Beginning his whisky journey at The Pot Still in Glasgow, which is owned and run by his family, Sean Murphy quickly fell in love with the spirit that has made the pub famous. He started writing about whisky after being given the chance to create an online drinks column for The Scotsman newspaper, based on his experiences as a whisky barman. Sean enjoyed the experience so much that he immediately signed up for a journalism course at a college in Glasgow. His enthusiasm for Scotland’s national drink, as well as its craft gin scene, led to him helping to set up and run The Scotsman’s Food and Drink website from 2015 onwards. Today, he continues to write about whisky and gin, as well as all things Scotland, for the UK’s Daily Record newspaper.
Whisky #1 - Benromach - 10 Years Old
The first whisky has to be ‘Ben 10’, and I blame my cousin Frank – the owner of The Pot Still – for this one. The ultimate all-rounder, I can’t imagine a better whisky to enjoy over what’s sure to be an extended stay on the desert island. It’s such a favourite of mine that I’ve perfected my tasting notes so that I can recite them quickly when my friends inevitably ask why I love this less-well-known Speyside whisky. Now, just imagine you’re eating an apple picked fresh from a branch in an orchard, while, somewhere in the next field, someone is burning a wee peat fire and the aromas of the smoke hit your nose just as you bite into the fruit. Delightful!
Whisky #2 - Connoisseurs Choice - Dailuaine 2004 (Bottled 2016)
Head southwest from Forres through the picturesque whisky villages of Rothes and Craigellachie, and you’ll eventually come to Carron and the home of Dailuaine whisky. Though I’d always recommend the official Flora and Fauna bottling (16 Years Old) – as it’s sublime – if I can get my hands on any of the younger Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice bourbon cask offerings (particularly the 2004), then that’s what I’ll be taking. Lemon fresh, sweet and with just a hint of smoke, there’s something great about coming across your favourite drams without their regular sherry cask influence.
Whisky #3 - Brora - 30 Year Old
This might seem like an expensive option but, honestly, you never forget the whisky that made you realise why people are so incredibly passionate about this distillery, and the first time I tried a Brora (in my first few weeks at The Pot Still), I knew I’d found my first whisky love. Since then, I’ve had the privilege to try some very rare, older offerings from this newly revived distillery, and in the 30 Years Old you’ll find the single malt that hits my taste buds in all the right places. It's so complex you'll find new things each time you try it, with notes of heather, leather, dark fruits and peat smoke.
Whisky #4 - Nikka - From The Barrel
A whisky that I will always have in my home, no matter the occasion, and the one I often buy my friends as a gift. From the accessible price to that lovely square bottle, for me, it truly is one of the most underrated drams out there. No matter what its provenance actually is, it never fails to draw me in whenever I drink it. Meadow flowers compete with orange sugar sweets on top of thick layers of vanilla and perhaps just a wee hint of spice – honestly, if you haven’t tried it, don’t be put off by it being a blended whisky rather than a single malt.
Whisky #5 - Clan Denny Single Cask - Girvan 21 Years Old (Distilled 1992)
For me, the one category that doesn’t get enough love is single grain whisky, and, if you want a masterful example of what this type of spirit is capable of, then try and get your hands on this on this beauty. Bridging that gap between bourbon from the US and single malt Scotch, this Girvan is a sweet dream. I tend to liken it to vanilla ice cream and an American cream soda float – it’s a dessert dram for a desert island, if you will. Maple syrup, sugared honey and the effervescence of citrus fruits are all there in abundance. The funny thing is, I don’t normally have a sweet tooth, but, for this amazing Girvan, I always make an exception.
Anyone who knows me will know I’m never far from a book. If I’m on a desert island, I’ll need something to distract me. I'll take a fantasy book by the likes of Robert Jordan or Steven Erikson, or, when I’m pining for home, re-read Raw Spirit by Iain Banks.