Island life: Sam 'Dr. Whisky' Simmons

Island life: Sam 'Dr. Whisky' Simmons

We send some of the whisky world’s great and good to a desert island; what will they chose to take?

Caskaway | 01 Jun 2018 | Issue 152 | By Sam Simmons

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Sam's is the story of whisky enthusiast turns geeky blogger into whisky ambassador and now whisky (and rum and brandy) blender. Insert your own rude word here…(ED). "Dr. Whisky" is a committed whiskevangelist, a Keeper of the Quaich, a judge in several spirits competitions and a Canadian (sorry). He has worked with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, The Whisky Exchange, was The Balvenie global ambassador 2010-2018 and was recently made head of whisky at Atom Brands. He also plays in the whisky band, Barley, Stills, Mash & Tun, with our Editor, Rob Allanson.

Whisky #1

Johnnie Walker

12 Black Label

The brand whose name means “Scotch whisky” in every language is a must. This iconic blend is the whisky story that weaves through the tapestry of Scotch whisky's history, from Helen Cumming to Jane Walker, and there is always another tale around the corner if you have the thirst to uncover it.

Those moods when a conciliatory dram is needed to mollify that Monday feeling or to sail into Saturday night, for that modest indulgence with no fuss to be paid, no Glencairn ritual necessary, no tasting notes to be taken… it’s ice and the heaviest tumbler in my cabinet. The blender's skill is displayed here on a massive scale, expertly balanced, JW Black never fails to disappoint.

Whisky #2


16 Years Old

The bonfire that will be burning on the desert island beach needs an appropriate accompaniment and this legendary whisky is it. Lagavulin is the whisky on our shelf at home that gets emptied and replaced with greatest frequency, and for good reason.

Whisky #3

Lot 40

There are many Canadian whiskies I could have inserted here as I have several in regular rotation on my home bar, but as a brand that had a misfired launch decades ago and has had a successful rebirth in recent years, Lot 40, for me, represents the global renaissance of Canadian whisky. Too often dismissed as the booze to ruin a perfectly good glass of ginger ale, the incredibly talented Dr. Don Livermore worked hard to build a range of Canadian whiskies that showcases the breadth and depth available. With the Scottish insight of my buddy Ross Hendry, Corby (the parent company in Canada) then pushed a “Classic Malts” style mechanic for navigating a category previously ignored by most whisk(e)y connoisseurs. Throw Dave Mitton into the mix and the category is now getting the respect it deserves, not just at home but abroad. It could have been Wiser’s, Gibson’s, Forty Creek, Gooderham and Worts, or others, but suited to the mixed drink, the cocktail or nosing glass, it’s Lot 40 that is joining me on the island.

Whisky #4

The Balvenie

12 Years Old, DoubleWood

My gateway whisky back when I began this whisky journey in Edinburgh over 15 years ago and my companion for so many years working for William Grant & Sons as an ambassador for the distillery and its craftsmen. This whisky has been, and will forever be my comfort blanket. In many ways, DoubleWood is the whisky that launched a thousand whiskies, popularising the results of extra maturation in sherry butts, a practice now employed by nearly every distiller in Scotland. A flavour complex I have never tired of, DoubleWood is endlessly satisfying, always interesting, and dangerously moreish.

Whisky #5

Something sherry bomb-esque

Something high ABV and proper Spanish oak, ex-sherry cask matured. I'm not embarrassed to say I'm not much fussed which distillery, but this flavour profile has to be included on the desert island or somebody's gonna start eating his own flesh.

Then a brief final luxury

If it needs to be drink-related, ice? But I could live without water in its solid state, no I'm gonna need a guitar, aren't I? An old Gibson L00 or J45 please? Man, this island life is getting more and more attractive...
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