Caskaway: Jackie Thomson's desert island drams

Caskaway: Jackie Thomson's desert island drams

In each edition we ask one of the industry’s great and good which drams they would take to our desert island. Shipwrecked this time is Jackie Thomson, the visitor centre manager at Ardbeg

Caskaway | 14 Aug 2023 | Issue 193 | By Bradley Weir

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Jackie Thomson’s whisky career has been inextricably linked with one Scottish distillery, Ardbeg, and its growth over the past 25 years. After originally interviewing for a role at Glenmorangie Distillery in 1996, she moved to Ardbeg a year later and has been with the Islay distillery ever since. In her current role as visitor centre manager she has achieved wide acclaim, including being named Visitor Centre Manager of the Year at the 2013 Icons of Whisky Awards.


Whisky #1


Lord of the Isles

For me, nothing beats a dram of Ardbeg: a 1975 vintage gulped from a mug in the infamous storm of 1998 which blew the old tin rooves off the distillery; a creamy 2016 Airigh Nam Beist in the rain at Loch Larnan; hauling 100 mackerel into the back of an Orkney longliner with a slurp from a bottle of Ardbeg 10 Years Old; or a tiny sip from a glass measuring flask of Ardbeg 1974 straight from the barrel. But nothing beats enjoying a dram sitting above Coopers Hill, Ardbeg, after the euphoria of the Fèis Ìle whisky festival with my friend Kathleen. We clink glasses of Ardbeg Lord of the Isles while gazing at the sea and reminisce about the fabulous day’s events with our whisky tribe. A powerful, chewy, leathery dram oozing with elegance and history. Yum.


Whisky #2

Highland Park

12 Years Old

My dad worked for British Petroleum (BP) in the north of Scotland, and he frequently travelled around the country. He was a gentleman to his boots, and we laughed often about his distaste for, and my adoration of, Ardbeg and peated whiskies in general. He died last August, and I miss him terribly. In 1990, the Scottish rugby team won the Grand Slam. As they walked onto the pitch, Dad and I savoured a bottle of Highland Park 12 Years Old which had been kindly donated to him by a supplier in Orkney. I’ve always had a soft spot for the honey, heathery softness of this whisky… and for [senior brand ambassador] Martin Markvardsen!


Whisky #3


Port Wood Finish

Whisky has never run though my veins, but there was a seed firmly planted which has continued to germinate. I was working in Birmingham in 1996 and a friend sent me an advertisement for the position of Glenmorangie visitor centre manager in the Scottish Highlands (my home). I was interviewed by Dr Bill Lumsden, a trailblazing, inventive chemist with a passion for whisky who knows no bounds. I got the job and have never looked back. The Glenmorangie sherry, port, and Madeira finishes released in the late ‘90s paved the way for a new era of whisky maturation. I loved the velvety dark-fruit undertones of the Port Wood Finish and still have a couple of bottles tucked away.


Whisky #4

White Horse

Decanters can be very divisive, but my grandparents were great fans of this receptacle... the decanter in my cardiologist grandpa’s living room was always filled with a superlative blend, with a tactile bottle and ornate label, usually donated by a patient or another doctor in his parish. So, I choose a rich blend which stirs my emotions. I would place my Papa’s guessing tubes (stethoscope) round my neck and we would drink a White Horse… sniff deeply, talk about his day, and breathe in the heady, sweet, fruity aromas
next to the fire. Then the world would seem better.


Whisky #5

Whisky Sponge

Benrinnes 1997

I cannot let my whisky journey pass without mention of the absorbing Whisky Sponge... I love the ethos and integrity of the bottlings. Having had the privilege to meet so many whisky visitors/lovers/consumers/tourists over many years, it’s cracking to watch people carve a path within the industry. Borne out of the love of spirits, Decadent Drinks bottles outstanding spirits with wit and wisdom. I know and admire the Sponge. I adore this fruity, effervescent Benrinnes 1997 bottling – clean, zesty, with a sprinkle of black pepper. The labels are fabulous, too!


Luxury Item

Diaries, jotters, journals, lined notebooks, unlined notebooks, five-year diaries – you name it, and I will write in it. Writing down my innermost thoughts is my lifeline. Therefore, I would need a beautifully bound logbook with a thick-nibbed black pen to keep myself sane.

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