By Dominic Roskrow

Getting a taste for it

Whisper it quietly, but right across the planet a low-key revolution is taking place. Wherever I travel – Havana, New York, London, and er, Cromer, whisky enthusiasts are meeting to share, taste and discuss whisky.Now I know that this is the way it has always been. But the tendency has spread way beyond the ‘diehard’ fraternity and is reaching out to parts other spirits just can’t reach.The bloke I get a lift with each day samples Bunnahabhain and Bruichladdich with his mates in the depths of Norfolk in England. Businessmen in Manhattan have special whisky gatherings at weekends.I happened to be on Orkney recently on the night that the island’s whisky club was meeting so I went along as guest of honour. Actually that’s overstating the case. Someone suggested I turn up as the ‘mystery guest’ but I knocked that on the head by explaining how upset they’d be when I didn’t turn out to be a professional footballer or Michael Jackson.We had a fabulous night, tasting Bladnoch 1987, a 1986 Bruichladdich and a 1978 Mannochmore, all three at cask stength. Mind you, after a few more whiskies the night took the strangest of turns, as they tend to do on Orkney.I had become aware of a bloke in a Scotland football shirt who kept staring at me aggressively, so much so that I was reminded vividly of a childhood’s worth of Scotland V England Home International football matches. If you were there in the 70s you’ll know what I’m getting at. If you weren’t, lucky you.And sure enough, as soon as I got up to go to the bar he came across. Here we go, I thought. Except he has the broadest London accent I’ve ever heard. So I ask him about it. “I went native years ago,” he says. “I’ve been in to Scottish football for ages. We’re all over the island, us English.” This is true.Then suddenly he changes the subject. “I’ve a bone to pick with you,” he says. Here we go, I think, checking the exit points.But it’s okay. He produces a medicine bottle full of dark whisky from his pocket. It’s decorated with a very amateurish black and white label. It’s called Dragon Orkney Whisky. “You know what this is?” he asks. I resist the urge to state the obvious or try and be even vaguely funny and shake my head vigorously.“It’s a Highland Park,” he says. “Now why haven’t Broom or Jackson reviewed it?” Have they had any of it? I enquire. “I don’t know.”Well if they haven’t had it they can’t taste and write about it, I offer.“Well they’re not having mine,” he says. And places the bottle back in to his pocket. In New York a person I had never met before told me about a recent evening when his girlfriend had three of her friends round when he was holding a tasting.“I thought it was amusing to let them have a sip of Laphroaig. Big mistake. They wouldn’t drink anything else all night, despite my best efforts. It reached the point that as soon as my back was turned they’d refresh their glasses then giggle about it like young girls. That was annoying enough, but they finished the entire bottle. Not some bland blend- MY Laphroaig!”Great memories are made of this sort of thing of course, but such anecdotes are occurring more and more.Am I spending too much time in the company of whisky buffs, or is premium whisky in danger of becoming common?