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Whisky is changing…
Whisky is a man’s drink. It must be consumed neat. Single malts are always better than blends. These are established facts that were apparently laid down in the sacred rules of Scotch. They were carved into a circle of standing stones in some shady glen, the location of which was lost long ago to the murky mists of time.
There can’t be a drink in the world with more mythological bollocks attached to it than Scotch whisky. It’s almost unbelievable that it has found the success it has, given the amount of restrictions placed on its consumption, usually by those who profess to love it the most. The industry has been working hard in recent years to dispel much of this nonsense but for many, whisky remains the drink of mature men, dressed head-to-toe in tweed, sporting worn leather elbow patches and eccentric facial hair.
It’s crucial that this out-dated waffle be killed off, now more than ever. Whisky has been enjoying a boom, the kind unseen for generations, but now finds itself faced with great uncertainty. International trade wars and Brexit chaos were already causing concern but the fallout from the Coronavirus pandemic may have some looking to the years ahead with abject terror. New markets and customers must be found because there simply aren’t enough old men in tweed to keep all the new distilleries in good health.
There is a problem, however. The percentage of the world’s drinking population who enjoy sipping a 40% beverage is actually relatively small. Most prefer to consume alcohol as a long, cold, refreshing drink and the whisky industry needs to get those people to buy their product as well.
In truth, the idea that whisky should always be sipped neat is a mantra adopted by a relatively small group of self-appointed experts and it goes against much of the drink’s history. Indeed, the ancient uisge beatha produced by illicit distillers in the rugged hills of the Highlands would likely have been supplemented with herbs and spices in order to make it more palatable.
Outwith this group of dedicated connoisseurs, a majority of whisky drinkers across Scotland mix their dram with water or soda. I need only look to my own Grandfather, the first whisky drinker I ever knew. Whisky and lemonade was his drink, usually accompanied by a half pint of beer. One time he poured himself a double dram of Glenfiddich from a miniature I had given him and topped it up with lemonade, as usual. I stood to leave him to his dram and as I reached the door I looked back, just in time to see him down it in one. That was the last time I ever saw him, he passed away a few days later, aged 91.
As much as the whisky snobs would hate to admit it, much of the drink’s success has been achieved through making itself accessible to a wider audience. In China they drink it with Green Tea. In Japan the whisky & soda highball is king. In warm countries like Venezuela and Brazil it’s mixed with coconut water. As for the USA, where would Jack Daniel’s be, without Cola?
No-one is asking you to abandon your dram but at least keep an open mind about the unlimited possibilities and don’t judge others for choosing a different path. Personally I love my whisky neat. Even cask strength drams of 60% and above can be wonderful without so much as a drop of water but there will always be those times that I want a long drink. Most would turn to Rum, Gin or Vodka but why shouldn’t we choose whisky for those occasions? It’s great with soda, lemonade or ginger ale and you haven’t lived until you’ve tried a Smoky Cokey!
Inspired by this diversity of drinking habits across planet Earth, That Boutique-y Whisky Company have created the World Whisky Blend, a dram comprising of spirit from Scotland, Canada, Ireland, Sweden, the USA, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Taiwan, India, Italy, Germany, Japan, France and Finland. Intended to work just as well neat as it does mixed, it is bottled at 41.6% and retails at £32.95.
*Full disclosure: I was sent a bottle of the World Whisky Blend so that I might share my thoughts with you the reader. As always I will strive to give an honest and impartial opinion on the inherent quality of the spirit and the value for money it represents.
Smell: Interesting nose. Fresh and fruity at first before some bourbon notes come through. Rum and raisin. Caramel. Honey. Malt and Danish pastries. Straw. Some gentle woody spice.
Taste: It’s certainly a big old mouthful of flavour. There’s caramel and toffee mingling with apple and pear, raisin and biscuit. Vanilla. Honey. Salt and pepper. Touch of dark chocolate and oak too.
Thoughts: It’s worth noting that That Boutique-y Whisky Company usually bottle at 50cl but here, they’ve gone for a full size 70cl bottle. It’s a rather unique and tasty dram at a really affordable price.
There’s a decent amount of flavour going on, which gives the impression it could stand up to the mixers suggested on the back label. Crucially however, it works just as well when sipped neat. That’s how I have thus far chosen to drink it but I can definitely see some experimentation in the not too distant future. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, particularly that gentle warmth. More proof that interesting bargains still exist in the world of whisky.
*You can buy the whisky in this article from Master of Malt. Click here
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For more about That Boutique-y Whisky Company, visit here.