There is a moment when you realise you’ve fallen in love with whisky. As a spirit its qualities are far- ranging: exotic scents, enticing mouthfeel, enervating effects. It may take months, maybe it takes years, but when her charms are discovered there is no going back. And that is when you fall in love with whisky.
My own story begins on a cold February eve in 2008. It’s a crisp, air- puffing, ears numbing, kind of night as I exit Milroy’s of Soho. I’m warm, safely tucked up in whisky’s soft blanket. I’m wearing tall heels that at one point catch a dip in the pavement. In that moment, I pause, look up to the sky and can just make out the faint hint of stars, a rare sight in central London. What I note most at that moment is the thought that I might be falling in love with whisky. Like an over-eager lover embraced in the first throws of ecstasy. The signs are all there – I can’t wait to see whisky again, I can’t wait to learn more, I can’t wait to have just one more taste.
I believe it was so transcendental that I went from working as a financial journalist, adamant that whisky was not for me, to a thrilling journey where now, eight years later I am working as a Whisky Specialist for William Grant & Sons.
In the years that followed that moment, I went on to create my website, Miss Whisky – bringing a new voice to the world of whisky that can often be ever so slightly (ahem) masculine. What I noticed most, as I wrote tale upon tale of my experiences, was the fact that in a world in which Scotch, Irish and American whisky (those stalwarts for the past century) was shifting. It was opening up – new distilleries were emerging and the demographics of drinkers were changing.
Whisky has been a great partner. Our relationship has seen me sit on casks in warehouses, sipping strong drams in the fresh air of Kentucky, Ireland, Spain, France, Sweden and Scotland. It has educated me as I’ve grown and been beside me, as I’ve stood in front of a room of 90 people, nervously speaking about its beauty. It has taken me around the world and given me freedom to find something I love to do as my job.
When the opportunity came about to go full-time in the whisky industry, to shrug off the journalist cape that I’d worn for 14 years, it was a thrilling prospect. Suddenly, all those footsteps that first took me to Milroy’s, added up. The company felt a natural t – William Grant & Sons is not only a family company with huge respect in the whisky industry, but it was where some of my earliest key whisky memories were formed. The first time I really “got” production, was while wandering around the Balvenie distillery – one of my most cherished moments is sitting on a cask in the Glenfiddich warehouse drinking a dram from a “hoggie” filled in my birth year. One of my most terrifying moments was climbing up to the top of our Girvan grain distillery!
It was the variety that also got me tingling. From the new Ailsa Bay, the first peated whisky in the company’s history – to the fascinating Girvan single grain, and reclusive, seductive single malt Kininvie. The Ancient Reserves portfolio I now look after has something for everyone. It is that variety that makes whisky so incredibly special, whatever company it’s from – every one of us has a different palate, but whisky’s diversity means we can all find something to love.