It would be fair to say that my journey with whisky began at a very young age. My Father enjoyed nothing more than the simple pleasure of a single malt, neat or with a few drops of water, while playing solitaire with dog-eared cards on an upturned chess board on his lap of a Sunday evening. This activity was as regular as clock-work. Even if we were on holiday, a bottle of Scotch would be bought at the airport to take with us and come Sunday, those cards would be laid out, or if forgotten, temporarily replaced with suitably ridiculous cards from a local purveyor of trinkets and niceties and a Scotch would be poured.
But never more than a dram or two… When I got older I would offer to pour him another and he would always decline. When probed, he said that he drank it to enjoy it, not to get drunk. This has stayed with me.
I tried whisky many times, growing up. As is usual to a younger pallet, it did not appeal. I had a range of whisky faces at the suggestion – cross-eyed, screwed up nose, tongue pointedly out and usually some sort of vocal expression of distaste. Right through my early twenties, when my very Scottish family so often would raise a dram, I would sit sheepishly with a glass of wine. I had always felt I was in some way being disrespectful by not enjoying this liquid that Duncan would sing about in long car journeys, that Fraser had started to collect since his first bottle at 18, that Johnnie yearns for, that Grant poured every Father’s Day and toasted Dad with.
And then I tried ardently to get into whisky at my 25th birthday, but I just couldn’t – whisky was not a drink for an entire evening. Mixed with coke, maybe, but I made that suggestion only once to my family. And so they gave up on me and for the years that followed, always had a bottle of wine put by for me at family occasions.
It was only a year ago that I came back to single malts through my job where it was imperative that I know as much about single malts, the process, the range, the industry players, the liquid. There is something to be said for learning a bit more about the process, the people behind the liquid, how to drink it neat and what to look for in the tasting of it.
In my learning, I came to talk more and more about single malts amongst my group of 30-something friends. I noticed that I was the only woman of the group drinking single malts at the end of a meal or at the mid week drink, that women claim vehemently to dislike whisky (even if they haven’t tried more than a sip), that men love single malts and know a bit about them, but that they avoid drinking them for a night out when the intention is to get merry rather quickly.
Because my passion for single malts has grown so much over the last year, I was frustrated that few of my friends agreed with me. And I was bored of them grabbing my glass on a night out, taking a halfhearted sniff and turning their nose up at a beautiful 15 year old single malt. So I did a few informal whisky tastings with various Speyside whiskies to help them understand more about this liquid sunshine. Low and behold, they have proved so popular that I am slowly converting more to the joy of enjoying a short drink over a longer period. Savoring and enjoying single malts as they were intended – not shot down the gullet, not mixed with coke, but rather enjoyed. And the best time to do this was a Sunday evening – when the pressure of getting merry with your friends isn’t there. When one will do, when you have time to enjoy it slowly.
And so The Sunday Whisky Society began – as in informal gathering of people who just want to learn more about whisky and who want to enjoy the liquid from nose to finish of every sip.