Good tipple, bad tipple
The responsible and, dare I say, classy way to drink whisky, I realized earlier this year, is to drink it with a sensitive mouth.
Everything else is secondary, master blender David Stewart told me, when I went to visit the Balvenie distillery in Dufftown, Scotland. Stewart is this warm, somewhat shy, man who has spent decades crafting splendid whiskies such as the 12-year-old Balvenie DoubleWood.
I’d left on my trip to Dufftown fully expecting to enjoy everything—the superb scenery, the people and the food—but the whisky. This was due to a terrible bout of drinking whisky the wrong way one April night way back in 1998. The parts of that night I still remember I will never forget. Let us not go into the details. Suffice to say that too many bottles of Tiruchirappalli’s finest whisky were drunk by too few engineering students.
And then, years later, David Stewart coaxed me into a wonderful tasting session at the Balvenie visitor centre. “Can you taste vanilla and raisins?” he asked, holding up a tasting dose of whisky. Lo and behold, I could! Overnight whisky went from being my personal drink of the devil to the water of life. Since then—no cliche intended—I’ve been on a journey of discovery. And I’ve come to realize that there are few greater pleasures in life than sitting on a Saturday night, after dinner, slowly getting to know a smoky, almost chewy, dram of the 16-year-old Lagavulin.
Stewart told me that there is no such thing as good or bad whisky. There is whisky you like and whisky you don’t. There was also no absolutely right way to drink it.
Neat, with a splash of water, over ice, drowned in soda...anything was alright, he said, as long as I enjoyed the spirit.
Another journalist on the Balvenie trip I got to know well was Joel Harrison, who later became whisky columnist for Indulge. Harrison, who runs a whisky blog at www.caskstrenth.net, talks about whisky the way some people talk about Ford Mustangs or vintage Ferraris. A few months ago, Harrison and I wondered if we could commit an entire Indulge issue’s worth of space to whisky. Were there enough interesting new stories to tell and spirits to profile? Could we engage both novice and expert? Could we lift the readers’ spirits?
What do you think?
Note: Many of the photographs you saw in the last issue of Indulge came from the splendid archives of Roli Books. Priya Kapoor and her team spent hours finding pictures we could use. Indulge wishes to thank them profusely. Have a drink on us, Priya.