Caskaway: Emma Cookson's desert island drams

Caskaway: Emma Cookson's desert island drams

We cast whisky author Emma Cookson off to our desert island and ask which five drams she'd take with her

Caskaway | 29 Jan 2024 | Issue 197 | By Bradley Weir

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Emma Cookson is one of Australia's most influential whisky communicators, named Communicator of the Year in the 2023 Icons of Whisky awards. Born in California, she moved to Australia at a very young age. Her career in drinks started with bartending in Melbourne, where she met people from various distilleries and began falling in love with whisky. She worked at a speciality whisky bar before getting a university degree in whisky, gaining experience in tasting and learning about a range of styles and brands. During the pandemic, Emma made friends with some of the team at online retailer the Whisky List, for which she now works. She began by running virtual whisky tastings, utilising her extensive knowledge, and a role in the company was built for her. Today, she continues to educate on the topic as well as being a top communicator.


Whisky #1


18 Years Old

When I first got into whisky, I remember thinking I didn’t like peated whisky. That’s until I tried Ledaig 18, and I was like, oh wow, this is something else. It’s really creamy and it’s approachable. It blew me away with how complex it is; everything comes together in this wonderful marriage. It smells peatier on the nose than what it actually tastes to drink. So, I love the brand now and I have a bottle here in Australia.


Whisky #2


Message in a Bottle

Fleurieu Distillery in South Australia did a series of releases that were inspired by Sting... I managed to grab one and it was called Message in a Bottle. Gareth and Angela Andrews, who make Fleurieu whisky, are so amazing. They’ve got immense knowledge in brewing and wine making, and it really informs their skills with whisky production. South Australia itself has a really long and rich history of whisky production, but so much of it has been forgotten. It fell out of favour…and there’s a whole generation that doesn’t talk about Australian whisky. But Fleurieu are now making some of the best in the country.


Whisky #3

Flora and Fauna

Blair Athol 12 Years Old

So, I mentioned Fleurieu flying under the radar, but a lot of Scottish ones do as well. This Flora and Fauna expression is such a good dram. There wasn’t any in Australia for a while and I was shaking because it’s one of those whiskies that’s so special. This is still accessible, too, and it tastes like pineapple upside-down cake. 12 years old isn’t exactly young, but at the same time, you wouldn’t expect the amount of complexity that you get out of it at that age. It really showcases the depth of Blair Athol spirit.


Whisky #4


12 Years Old Cask Strength

I got to visit Bunnahbhain early last year, and it made me understand the refinement that their spirit has. When you stand on the edge of the pier, it feels like you’re standing on the edge of the world. So, it feels only right to bring a bottle of something from somewhere like that to the middle of nowhere. This is obviously a classic and a stalwart favourite of whisky drinkers all over the world. The way they craft and blend every batch, it elevates everything people love about Bunnahbhain spirit. It’s the kind of whisky that makes you feel like you’re sitting in a leather armchair when you drink. It has that kind of comfort factor.


Whisky #5

Amber Lane


The thing I love most about Amber Lane is the people that make it. I remember being at the World Whiskies Awards, and during the Hall of Fame speech, one of the guys said that whisky is a people industry. It’s absolutely true. It’s not just about the people who drink it, but the people making it at every step of production. One of the owners, Rod Berry, is genuinely one of the loveliest people that I know in the industry. He’s got this absolute obsession with heritage French spirits, so we bonded over our love of that. He’s really into Cognac and Armagnac, and at the distillery, they use a Cognac style of maturation, and they move spirit between barrels. With that style, it really works to get this approachable flavour profile. This expression is an everyday kind of drink for me, so it makes sense I would take it.


Luxury Item

Obviously I’m keeping in with the Australia theme, but also, I legitimately love this brand. It's called Didgeridoonas. They have these…jackets and the inner lining is Aussie sheep’s wool, and everything in their range is designed so that it can withstand both hot summer days and really cold nights. My husband and I have these matching vests that keep us warm when we go camping across rural Australia. If I’m bringing something, I probably have to bring one of their cooler bags to keep my whisky at a cool temperature.

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