For this issue I had intended to explore how to build a flavour library; how to bank the aromas and tastes of a variety of fruits, vegetables and spices to build a cache of memories that can help us appreciate whisky more.
Unfortunately the depressing shortage of produce (thanks panic-buyers), not to mention the necessary curbs on our freedom to explore the outside world, has put that piece on pause. But that’s no reason to halt our education and appreciation of whisky altogether. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the Covid-19 pandemic it’s humans’ remarkable ability to adapt. That, and you can’t keep a whisky lover away from a dram.
Most of us appreciate whisky with friends. We order it in cocktails. We discover new bottles at our favourite bars, or through recommendations of shop staff. While a lot of those avenues are closed to us right now, and for who knows how long, there are ways to continue exploring whisky, heightening our appreciation and ultimately supporting an industry that needs us. So in the spirit of adapting, these are my tips for how to appreciate whisky in a lockdown.
Shop local. Avoid the stress of queuing to get into a supermarket and buy your whisky from a local, independent retailer instead. Off-licences are classed as ‘essential retailers’ in the UK, meaning most have opted to stay open. Specialist shops and off-licences usually stock an alternative selection of bottles, so you’ve more chance of finding something a little bit different while dodging the crowds flouting the two metre rule in Tesco’s ransacked booze aisles. Plus, buying local means supporting small businesses that will be over the moon to take your money right now.
Shop online. If you’re self-isolating or quarantining then please be sensible and stay at home. In fact, unless you absolutely need to leave the house to pick up groceries, this is the best way to purchase whisky. The choices are abundant, your social distancing score will hit a perfect 10/10, and you won’t even need to change out of your day pyjamas. Win win.
Socialise. We may all be self-isolating, but social distancing doesn’t mean we have to shut ourselves off from the world completely. There’s a reason why whisky drinkers refer to themselves as being part of a global whisky fabric, because that’s what we are – a community. Ironically the lockdowns are bringing us closer together through video calls and #virtualhappyhours. Whisky ambassadors are taking to Instagram to host live masterclasses, whisky clubs are gathering in Google Hangouts and Zoom conferences, while OurWhisky has thrown together its first Online Whisky Festival (yes, that is a shameless plug).
Shake it up. You’re not going to a bar anytime soon, so if you’re hankering for an Old Fashioned or Whisky Sour, it’s time to level up your cocktail making skills (the latter if you can actually find eggs. Tip: try using pineapple or bean juice as a sub to create froth). Some of the world’s best bartenders like Ryan Chetiyawardana aka Mr Lyan @mrlyan and Pamela Wiznitzer @pamwiz, even ambassadors like Ervin Trykowski
@scotch.boy, are posting super simple recipe videos on social media to help guide us through the basics.
Be responsible. The final but most important step. Enjoy whisky, explore it, have fun, but always in moderation. Remember we are in this for the long haul and chugging away on a bottle every night will not do your body or mental health any favours. Practice responsible drinking yourself, but check in with anyone you think may be struggling. It’s all about looking after ourselves, and each other.
Whisky has always had this enchanting ability to connect people. We’re united in our love for this amber liquid. Now more than ever, our wonderful global community needs to come together, support one another and share our passion for whisky. Let’s keep telling stories, sharing tasting notes and recommendations. Let’s connect in a more meaningful way than ever before. Let’s unite in our support for the drink and industry we love. Even if we can’t leave the house or see our friends and loved ones face to face, we’re still in this together.