Welcome to My GreatDrams, a series on GreatDrams where I feature a different person from the whisky world. They might be blenders, distillers, marketeers, ambassadors, brand owners and others. The premise is simple; they answer five questions so we can get to know them better.
What are your top three GreatDrams?
I don’t have such a list – it’s not something I take too seriously to be honest. It is inevitably a mood thing so it depends entirely on the moment. I genuinely don’t have a favourite whisky nor would I want one!
The first real whisky of significance that comes to mind is the first one I remember enjoying, at 16 years old, which was a Dimple 15.
Lagavulin 16 holds a special place for me as well. The longest serving employee of Glencairn was a talented artist called Jim Drysdale, who was very much an unsung hero in the industry, you can see a snap shot of him at www.jimdrysdale.com. Jim along with Raymond (my Dad) and another friend I worked with called John Gault represented the three old guys who taught me a lot about life in general and an appreciation for Lagavulin: Jims favourite drink. They all had great stories and were brought together by music and a great sense of humour. By working with them and knowing them, they had a great influence on my life. Lagavulin always reminds me of this, and it’s a great half.
A side project a friend and I came up with years ago was born of our preference for blended whisky, particularly aged blends. Our piece on the side still ticks away today – www.whiskyblender.com. I don’t remember our first blend, but I know Drew still has his very first bottle, “Nothings Constant”, which he tops up from time to time. As for me, every now and then I’ll have a glass from one of the few bottles I have or sample some of the new stock and think, “fuck yeah, that’s a great dram”. I love it when a dram hits the spot. Just like that first magic pint on a sunny day.
What moments and/or memories do they evoke?
I remember getting a small glass of whisky every New Year as a kid, from 8 years old anyway. The Dimple 15 that I had to toast the New Year as a 16 year old reminds me of my youth and brings back good memories of discovering the world of whisky for the first time. Incidentally that discovery includes the first bottle of whisky I bought, which was the brilliant Pinwinnie – which I mistook for that New Year Dimple! I just remembered thinking the bottle looked great.
Lagavulin reminds me of the good times we had together and his great sense of humour. Whenever I have a Lagavulin it conjures up memories of the works night out at Christmas, when inevitably there would reach a point in the evening when we would both have a whisky and blether, just the pair of us. As well as being an outstanding artist Jim was a keen guitarist and he introduced me to a lot of the blues artists I listen to today. I dare say he influenced me in a lot of ways I didn’t appreciate until he was gone.
A bottle of “WhiskyBlender” inevitably evokes feelings of friendship and satisfaction because we tried to do something that hadn’t been done in the world of whisky at that time but, crucially, was worth doing in the first place. I feel like not only did we try but we succeeded. To do it with a friend is a great sense of accomplishment. I like championing under dogs and blended whisky is most definitely that when viewed from the world of whisky shows and aficionados.
What is the best whisky you’ve never owned?
I’ve been really fortunate to drink truly stunning whiskies of all different ages and prices. Probably some of the oldest whiskies in the world and possibly some of the rarest whiskies – which I guess makes them the most desirable, I’ll let you imagine what they include and people are welcome to ask.
Obviously, it’s all been a perk of the job as my local has the malt of the month for £2.00 so I’m in no hurry to splash out. It’s a fantastic consequence of being friends with great people within the industry. All of whom I remember far better than their whiskies. I couldn’t name the best I’ve had, as I remember a Bunnahabhain 12 far better than any single glass of rare/fancy stuff.
What whisky would be on your bucket list and why?
Hmm, I can’t think of a bucket list for whisky – I suppose any whisky bought for me by Scarlett Johansson?
What release in the last couple of years has impressed you most?
Haig Club – because it reminded me how much I enjoyed the regular Cameron Brig Yellow Label which I originally had at John Lamonds Whisky Trail course back in 2002. It’s a genuinely tasty whisky for what it is and what it costs – I think I paid £1.65 for the last glass I had at the Bon Accord.