As global whisky specialist, innovation at William Grant & Sons, Kevin Abrook is a bit of a mongrel – an Englishman living in Ireland and promoting Scotch! He has over 25 years’ experience, getting his first taste for whisky as global marketing manager on Tullamore D.E.W. at C&C International, which was later acquired by William Grant & Sons in 2010. An advocate and educator for whisky, he holds the WSET Diploma in wines and spirits and is a WSET Certified Educator for Spirits Level 1 and 2. Brands launched under his supervision include Kininvie single malt, The Girvan Patent Still single grain, Ladyburn 41 Years Old single malt, Ailsa Bay single malt, as well as the Rare Cask Reserves range of aged blends.
12 Years Old
Having lived in Ireland for nearly 30 years, I got into whiskey through Irish, not Scotch. Tullamore D.E.W. 12 is my go-to whiskey and the first new whisky I launched when at C&C; so inevitably I am biased. This was my whisky epiphany. I recall sitting in a room with the MD and export director of C&C International, together with Dr Barry Walsh of Irish Distillers, one of the great blenders in the industry, and the three samples to choose from. When we tried what is now the 12 we were all speechless. The export director broke the silence with, “Mmmm! Delicious!”
10 Years Old, Founder’s Reserve
Before I joined William
Grant & Sons following their acquisition of C&C International, this was the only Scotch in my cabinet, which was otherwise stocked with Irish whiskies, a bottle of Canadian Club and Wiser’s Deluxe (they didn’t make my top five, but had to get a mention). While the Doublewood 12 rightly gets plaudits for its taste and being the pioneer of cask finishing, I prefer the Founder’s Reserve. I have a little left at home; so tried some for this article. My opinion still stands! Fantastic honeyed sweetness with hints of orange peel.
Single Grain 1998, Single Sherry Cask
People often ask me which is my favourite of the brands I have launched. Kininvie? Ladyburn? Ailsa Bay? Girvan? It’s like asking me who my favourite child is, so I’m going off piste. Working in the innovation team, I am lucky to have tried amazing samples of rare whiskies from our ancient reserves. This 100 per cent sherry cask single grain was the most amazing of all: it's rich, with great depth, complexity and a finish that went on forever. To say 'unctuous' doesn’t do it justice.
If I have to choose a commercially available whisky, then it has to be The Girvan Patent Still 25 Years Old, which I describe as ‘liquid crème brûlée’. Aged single grain, in great casks, with great wood management, is as good as aged single malt. And my favourite child is Kieran.
It was at Whisky Luxe 2012 in Edinburgh that I saved up my tokens for the special dram I had in mind: The Macallan Oscuro. Wow! What a flavour explosion and silky mouthfeel. Like drinking Christmas pudding. As I savoured the last drops with eyes closed, I contemplated whether it was worth £800 a bottle? Indeed it was.
12 Years Old
I recently got into Japanese whisky. No sooner had I done so than Suntory stopped producing the Hibiki 12, replacing it with Japanese Harmony, which is good, but not as good as the 12. I admire Japanese whisky blending: simplicity, balance, harmony; themes that are reflected in the aesthetic of the design. These things are rooted in the psyche of the Japanese.
A brief final luxury
I am a wine man at heart, so a bottle of Chateau Latour 1961 would be my final luxury – one of the greatest wines made, so I am told! Sadly, I've never tried it, but I'm sure it could be arranged for my fantasy island treat.