Milroy’s have mastered the ability of making the daunting world of whisky accessible and enjoyable to the amateur and knowledgeable alike.
They have hundreds of whisky on offer to try and buy, and a secret cocktail bar downstairs. On a recent visit to this Soho institution, I asked the barman about whisky snobs and with a mischievous grin he told me how he loves it when they come in and makes it a personal challenge to change their attitude before they have left.
It is so easy when you first enter the wonderful world of whisky to be bullied into submission by the snobs who never touch the sacred spirit with anything other than their lips.
I certainly was and for years was convinced there was no other way to drink whisky, until I attended an event hosted by The Balvenie and listened to Malt Master and whisky royalty David Stewart. He very kindly guided us mere whisky mortals through a wonderful array of his finest work, each dram more wonderful than the last.
Then we landed on the Tun 1401 (Batch 8 if my fuzzy head remembers that well) with a name taken from David’s favourite marrying vat; this whisky was an absolute gem, it makes you want to hang upside down in a batman suit for days just for another glass!
Most importantly up until this point I had been turning my nose up at my fellow amateur drammers dropping water into everything, opting instead for getting my moneys worth (it was free if I recall) and necking every delicious drink that came near me. David insisted however, that the Tun 1401 Batch 8 have a drop of water after first tasting… and my word, it was like the door was ajar and someone had kicked it wide open.
Just a little drop of water can transform the look, smell and taste of the whisky, luring out a more complex flavour from the whisky. However, there is no clear guide to exactly how much should be added.
Jill Boyd, Whiskymaker at Compass Box Whisky advises, “Whisky is such a personal experience that we don’t believe in one prescribed way of drinking it. When I’m trying a dram for the first time, I like to try it neat and then decide if I’d like to add a little water or ice to see how this changes the profile. That’s my personal preference.”
I still drink my whisky straight, out of personal preference, but I never judge another man for choosing to do otherwise.