Saturday March 2018 marks World Whisky Day, an annual celebration of the amber nectar the world over. As we always say, how you drink your whisky is completely up to you! But what was the moment you realised you were officially a whisky convert? As part of our 30th anniversary celebrations here at the Scotch Whisky Experience, we asked a number of our ex-colleagues – all still working in the whisky industry – to tell us about how they became fans of Scotland’s most famous product…
Iain Robertson, Head Distiller, Raasay Distillery
“I’d try a few whiskies before, but what really got me hooked was ordering a 12 year old single malt Speyside at the bar. I was sipping away, enjoying the dram when my friend suggested the 15 year old instead. I hadn’t tried different whisky from the same distillery before and thought they couldn’t be to different, so I took his advice. And how wrong I was. The difference in these two drams was huge. One soft, sweet and fruity; the other rich full-bodied and dry. I had to know how this was. And so the infatuation began.”
Visitor Centre Manager, Tomatin Distillery
“I started working in a distillery as a tour guide at 18 years old with no knowledge about or taste for whisky at all. In the name of education I tried many different whiskies, so that I could chat to visitors about them. I remember tasting Caol Ila 18 year old and thinking ‘Ah OK, I get it now!’ I love being part of the Scottish whisky industry, it’s like a big family, all working towards helping visitors to our country and distilleries learn more about what we do and have to offer.”
Malt Master, Tamdhu Distillery
“My path to loving Scotch Whisky began with an Irish distillery’s backfired attempt to display their superiority to blended Scotch. Now enjoying blends, I was gifted an Islay single malt which I hated at first, but being a student, I persevered and by the bottom of the bottle I was smitten. Add to this tastings from Richard Paterson and Jim McEwan among others and exposure to fantastic whiskies at the Scotch Whisky Experience, I was on a journey of flavour exploration that will last a lifetime.”
Team Lead (Reserve Brands), Diageo
“When I came to the SWE as a part time job during university One of my first questions was ‘Why do you stock Johnnie Walker at the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre (as it was known at the time)? Isn‘t that American?’ The looks I got from my colleagues made me realise I had a lot to learn about Scotch whisky in order to become an authentic tour guide and not just someone who studied a script. Since then (2004) I have not looked back, and have now been working in the Scotch Whisky industry for nearly 15 years. Which is nice, because the first bottle of Whisky I bought at the SWE in 2004 was a Flora and Fauna Benrinnes 15 year old.”
Brand Home Sales, Marketing & Events Manager, Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery
“Joining the team at The Scotch Whisky Experience, it was always inevitable that I would fall for Scotland’s national drink in a big way, but I didn’t realise quite how fast it would happen. One of the onerous tasks for the team at SWE is to expand their product knowledge and improve their whisky skills by attending regular staff whisky tastings. The first staff tasting I ever attended, we were lucky enough to sample a 40 year old whisky. I remember at the time feeling utterly privileged and on cloud 9 – somewhat marred by the realisation that I seemed to have worryingly expensive tastes! Thankfully, I quickly found that a whisky didn’t need 40 years in the cask to be enjoyable. Being taught to nose, sip and savour the whisky properly was a revelation for me – like entering a completely new world. Since then, I’ve made it my business to get others to have the same eureka moment, during my time at The Scotch Whisky Experience, and beyond. The appreciation of Scotch whisky is very a special gift that we give to people, and as with most gifts, it’s as enjoyable to give as it is to receive.”
Brand Ambassador, The Glenlivet
“I remember my Scotch whisky ‘conversion’ very well! I had started work at the Scotch Whisky Experience as a whisky beginner, ready to be trained up in all things Scotch whisky. Fast forward a few months and I had tasted dozens of whiskies and was confident on my whisky theory, but I had yet to be convinced that whisky was the drink for me. After a particularly busy weekend shift, we had a staff tasting. In walked Aberlour 10 year old to sweep me off my feet. I loved the dark fruits and the rich spice from the sherry cask. This was the whisky that made me think ‘I could really get into this…’ Seven years later, I’ve written a dissertation on Scotch whisky and now work as a Brand Ambassador for The Glenlivet… but it was Aberlour 10 that got me into this!”
Whisky Specialist and Auctioneer, McTear’s Auctioneers
“It is hard to define an exact moment that converted me to whisky, but probably the very first time I tried GlenDronach was a real turning-point. I had tried a few whiskies prior to that, but the majority had been young, bourbon-matured malts that lacked a real depth of flavour and all had quite a harsh finish. The GlenDronach (the now-discontinued 15 Year old Revival in particular) reminded me of Terry’s Chocolate Orange, and for me remains one of the tastiest drams out there!”
Kaveh Kheradmand, Finance Manager, Diageo
“I joined the Scotch Whisky Experience (SWE) during my last year at school to hand out flyers dressed as a cooper on the Royal Mile. The guy dressed as William Wallace gave me a pep talk and the people at the Whisky Experience were really nice. It’s where I got my passion for Scotch: it was my first job and I have really positive nostalgic memories from it. Once I earned my stripes I came in to do tours, the shop, and working on the bar. I loved cracking jokes and chatting to the tourists as well as learning about the different characteristics of Scotch from various regions. Years later I left my job in tax to come back to the industry with Diageo. I haven’t looked back since.
Lukasz Dynowiak, Global Brand Ambassador, International Beverage Holdings
“One of my very first serious single malt experiences was with Old Pulteney 17 year old. It was a staff tasting at the Scotch Whisky Experience, ten years ago almost to the day now. I’d only just joined as a tour guide on a work placement from university and was seriously wondering what all the fuss was about. I remember the brightness and salinity of the whisky, not what I expected. And then the sweet smoke of Highland Park, the brutal peat of Laphroaig, the zest and tropical tones of Balblair. The weeks and months that followed – the summer of 2008 – was one of the most profoundly formative times in my life. A decade later, as the Global Brand Ambassador for International Beverage Holdings I still use the knowledge and experience I took away from SWE. And I still get to drink Old Pulteney for a living!”
What was your whisky convert moment? Let us know on social media, or in the comments below.
Happy World Whisky Day, and slàinte mhath from all of us at the Scotch Whisky Experience!
Images courtesy of:
International Beverage Holdings