The Reluctant Whisky Convert


Whisky has always been a spiky word for me: the face-contorting substance my mum used to cure toothache, the smell that made my stomach churn. But over the past 12 months something’s happened: I took my first sip of Scotch without wincing, then drank a glass without complaining and finally requested a top-up without a gun to my head. This pattern repeated until one day I woke up and realised I was a reluctant whisky convert…

All along it seems that quality was the issue: turns out I wasn’t alone in disliking Bell’s, feeling it peel off a layer of my throat as it slipped down. My breakthrough whisky moment came when my girlfriend was given one of the finest whiskies around and I asked to try it. The tipple? Johnnie Walker Blue Label, which retails for up to £200 a bottle. With Johnnie on my side I found my whisky legs and began to drink it like never before. Clearly this was all it took: the expensive stuff.

From Blue Label I moved on to single malts, but even then I discovered I was a fairly high-maintenance imbiber. I quickly eschewed Islays (too peaty & medicinal) and plumped for Speysides but finding one I loved was no easy task. Glenmorangie? So so. Glenfiddich? Shrug. Cragganmore? No thanks. The upshot was that the entry-level whiskies didn’t thrill me after I’d tasted Johnnie’s finest. It seemed I was ruined.

However, I have since moved on to find whisky gold sloshing elsewhere: namely in sherry-casked numbers. Here, the golden liquid is allowed to brew in sherry barrels till it’s conker-brown, then it’s gushed into bottles and hurried out to eager drinkers like me. It’s the likes of Glendronach and Mortlach that have turned my head and made me do a whisky swoon.

So am I a complete whisky convert? For the high-end market, yes. I still can’t stomach anything under £40 a bottle – I always did have expensive taste. What’s more, I can’t drink more than two shots at a time which makes me a cheap date. Most importantly though, I’m thrilled with my new status as I always saw whisky drinking as the height of sophistication and now I can partake too. All that remains is for me to master the art of smoking cigars at the same time…