That perfect moment...

That perfect moment...

To celebrate our 50th issue we asked a selection of people for their best whisky drinking occasion. Here are the best 50 of them

News | 09 Sep 2005 | Issue 50 | By Dominic Roskrow

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1. My bar manager and I visited Glenfiddich and got the chance to dip into the mixing vat of their new Solero Reserve. It was stunningly gorgeous. A chance to try something before it had been filtered and even released yet.
Niall Barnes.2. Going to the bar after seeing the Sex Pistols, who I had always wanted so see, in a small venue in Australia. Only 300 people were there. After being mesmerised by them, sinking a dram at the bar after was great.
Paul Davidson.3. Tasting the first new spirit at Bruchladdich on May 29, 2001 at 8.23am. This followed years of trying to get everything going, six months of renovations and repairs, and all the concerns and worries. I was crying and could not look anyone in the eye. They were tears of joy and relief.
Mark Reynier.4. My wife Jackie and I came to Islay eight years ago. Not long after everything was refurbished we had a huge storm. There were 142mph winds ripping across the island. We were basically marooned with our eight month old son. After a near death experience with a piece of flying asbestos board, I opened a bottle of 1978 Ardbeg and poured two glasses. This was the first time what was being produced here meant something to me. It calmed me down and made me feel courageous.
Stuart Thomson.5. It will be when the first spirit runs at Kilchoman Distillery. It is more than four years since I came up with the idea of building a farm distillery and my dream is about to be realised.
Anthony Wills.6. My first trip to Bowmore. After a tour of the distillery and dinner, we walked down to the edge of Loch Indaal. Sipping Bowmore while looking across the loch, on a warm summer night, with a clear sky and dazzling stars above us. An amazing experience.
Ian Wisniewski.7. The moment for me was when I visited Salvatore in London. Jerry the bar manager made me an Old Fashioned. Mix this with a really cool venue and some great company and you have a moment that I will remember.
Xavier Padovani.8. After getting cold outside, be that playing golf, kayaking or rugby in winter – a great dram is just the job to get the internal central heating working again and as one of my mates says “it goes round your heart like a hairy worm.”
Dave Robertson.9. Some five or six years ago, an extremely cold but sunny day in mid January, I was invited to Murrayfield – I had been working on a new product with the brief of “tastes great outdoors” – as we gathered at the rear of our host’s 4x4 I poured a small dram into small plastic cups – the feeling of warmth, good cheer and satisfaction I was feeling was echoed by the looks on the faces around me – a unique combination of winter sunshine, good company and fine whisky.
John Ramsay.10. Many years back, when the SMWS had one of its first ever Whisky Schools, where people such as Dr. Jim Swan, James Cowan, Charles MacLean came to sit together for a day to speak about whisky. After 12 hours, we decided to stop, as we would not be able to look at all angles of whisky in production and tasting. It was this moment, I decided to dedicate my life to the world of spirits as a professional and started what I am now doing full-time: introduce the world of whisky and other spirits to everyone who is interested.
Jurgen Deibel.11. Must have been my first sip of peat – from a bottle of Laphroig that Del Goldberg brought to the house one night in 1971 instead of the money he owed me. Unless it was – yes, this is it – the sips I took from the medicine bottle of the Laddie barrel sample that Jim McEwan gave me last year. Almost as good as the 50 year old Macallan that the ever-generous David Roberston once poured for me. Rats. OK, and this is final, the most memorable drink I’ve ever had was the last one, just now. No, on second thought make that the next one. I’ll have a large one.
Terry Sullivan.12. One sweet summer night sitting on the portico of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate with Wild Turkey’s Jimmy Russell and a dozen reporters. As we enjoyed afterdinner cigars overlooking the darkened Potomac, Jimmy walked us through a tasting of the fine American whiskies we were aging on the mansion grounds. Late in the evening a wild thunderstorm with jagged bolts of lightening kicked up across the river over an otherwise darkened southern Maryland. We sat there sipping great whiskies, smoking on the portico watching the storm rolling in. It was sublime.
Frank Coleman.13. When I first started with Johnnie Walker and was preparing to give my first tasting seminar. I was very nervous so I decided to have a practice run. I sat my Dad down in his dining room, placed the full line of Johnnie Walker and The Classic Malts in front of him and proceeded to give him my presentation. Eight years later my Pop is still my best guy to share a dram with.
Marcy Rudershausen.14. In the early 1980s a friend owned a very well equipped private bus, complete with beds, bar and trout rods for our trips into the Southern Mountains. Late one afternoon we found a small side road and parked the bus on a wooden bridge, which crossed an ideal trout stream. So we set up the BBQ and started fishing. With the bar little more than a step away we had found the perfect match of an idyllic location, a fine whisky and good company. Magic.
Peter Wheeler.15. My better half Paula and myself, got tucked into a Caol Ila 12 year old this Spring, while camping in the Catskill mountains, New York State, USA. There is something special to be said about sitting around the campfire, roasting our freshly caught fish, while enjoying the tranquility of the countryside, the smell of the fire, the great craic with one another, all while supping on an absolute beauty of a whisky.
Gregor Cattenach.16. After dinner with a fine cigar; when I am teaching and presenting to my Bulgarian friends how different all Scotch malt whiskies are.
Plamen Petroff.17. There’s nothing like tasting barrel samples or their latest expression, which hasn’t yet been discovered. It’s all about sharing and opening other eyes about great malts we’ve found!
Jack Oswald.18. A few years back, I was a guest at Linn House in Keith. Jimmy Lang, Chivas Brothers’ former master blender, was also staying there and we had a long chat in front of a big fire in the drawing room one evening. Jimmy’s one of the whisky industry’s great storytellers. It was a delight to sit with a large glass of Royal Salute listening to him tell of how, as a young man, he helped Charlie Julian create the de-luxe blend ‘way back in the early 1950s. He had many more “inside stories” of his Chivas days, and the evening simply flew by. Ta Jimmy!
Iain Russell.19. It has to be my first whisky in a pub, namely, The Clifton bar in Coatdyke, close to the dancing and just over the border from my home town, Airdrie. As our group was still attending Airdrie Academy, big Eck was elected purchaser. This was the finest dram, unknown, but probably Bells and yet to be topped as a whisky drinking experience. The bar was bursting at the seams, smoky, noisy, and most of all smelled of beer and whisky. When did you last walk past a pub doorway and the smell was wonderful?
Ray Davidson.20. I was standing with retired master distiller Evan Cattanach, at Royal Lochnagar back in December 2003 staring at the amazing selection of rare whiskies. Evan came across a bottle of Dalwhinnie 36year old. He stops for a moment and he almost seems to choked up, but with a wide smile on his face. He tells me with great pride that this was the whisky that he made all those years before and that it was the same year his daughter Alison was born at the distillery. We took the bottle out of the cabinet and then shared a dram, toasting his daughter, who now is grown with two children of her own.
Martin Duffy.21. When I tap into a barrel of Woodford Reserve during a sampling run. Each barrel represents the potential of being ‘the perfect dram’. This is significant because Woodford Reserve is a small batch bourbon – in other words at least two barrels are always mingled together for bottling. To taste a single barrel of Woodford is to taste uniqueness in its purest form.
Chris Morris.22. Whisky, for me, is the antidote to cold. I have never been colder than when on the waters of the Hebrides, following (in the words of Masefield’s famous poem Sea Fever) “the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife”. The beauty of the seascape, the nausea of unfamiliarity, the misery of the wet and the cold getting its trickling fingers into your bone marrow – but then, “when the long trick’s over,” the pleasure of the dram, the warmth, the dry. That would be it.
Andrew Jefford.23. I had joined Morrison Bowmore and I had been indoctrinated into the ways of Islay but there was a piece missing from the jigsaw. In 2002 I took a group to Islay and in a attempt to show them Islay in a different way, drove them to the Lighthouse at Port Ellen and cracked open a bottle of Bowmore 17 year old. We drank it standing on the rocks, with wind and rain lashing down. Then the ocean swelled up and crashed against the rocks and broke up spraying us all in a hail of wash, leaving us with what seemed like tears in our eyes and our mouths dry and salty, our bodies soaked through to the core. We huddled together and I said “raise your glass to the sky and the heavens will do the rest”. We all cheered and shouted Slainte in unison. That was when the jigsaw was complete.
Colin Dunn.24. Last month celebrating with the entire Highland Park distillery team after winning the accolade of ‘Best Spirit In the World’. We all toasted our success with our new Highland Park 30 year old. There was such a feeling of unity and pride it was an outstanding occasion.
Jason Craig.25. When I was working on the documentary Made and Bottled in Kentucky in 1992, I interviewed Booker Noe in Bardstown, at the same house where his grandfather, Jim Beam, had lived. After the interview concluded, Booker asked, “have you ever had my Booker’s bourbon?” We retired to Booker’s kitchen where he produced an unlabelled Jim Beam bottle of whiskey that he had drawn from the warehouse himself. We enjoyed a glass while Booker told stories. It was 10:30 in the morning. Then he gave us each a foot or two of his homemade applesmoked venison sausage.
Chuck Cowdery.26. The betrothal of an old friend. I was lined up as best man and had taken precaution by arming myself with a pocket flask of independently bottled Caol Ila 1983 (BB&R). I was just musing the finer points of my speech when the over-punctual bride bristled towards the church doors spitting and cursing, an elderly male was close on her train and some diminutive, prettily attired young female joggers brought up the rear. Acouple(ish) of sips later and I witnessed the entire nuts and bolts of the party exit the venue with fervent resolve and sensationally inapt expletive discourse. The bemused groom and I were left to contemplate the tatters of his role as the noise exported itself. We took a few quiet, idyllic moments in the fine old churchyard that balmy summer’s day, becoming properly acquainted with my peatridden, fruity, leathery and oily friend.
Doug McIvor.27. It was day like all other days on Islay... cloudy, a bit of rain. I was in a office together with Jim McEwan at Bruichladdich. We talked about whisky and looked over Loch Indaal. Jim said let’s go down and have a dram... It might change the weather. In his pocket he took the 20 year old Bruichladdich and we went down to the shores of Loch Indaal. The minute Jim poured me a dram for me the clouds disappeared, and the sun began to shine.
Martin Markvardsen.28. The day of Highland Park’s bicentenary party. I spent months organising it and the maltings had been turned in to a restaurant for the evening. Jim Robertson, the distillery manager and myself stopped before everyone arrived had the first dram of the Bicentenary edition and listened to Ronnie Brown tuning up for his evenings performance.
Lynne Grant.29. For a few years now, I have been a judge in the Whisky Magazine’s ‘best of the best’. Being in a room with nearly all the area’s distilleries can only lead to a good time, good stories and drink. Watching the reaction after various whiskies is a unique experience that I will never forget.
Jonathan Goldstein.30. After a large whisky tasting out came a 1967 Signatory Ardbeg Oloroso cask, which changed my view about Islay whiskies forever. Anything that could taste that distinctive after that many single malts meant “Islay really did leave Speyside by the wayside!” (quotation stolen from Iain Russell)
Doug Stone.31. With my husband Francis at a St Andrews Night Dinner in Mombasa. We were invited to this great event celebrating Scottish heritage. Although I am not a huge drinker... I managed pretty well that night! During the evening we toasted Scotland, anyone from Glasgow, Edinburgh, anyone who had ever been to Aberdeen, Wick, Perth, Stornoway etc. As I had been to all these places, I never stopped toasting! The form was to drink the entire cup of malt whisky and then hold it upside down over your head to show that you’d finished it. I insisted on singing, without being asked and it was a brilliant and (I think) a memorable night!
Fiona Kennedy.32. Drinking 1958 Bowmore straight from the cask in the number one vault by the sea wall.
Ian Buxton.33. I was camping with a friend on her first trip to Islay. We had Ardbeg 17 year old in our hands, we were cooking langoustines and just as we sat down for our meal some dolphins appeared off shore. Does it get better than that?
Annabel Meikle.34. Atiny boozer outside Dundee called The Ship, which always had a good buzz. There was something about drinking glasses of Bunnahabhain and Talisker only 20 feet away from the dark expanse of the River Tay in a warm pub full of blether that just captured to me what whisky should be all about: sociable, bags of atmosphere and quintessentially Scottish...
Chris Losh.35. When malt mingles with music. Any music to taste, properly listened to, while relaxing with a favourite glass, and mine will clink but don’t shoot me, is a fine time. But the best moment of all, quite my favourite, is in the concert hall. Big place. Big orchestra. Big dram of malt at half-time. And back in for the climax. Sibelius and Glenlivet? Encore!
Gary McLean.36. A particularly peaty whisky in a warehouse on Islay, hot sun sharding through the doorway, Mano Chau up high on our open top Ford‘s stereo. The company could have been better – Angelina Jolie rather than Ian Buxton perhaps – but otherwise...
Dominic Roskrow.37. I associate great whisky and its complex layering of flavours and textures with food and tastes that I love, so I would drink something like a rich 20 year old (or similar vintage) with Peking Duck, Chinese style tea smoked chicken or Hainanese chicken rice, the ginger notes work brilliantly with whisky.
Christine Manfield.38. For me it’s really simple. Add just a splash of water, and it is at its best. After a really bad day, just sit down relax with friends, or on your own, you just can’t beat it.
Willie Tait.39. An evening during the 2000 Millenium Classic Malts Cruise. After a hectic and enjoyable evening entertaining more than 400 people we returned to the Old Inn in Carbost. The hour was very late or should I say, very early whichever way you look at it. Abottle of Talisker 10 year old appeared, the night was bright and because of the time of year, in that transition phase between dusk and dawn... it never really gets dark in July.
Martin Rawlings.40. One special event was when Micky Heads, my brother and I shared a Jura Superstition after having climbed one of the Paps of Jura last October. The exhiliration of the climb, the unbelievable Scottish scenery, the weather and that fabulous tang of a great malt rewarding your palate – you cannot beat it!
Richard Paterson.41. A cheap hotel, plastic tumblers and Talisker 28 year old. I was working for Oddbins we were promoting the Talisker at a cool £600 a go. We had returned for a nightcap and on bottle of T28 later... What a dram!
Richard Jones.42. Last year in Mauritius I regularly enjoyed a Glenfiddich on the rocks, at the pool bar, after a great dinner. The peace and tranquillity in the relative coolness of the evenings, under the stars, made the atmosphere ideal for the occasion. A perfect way to end each day.
David Stewart.43. At the Lismore Bar, winning the Whisky Magazine, Best Whisky Bar award 2003. Another was drinking whisky on a summer’s evening onboard a small fishing boat on an inland loch on Tiree, someone was practising the pipes. The sunset, the fishing, the pipes floating over the Loch and a large Bowmore, what can I say...
Colin Beattie.44. Sitting on the back of a boat under the stars in a safe mooring with good company and good music. Somewhere where you can taste the whisky before you’ve even raised the glass. It’s about sociability and friendship at the end of the day. It doesn’t really matter what’s in the glass – so long as it’s good. But if I could I’d choose a Talisker, a Caol Ila or a Lagavulin.
Dr Nicholas Morgan.45. The sun was setting over a deserted playing field in Hua Hin, with a small group of exhausted friends, a bottle of Chivas, some ice, and an elephant. It was after the final of the fourth King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament, which ended a week of amazing experiences, opulent banquets, dramatic sunsets, sporting comradely and plenty of memorable moments. We had been joined by the tournament’s fastest elephant whose mahoot, or driver, was also enjoying a celebratory whisky. Someone said, “This is a Chivas Moment!” and it undoubtedly was. An unforgettable moment of sharing a Scotch whisky with friends.
Jim Long.46. I love drinking whisky in the morning. I grew up in Minnesota, where deer hunting is a late autumn ritual. My brothers and father and I will leave our ramshackle hunting cabin well before sunrise and won’t come back until late morning. As soon as I get back, the first thing I do is take a long pull off a small flask of Eleuthera. I keep the flask in my backpack, so it’s been outdoors with me and is nice and cold. When you’re tired, chilled to the bone and hungry there is no better feeling than a cold flask at your lips, some silky whisky passing over your tongue, and the warm echo of peat smoke that’s left behind.
John Glaser.47. On the rooftops of Milan, during celebrations in 1994 to mark the 500th anniversary of distilling in Scotland. Happy chatter, set off by a stunning view over the city on a warm spring evening was completed by a cocktail of Scotch malt whisky, cherry brandy and cranberry over ice. On that April evening it lived up to it’s name; Le gloria della Scozia – Scottish Glory.
Campbell Evans.48. Two friends asked if I would sail with them. The day dawned bright but very windy and once we had cleared the Sound of Kerrera, we knew sails were out of the question. Some time later we slipped into calm waters behind Seil Island to enjoy a well deserved lunch. But first a dram – what the blend was I cannot remember. No other drink in this world would have been so appropriate or as rewarding as that dram.
Ian Williams.49. It’s the last day of a wonderful three-week holiday to Orkney, Shetland and Islay. A glorious summer evening finds us on the beach in front of the old Port Ellen warehouses. We had some buns and a jar of pickled herrings. Washing that away is a cask strength Old Man of Hoy which we opened in sight of the real Old Man of Hoy on Orkney. Picture: Sitting on the sand in the evening warmth. The sun going down behind the defunct pagodas. Seals playing in the water of the bay. Bread and pickled herring. My dram catching the last rays of sunshine.
Alex Kraaljeveld.50. Sampling the first whisky coming from the new stills when we restarted Benromach. We were quite nervous as to how the new whisky would be, it was as good as we could ever have expected. The whisky had good malty notes, clean with good depth.
Ian Urquhart.
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