Friday, December 7, 2007

Belgian Whisky

Two weeks ago the moment had arrived, I would taste the first Belgian whisky. Goldlys, as it's called is a product from Filliers distilleries, who traditionally make gin. It comes in a 3 year old and a 10 old variety. I tasted the 10 year old.
I had heard some bad comments on it before I tried it myself, but I set my mind on trying to like it no matter what they said and, when I did finally taste it... it was a bit of a letdown.
Mind you, I was expecting it to not taste like any whisky I had ever tasted, since it was technically a grain whisky, which went through a column still as well as a pot still. Well it was nothing like any whisky I'd had before, but it was a lot like, well gin. Only less aromatic. Grains were predominant, and I distinctly felt they could have done more with the product.
Later that night I got some inside information. Apparently the thing wasn't half bad before they chill filtered and coloured it, but Filliers couldn't resist going all out commercial and, even for the 10 year old aimed for the mass market. Although with what they have, I doubt it'll strike gold. Goldlys is somewhere between gin and whisky, and I don't think whisky lovers, nor gin lovers will develop a taste for it.
So our hopes remain with "The Belgian Owl", which should be the first Belgian single malt ever, and which will reach 3 years of age soon. I'm told that project is trying to be a Scottish style malt, I'm hearing good things about it. I hope it can deliver, because Goldlys doesn't cut it for me.
The sad part is that Filliers is the importer of Glenfarclas in Belgium, and have a long tradition of distilling, so they sure had the knowledge at hand. My guess is, they didn't have the patience to really sit down and make something good. I think all they had on their mind was beating "The Belgian Owl" to it for first Belgian whisky. Sadly they succeeded only technically.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Whisky and Cocktails

Whisky is perfectly usable in cocktails. I'm not a cocktail expert. But about a week ago I saw a recipe for a whisky-based cocktail on the BBC that really struck me as worth trying.
  • Infuse malt whisky with an Earl Grey teabag
  • add a bit of honey
  • add crushed ice
  • shake in a cocktail shaker
  • pour.
The guests on the show really seemed to appreciate it. As far as I could recognize the bottle, they used a Macallan fine oak.
Tonight I decided to try this cocktail, well at least to my best ability to recreate it, since I have no actual cocktail shaker. Earl Grey Tea I had plenty, and malt whisky as well. Lacking a Macallan Fine Oak in my bar I opted for the nearly finished anCnoc 12 year old I had. Acacia honey was easily found in the kitchen.
I chose not to add the ice, as to be able to fully enjoy the resulting aroma. Shaking was also not an option so I stirred. 007 would have my hind for this insult, but wasn't anywhere in sight and I had to make do anyway.
I dropped the bag in the whisky, and waited a few minutes. The Earl Grey was doing its work, the colour darkened to a deep amber, from afar the aroma of the tea was apparent. After adding honey and stirring it, I nosed. The nose was mostly the floral and fruity Earl Grey, it greatly masked the nose I was used to from an anCnoc. I sipped. Still slightly floral, more fruit though and sweeter than the nose anticipated, but that's obviously on account of the honey. After a bit the whisky emerged, while the tea revealed oranges. The finish was long and still fruity.
I can see myself drinking this diluted with the crushed ice as an appetizer, perhaps even without the honey, which I think was added as a crowd pleaser. Infusing whisky with tea seems a nice idea. I think I'd probably use less aromatic tea, or perhaps try it with a peated malt, because, pleasing as this experiment was, I had the feeling the tea dominated the whisky a bit too much. Of course cocktail aren't made for nosing and this is very drinkable, but I don't see the point of using a malt if the balance between the aromas of are this askew. So a more robust malt like Talisker may yield a better equilibrium, and if you really just care for the tea and alcohol thingy as an easy cocktail, why not just use a good blended whisky.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Single blend

The Irish tasting was last night. Since it were mostly Connemara variations, it wasn't truly representative of what Irish whiskey is, but it was really enjoyable nevertheless. Seems I haven't been keeping up to date with events in Irish whisky because I learnt that Bushmills is no longer part of Irish Distillers, and is now owned by Diageo.
The tasting was promoting the Cooley distillery products and, as mentioned, Connemara in particular. I guess they market this whisky as their primary brand because it is peated, and bridges the gap between Irish and Scotch whisk(e)y. People who didn't like it claimed it wasn't strong or harsh enough for them. But most attendees agreed it were a few enjoyable drams these relatively new Irish distillers had brought with them.
Aoife O'Sullivan, brand marketer for Cooley, had a hard time fending off some comments from the die-hard Scotch lovers, but managed to keep everybody open minded.
As she expleined some more about how Cooley had originated and how it operated it dawned on me: their Kilbeggan blend was made entirely of their own produce. Part their own malt, and part their own grain whiskey : Kilbeggan was nothing less than a Single Blended whiskey. When I asked her about this, she could not but agree. Perhaps they could stir up the market by marketing it as such... who knows.
The tasting had two gems which I will probably never have the opportunity again to taste. The first being a bottle of their first distillate of Connemara. This 16 year old showed great maturity and had no reason to blush when compared to some fine Scottish peated whiskies.
The second gem was a bottle from a cask they had bottled as 'The Drunken Angel'. The reason for this is because the "angel's share" from this particular barrel had been exceptionally large. Instead of two hundred something bottles only 65 were left in the cask when they opened it. The quality of which was equally exceptional. It was something of a vanilla monster. It opened with full vanilla aroma's then had a short bitter relapse only to come back with superb vanilla cream roundness and lingered on for quite a while. If the angels had had their fair share, they must obviously like vanilla.
Don't look for 'The drunken angel' in shops, you won't find it. It is limited to six tasting sessions and that's it, one of them was the one I attended yesterday.
First tasting of the new season : full score. I had a great time. I almost can't wait until the next.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


The first tastings were announced last week. The first one being an all Irish one. Oh frabjous day!! I love Irish whiskey. No, really! Where most of the people I know care little or not at all about the golden drink of the green island, I love their soft subtlety, their velvety mouth-feel, the memories they bring back. It's a shame so many whisky enthusiasts miss it.
The tasting will be with Aoife O’Sullivan from Cooley distillery, and focuses on the range of Connemara, their staple malt, which is - unlike most Irish - peated.
Perhaps one of the reasons Irish whiskey is overlooked so much is because there aren't as many as Scottish whiskies. The list of Irish malts is short at best, and there aren't even that many blends. But they are all well worth looking into. In fact the Irish malts I know are :
  • Connemara
  • Clontarf
  • Knappogue Castle
  • Locke's Malt
  • Magilligan
  • Magilligan Peated
  • Bushmills
  • The Tyrconnell
But in all fairness you can add to this list the two (as far as I know only) pure pot still whiskies
  • Redbreast
  • Green Spot
And if you like the Irish malts you can also try some of the blends, Jameson being the most well known one, but also keep an eye out for Power's and last but definitely not least Middleton Very Rare, a blend that can easily be mistaken for a malt.
So what's your opinion on the Irish version of my favourite drink?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Awakening from hibernation

My whisky season starts budding. Perhaps a bit premature, but with the Belgian weather being what it is, it seems time for some warming drinks. And indeed I have been wetting my whistle this weekend and did a quick reintroduction of Scottish malts, with some Bladnoch, a Glenmorangie, a Pulteney and a rather peated Ardmore. Not all in one sitting, I assure you.
It seems I have to recalibrate my nose a bit after all the different beers and wines this summer.
So I hope I can find enough time to brief you about my exploits in whisky land.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Summertime whisky

Hot temperatures and whisky are not a good mix for me. If it's hot the whisky stays in its cabinet. Summer is more of a beer period for me. I know several people who claim to enjoy whisky on ice in summer, and they even say they find it refreshing, but it doesn't work for me.
In fact it goes further than just whisky, anything stronger than wine is out during summer. The high levels of alcohol give me a warm sensation, and I just want to cool off.
So beer it is, or water, or chilled white wine, ...
Why this post? Well, as much as I like whisky, as much as it is my passion, there's a time and place for everything, and to me, the people drinking whisky in summer, just long for winter. I on the other hand enjoy the summer, which has its own charms.
Summer's just the time to enjoy all the other great drinks.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Finish anxiety

In this year's whisky bible Jim Murray expresses serious concerns about finishes. He acknowledges the marketing potential and the fact that great new products may come from it. But he laments the fact that a lot of bad finishes are being brought to the market. At the same time he fears finishes may distract from the true distillery product.

There is indeed much ado about finishes lately. But I think the anxious standpoint of Jim Murray may just be a bit too negative. It is true that bad finishes are being brought to the market. But distilleries who do this will soon face the commercial consequences, because the malt market is one of malt lovers who know what is good and what isn't. The larger problem is those independent bottlers, who seem to have no qualms whatsoever to bottle anything they can get their hands on, slapping on a finish just to make it seem a bit more special. Of course I am aware that certain independent bottlers are quite careful about what they bring to the market, since they know their reputation is very important. Nevertheless there seem to be bottlers who don't seem to care as much. They are the larger part of the problem, because they also hurt the distilleries, who never have consented to how their product was marketed.
The consequences are already becoming obvious : distilleries grow more and more protective of their brand name, and I expect more and more distilleries to protect their brand names more rigorously. This may hurt the malt market more than the finishes themselves. For any connoisseur the output of independant bottlers forms a major part of their interest, mainly because it greatly expands the available flavours of whisky.

Finishes themselves aren't a bad thing. It's the bad publicity an independent bottler may bring upon a distillery which may lead to a much more narrow market. Purer, yes, but also poorer.

I'm sure the last on finishes hasn't been said.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Macallan vs. Glenfarclas

Maturing exclusively on first-fill sherry casks, something both Macallan and Glenfarclas do. Or rather did. Macallan has abandoned this practice in starting its fine oak series. Glenfarclas, for now, remains adamant in the face of more expenses for the Spanish wood. In an article I read recently, Mr. John Grant of Glenfarclas claimed he would continue his maturation policy.
What should we make of this?
Macallan's move was, at best, clumsy, from a communications point of view. If you advocate first-fill sherry cask maturation to be the one and only true way of maturing whisky, for years, it is rather silly to suddenly switch to bourbon casks. But the Fine Oak is a testament to the know how of Macallan. Yet it also revealed how Macallan has been rather hypocritical, since all of a sudden they seem to be able to market 30 year old Macallan matured in bourbon casks. On the other hand it appears this hypocrisy has allowed them to make the switch. A luxury which perhaps Glenfarclas does not have. Mr. Grant's determination to continue exclusive sherry cask maturation may be in part inspired by the inability to make the switch.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few years. Will Macallan repent, and return to sherry casks because it is losing its fans, despite the quality of its new line. Or will Glenfarclas succumb under the economic pressure of the cheaper Bourbon casks. Or will both flourish? The last is not entirely unlikely, since whisky still is booming, its market still has a lot of potential growth.
Perhaps in a few years the peat hype will be replaced by the sherry hype, and then Glenfarclas will reap the rewards, although Macallan is probably investing in enough sherry casks to keep all options open, after all, that just seems to be the smart thing to do.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Whisky Missionary

As a whisky enthusiast I encounter lots of people who are puzzled at my interest in the golden drink. Attending tasting sessions for whiskies is often a novelty for them. Tasting sessions are most often associated with wine. Wine has several advantages over whisky, for one it is less alcoholic. Let's face it, the alcohol levels of whisky are a major threshold for many. This factor also makes whisky unfit for drinking in larger quantities. Not that I would advise anyone to ingest large quantities of wine, nevertheless you could drink more wine in one sitting than you could whisky, without getting drunk. I agree that for some people getting drunk is the point, but this is not the kind of 'whisky enthusiasm' I am referring to.
Wine also has a great culinary tradition, something whisky lacks. In recent years several authors have tried to introduce whisky into the kitchen, but success seems fairly remote. Whisky is not often used in the kitchen, and almost never considered as an accompanying drink with a meal. I think whisky will always remain at a disadvantage here.
So spreading the love for whisky is difficult. Most people have only tried a few blended whiskies, or perhaps a Glenfiddich, and decided they didn't like it much, or not enough to explore more. So having a few accessible malts in your bar is a good idea if you plan on winning a few souls.
Most of the time I'm happy just to get people to acknowledge there is more to whisky then what they knew, sometimes I manage to get them interested. And then I'm glad there's one more person to share this interest with. After all, what fun is it to enjoy whisky all alone.

P.S. : I am lucky enough that my wife also loves the stuff, so I rarely enjoy it alone, it just never hurts to share with more.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Quantity spoils quality?

Tonight I was poured an Ardmore. My boss, who did the actual pouring made it a rather large one. At least to my standards. I'd had a dram from this bottle on a previous occasion and must say that I had enjoyed it very much then. But tonight the Ardmore seemed off.
At first I blamed the mood. You know, as there is a whisky for every mood, I apparently wasn't in the mood for this one. Then I thought it was the glass. No fine nosing glasses at work, so the Friday night dram was consumed in a Cognac glass. Yet the week before that same glass hadn't been a problem, and I should just remind myself to bring a proper glass on Fridays anyway.
On my way home, it struck me : the quantity.
You see, yesterday night I poured myself a Caol Ila, in the comfort of my own home, at ease, so the mood couldn't have been a problem, and the glass was just fine. Yet in my enthusiasm I accidentally poured somewhat more than I am used to. And it too didn't feel right. Now this can mean two things : I am either currently only in the mood for the most typical of Irish whiskies or it was the quantity that spoiled it.
How quantity can do that, I have no idea. Perhaps it is the ratio air to whisky in the glass that unbalances the right conditions for the aromas , or the fact that the greater amount of whisky makes you take bigger sips, allowing for the alcohol to numb and subdue your palate.
Perhaps I should just take more care in the size of my drams, and perhaps experiment with it.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Nosing vs. Tasting

I just wanted to formulate some thoughts on how people often focus too much on the taste of the whisky and neglect the nosing.
I'm no great noser, I must admit. My skill is limited to recognizing aromas I've encountered in other whiskies, but actually naming the smells is often beyond my capabilities. So I can probably forget about a job within my favourite industry, aside from the fact that I don't actually live in Scotland. Nevertheless I find nosing to be the most exciting part in evaluating a dram. Complex whiskies' noses take you on a journey through different sensations, often too quickly passed to be named. So it's a pity when some people don't pay any attention to a malt's nose.
To me, there are whiskies whose nose I find more interesting than their effect on my palate. I sometimes find myself still sniffing them, when others have almost finished their glass.
So I'd recommend anyone who likes whisky to linger a bit longer about the nosing, and discover what great secrets it can unveil.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Collecting bottles

Every now and then people who come and visit me, take a bit of a closer look at my whisky collection. Mind you, there is an important difference between my collection, and my bar. The bar contains six to ten whiskies, bottles that are open and from which I pour myself, and even my guests a dram. The collection consists of about a hundred bottles, which remain closed, for me, as well as for guests. Such a collection evokes several different reactions, ranging from admiration to appal.
So why do I, or any other collector, collect whiskies? There are quite a few possible motivations. First of all, what motivation do all collectors share, what motivates one to collect crystal statues, or pictures of owls, or anything else for that matter. I think that motivation is the hobby, it is fun to work on a collection, to see it grow, to find the perfect next piece to make it just a bit more complete. A good collection is never complete, because it would stop inspiring the collector.
Another motivation is being able to show it off. One of the great joys of a collection is being able to show it off. It is a great way to bring the conversation to your favourite subject. Through collecting something you also learn more of it : to collect it, is to know it.
For a collection of unopened whisky bottles there are even a few extra motivations, one of them could be to collect tham as an investment. Certain bottles become rarer and therefore sometimes more valuable. Although this is tricky, since any possible buyer is most likely also a collector. I'm afraid the market of rare bottles of whisky just doesn't fluctuate enough for bottles of whisky to be a real good investment. Nevertheless, it is nice to know that some bottles grow more valuable over time.
But this brings me to a much more valid motivation; buy cheap today, and be able to drink something unaffordable tomorrow. You see, if a particular bottle becomes more valuable over time, it also means it becomes more expensive to buy. So, if you know a bottle will rise in value, and it happens to be one of our favourites, it makes sense to buy a few now, before it becomes too dear. And then you can still enjoy a dram of that malt, when otherwise it would have become financially unwise.

Then besides envy, why would anyone be appalled by a whisky collection? What many people don't seem to understand is that you would spend so much money on a drink, and then not drink it. The purpose of whisky is to be drunk, or ideally savoured, not to be collected, to be put on some shelf and collecting dust.
Some whisky connoisseurs abhor the mere thought of collecting, because obviously a collector is a competitor. Collectors, in the minds of the non-collector connoisseurs, boast the prizes in their collection, without truly knowing them, because they've never tasted them. Perhaps such collectors do indeed exist, but it is certainly not true for all collectors. In fact I think there are many connoisseurs who have become collectors and vice versa. Personally, I became a collector the day I became a whisky enthusiast, and it cannot be said that I don't know the whiskies in my collection, because I've tasted them all, all but a very few exceptions.
Why is a collector a competitor for a connoisseur? Well they both want the same 'resource' : bottles of whisky. They both add to the demand, and therefore they both push the price of a bottle upward. You see, this obviously works both ways, indeed a connoisseur is a collector's competitor, yet collectors don't seem to mind connoisseurs.
Obviously a collector doesn't mind the prices going up too much, this makes the bottles in his collection, well at least some of them, more valuable. It are indeed the investment minded collectors who are scorned the most. A connoisseur on the other hand wants his favourite bottles, or any bottle for that matter, to remain affordable.

Collecting bottles of whisky will probably keep provoking mixed feelings. It cannot be denied that it raises the prices of certain bottles even faster, and in some extreme cases only a few bottles of a certain expression remain for too many enthusiasts, making for an unaffordable whisky, that may not even be too fantastic. On the other hand, the greater demand for malt whisky has made it possible for distilleries to bottle more of their product for the malt market, rather than selling all, or most of their produce to blenders. The malt market has now become interesting enough for distillers to actually target that market more. Already a lot of distilleries have diversified their official distillery bottling greatly.
Yes, collecting whisky bottles is rather selfish, but its not all bad for the connoisseur, because it helps making malt whisky as a product more viable, distillers can become less dependant on blenders and the varieties become richer. Lastly, not all collectors are just owners, many, like me, are lovers before that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Just Finish

In recent years whisky makers have been experimenting with finishes, i.e. maturing a whisky on a different cask for a relatively short period of time. The types of cask used for finishes are most often not traditionally used for maturing whisky : rum barrels, cognac, champagne, port, ... anything seems crazy enough to add a weird twist in the end. This practice is met with quite a bit of scepticism from malt lovers and connoisseurs, because it seems whisky makers will do anything to sell their product.
It indeed seems a strange idea to do something so novel in an industry which prides itself for its loyalty to traditions and craftsmanship. Whisky marketing always focuses on the years of slowly maturing, on the old-fashioned way in which their malts were distilled, on quality rather than quantity.
But the truth is that the whisky industry, although its image may be old-fashioned, must survive in a modern-day market, where efficiency and profitability are the key words. And the reality of marketing a malt is quite daunting. It requires not only the skill of making a good product, but also to accurately guess what the demand on that market will be by the time the spirit has matured enough, which can easily be a decade from now.
The economic forces cause new trends in the whisky market. One such trend is that official distillery bottlings become younger. Ardbeg Very Young, Still Young and Almost There are such examples, another trend is that whisky is less and less matured on expensive casks, such as Sherry casks. Macallan, for instance, the malt that traditionally was always matured on sherry casks, now switched to their 'fine oak' series, which is a blend of their Bourbon and Sherry oak maturations. Another trend is to sell the stuff for more money, just pop to your favourite shop and compare the current prices to what they charged a few years back, for the same bottle.
I believe that wood finishes are also a product largely inspired by economic forces. Firstly it allows you to mature the whisky on a relatively cheap cask, and then differentiate it, by adding the effect of a more expensive cask at the end. Secondly it allows you to tailor for the current demand. What you didn't know ten years ago, you may know now, and after maturing your product a finish could allow you to then change your product in the direction of what is popular today. Furthermore a finish allows you to bring more people to try and appreciate your whisky, by associating it with a drink that is popular to non-whisky drinkers. If you enjoy a claret wine, you might be curious what a whisky matured on a claret cask tastes like, even though you don't really care about whisky. Lastly it is something new and exciting to those who already know their way around the whisky world.
So there is a lot to be said for a wood finish. I am always eager to try these, and see how it affects the malt. Currently there is still a lot of experimenting going on, and some of them turn out bad, others turn out magnificent. In several years finishes will still be around, but distillers will have found out which are successful, and which aren't, and they mill be used with more consideration and moderation, and I am sure the product will benefit from it. Nevertheless, the classic maturation will not be wiped away, especially because of the traditional image the whisky industry still upholds.
We should embrace the finishes with an open mind, and give earnest feedback of how we like it to those who make it. If its no good they should know it, and if it turns out to be great, they should definitely know it. This can only help to make whisky a more accessible, yet highly qualitative product, which can be enjoyed by many.

Monday, April 2, 2007

The Peat Trap

Whisky and single malt in particular are rapidly growing in popularity. Whisky is becoming better known to people who just buy whisky in their supermarket, and there is a fair number of newly beginning whisky enthusiasts, who are finding their way to specialized shops and nosing events.
Nosing events are a great way to get to know new styles and expressions of whisky, and any amateur can learn a great deal there about whisky, how it is made, and what all the different terms and phrases on the bottles mean.
Often the very last whisky of a session is a peated whisky. It is saved for the end, because the peat aroma and flavours would obviously obfuscate the gentler and less dominant ones of the whiskies that are served before, if it wasn't. This is indeed a very valid reason to set the peated whisky as the last one to nose, and the moderator usually explains this to the new attendees.
On top of that, it is also often mentioned that the peat-style whisky is one that either does or does not appeal to you. The phrase 'you love it or you hate it', is frequently heard about the highly phenolic drams. Then again, it is explained you can learn to appreciate these whiskies over time.
This is all very true, but the effect of these messages is that a beginning enthusiast gets the impression that peated single malt is superior to others, because it is drunk at the end of a session, it feels like 'saving the best for last'. It is explained that the order of the whiskies is determined by their dominance in flavour, and one could (albeit subconsciously) conclude that dominance in flavour implies dominance in quality. And lastly, it is something you must learn to appreciate over time, so it may lead you to think that your progress as a whisky connoisseur is measured by your progress at appreciating peated whisky. And these conclusions a beginner might make, are obviously false. Nevertheless they result in the fact that many beginning 'connoisseurs' tend to focus heavily on the peated malts, in an attempt to master whiskies as good and as fast as they possibly can.
This is helped along further by the fact that peat-smoke is very recognizable in a whisky, so beginning nosers have something they can determine fairly easily. Often the first thing they notice about a new whisky they nose is whether it is or isn't peated.
Furthermore, peated whisky is something of a surprise to many people who have only tasted a few blends and perhaps a Glenfiddich. So these beginning enthusiasts have something they can easily amaze their friends and family with, who might not be as adept at whisky as themselves.

The bottom line is that almost all new enthusiasts begin their journey with peated whiskies. There's nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. It is a wonderful and interesting place to start. But that's what it should be : a place to start, not as only too often seems the case, the end of their whisky journey. Peated whisky is in fact where the learning curve of the connoisseur starts. Not because I say it should be, but because I notice it is. And the problem is that it isn't perceived as such. People think Lowland whiskies, and the subtler Speyside whiskies are easy to appreciate, but they aren't. It is just their subtlety that makes them more difficult to discern. Peat is dominant enough to be easily noticed at 40% ABV or more, but many of the flavours and aromas in the subtler whiskies aren't. The true challenge lies in finding and appreciating those. It is in fact for that very same reason, I think, that the Irish whiskies are so easily cast aside, even by more seasoned connoisseurs. Triple distillation makes a whisky more mellow, but also more subtle.

Please don't misunderstand me : I LOVE peated whiskies. I am only observing the fact that there is an inverted view of the learning curve of a whisky connoisseur, which is inconsistent with the actual facts. And that as a result many enthusiast get stuck in what I like to call the Peat Trap.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Whisky for women

As you may have noticed from my collection, I am quite passionate about whisky. I often attend tasting sessions and will be posting about them regularly. I would encourage anyone who doesn't shy away from strong alcoholic drinks to try a few single malts.

There is a lot to say about whisky, and I don't want to go into every technical detail here, there are plenty of sites on the web that document just about anything there is to know about the 'water of life', if that's what you're after. On my blog I will only ventilate some of my opinions about the 'connoisseur' side of whisky.

Today I want to elaborate a bit more about 'women and whisky'.

What are the facts? Women tend to be less interested in whisky than men. On any of my previous tasting sessions the men always outnumbered the women. Sometimes even, when women turn up, they don't join in at all. They're just there to be with their man, who does participate. That's fine, really. All I'm saying is that in my experience women truly are less interested in whisky.

Greatly due to this relative lack of interest, whisky is known as a man's drink. Nevertheless I think whisky has a lot to offer for women, as well as for men. In fact when it comes down to sniffing out the aromas, women often outclass the men.

When women do appreciate malts, they tend to favour the lighter and smoother varieties, more than the heavier, peatier, stronger ones. Or at least that is the way it is perceived. I know my wife generally stays clear of the peated ones, although occasionally she can appreciate a Port Ellen, but I have met women who just adore Islay, and all it has to offer. So every time I hear the words "whisky for women" I cannot help but be annoyed.

Firstly, as I said, not all women's preferences are the same, and amongst the female malt enthusiasts there are plenty who do adore something else than "whisky for women".

Secondly, what also bugs me is that the term "whisky for women" seems to imply the distillate in question isn't good enough for men to appreciate. I like all styles of whisky, and the typical Lowland whisky, and many Irish have a warm place in my heart. Their subtlety and finesse is a highlight for me on any occasion. They are neither effeminate nor sub par. They are perhaps just too difficult to notice for men who boast their whisky achievements by drinking Ardbeg exclusively.