Born in Scotland and growing up with a father who worked in the whisky industry, Charlie Steel of Distill Ventures has always been destined for a career working with his favourite spirit. Charlie’s first foray into the trade was at LVMH, owner of The Glenmorangie and Ardbeg distilleries, working in the company’s wines and spirits sector. More recently, he met with Distill Ventures CEO and co-founder Frank Lampen and was given the chance to become Whisk(e)y Portfolio Director – an offer he simply couldn't refuse. With the opportunity to unearth some of the exciting, hidden distillery ventures out there, as well as working with entrepreneurial founders and team members across the world, Steel found himself in the role of a lifetime and hasn’t looked back since.
10 Years Old
Growing up, there was always one whisky around in the household – Glenmorangie 10 Years Old. Glenmorangie was the first distillery I visited, and I vividly remember the smells. I was eight years old, so I wasn’t drinking it, but I remember the aromas coming out of the casks and thinking, ‘this is kind of awesome’. It’s the whisky that has the most memories for me. Of course, when I started drinking it, I started to understand where all those different aromas were coming from. I can’t think of another drink so many different people can enjoy on so many different occasions. It’s delicate yet complex, and this dram played a big part in how I fell in love with whisky.
The Oxford Artisan Distillery
I’ve been waiting for more distilleries in England to have a bigger local and national identity. Many of the greats have been very similar to those in Scotland – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But lately, there’s a growth in a bigger local identity and they are becoming more distinctive from one another. Oxford is doing some great things, especially if you dig around and find out more about their regenerative farming. It’s incredible to know you’re drinking something that’s been around for hundreds of years. Not many whiskies are around that genuinely make you feel that you’re helping the environment while drinking it, either. I’ll rest easy on the desert island knowing that what I’m sipping on is good for the planet.
Single Malt 2021
I was thinking about how great it is to be back travelling again. The epitome of what I’m loving about my job now is helping people grow their businesses and meeting people around the world. Which brings me to southwest Japan, where one of the new craft whiskies is emerging. Kanosuke Single Malt is the ideal desert island whisky drink. They have an expression on the bottle – mellow land, mellow whisky – and it’s a delicious, fruity whisky. I think it’s going to become something iconic. I’ve only had the opportunity to talk to [Yoshitsugu] Komasa over Zoom calls, but I can’t wait to get over there, meet him in person and see the distillery.
I came into this industry in the noughties, and much of the business was very traditional. There was a hardcore gatekeeper concept that’s now being moved away from. Of course, how things are produced is important, but it’s no longer front and centre. It’s all about how it tastes and if you enjoy it. That’s where Starward excels. You can learn about the incredible process (or their use of wine casks from Australia), but primarily they just want you to enjoy the taste. It’s next-level deliciousness, and I can enjoy this on the island with either coconut juice or on the rocks.
I began by choosing Glenmorangie because it’s my family heritage whisky and reminds me of growing up, so it’s only fitting I end with a drink from this present era of my life. Stauning is such an incredibly exciting distillery to visit. Everything is presented wonderfully and you get a real sense of exactly what’s being made. It’s delicious and wonderful and would be particularly handy on the island because I think it would provide me sustenance too. I could probably survive on just this one drink alone!
I can’t have all these lovely whiskies and nothing comfy to sit on. If there’s still whisky left when the rescue boats arrive, I won’t be in any rush to leave.