By Marcin Miller

From the editor

Spring is here. It must be as the various Distillery Managers, Master Distillers and Master Blenders have been dusted down after their winter hibernation in preparation for the first round of festivals and events. First stop was Whisky Live, London in March (see pages 22 to 27). Thence a migration to San Francisco, for Whiskies of the World Expo. Then the festivals on Speyside and Islay. There is also an event in Denmark to consider and one in Limburg, Germany. These guys do work hard. It’s not all beer and skittles, you know. The ‘wishful thinking’ syndrome is quite entertaining. “Wow! Imagine being a Distillery Manager / Whisky Distiller” say the hard core enthusiasts. Yes, imagine it. Being on-site 24 hours a day, seven days a week in case anything goes wrong. Constantly having senior management urging you to increase yields, to use cheaper materials, to jeopardise quality in search of quantity and, ultimately, profit. Having to motivate a small committed team that has been told that production is being cut. Kicking your heels in the silent months. Staring out of the window at the incessant rain. Yet, of course, there are compensations. The pace of distillery life seems comforting. The knowledge that you are working in a timeless industry, doing what people have been doing in, more or less, the same way with, more or less, the same raw materials and equipment for hundreds of years lends a sense of perspective, history and heritage. It strikes me that whisky in the UK is still considered to be very much a winter drink. This is backed up by Scotch whisky sales figures from the Scotch Whisky Association. There is almost a 40% fall in the UK over the summer months (June, July and August compared to October, November and December). This is even more bizarre when, for the same period, sales of Scotch whisky in the European community as a whole actually rise. What is going on?Because the temperature in Kentucky tends to be a little higher than in Scotland, it is not sacrilege to drink whiskey long. No Bourbon Master Distiller would turn a hair if you asked for his best whiskey on ice. Some of them prefer it that way. I remember Jimmy Bedford of Jack Daniel’s telling me his favourite drink was Jack over ice with a splash. The Japanese have made a feature of drinking whisky with a lot, and I do mean a lot, of water. The point of mizuwari, as it is called, is to dilute the flavour of the whisky to make it more palatable with the delicacy of flavours likely to be found at the Japanese dinner table. The Japanese also have a tendency to repertoire drinking more than any other nation I have encountered, with beer, white wine, red wine, sake and whisky all being taken during the same meal. Bearing this is mind, it makes perfect sense to minimise the potential damage that 43% could do to the system.So why does the UK buck the trend? Whisky doesn’t have to be a fireside dram. Blended Scotch is waking up to the fact that it needs to become sexy again. Hence Chivas getting involved in London Fashion Week and the work of the Chivas team in developing cocktails for the trendy bar set. But there is still a long way to go. Allow me to suggest a two-point action plan. Point one: drink more whisky this summer. If necessary, innovate. Drink it long in a thong. Or have it cool by the pool. You owe it to yourself and to those overworked distillery bods. Respect the fruit of their labours – all year.Point two: drink whisky when you are eating. I’m not talking about creating lavish dinners. Introduce it into your routine. Smoked salmon for lunch? Reach for the pepper mill with your left hand and for the Talisker with your right. Fancy a bowl of ice-cream? Pour a single malt over it. A light supper of cheese and bread? Have you ever tried Lagavulin with roquefort? Perfection. In our tireless, selfless quest to help you through the whisky jungle, in upcoming issues Whisky Magazine will fearlessly tackle the following questions: which whisky goes best with Britain’s favourite food, curry? Which whisky goes best with sushi? Which bourbon goes best with desserts? Bon appetit.