Is there a more apposite place to write about whisky than a distillery, or perhaps an adjoining warehouse? The answer is a resounding "No!"However, the location I'm at this very moment comes a pretty close second. I'm sitting amid buildings spanning Victorian, Edwardian and more modern eras. They exude an air of charm, serenity and civility. And those buildings are associated with, and have witnessed, moments that have captured a world's imagination. This is a place where legend and history blur; where craftsmanship, art and guile combine to offer the senses a beauty too rarely found in everyday life. I am at Trent Bridge, one of the world's most famous homes of cricket. Not Lords, or The Oval, Edgbaston, Headingly and Old Trafford. These are legendary English cricket grounds, where international games are played over no less than five days if need be to achieve a result.But what on earth has this got to do with whisky, you may be wondering. Well, for me at least, quite a lot. You don't have to be a cricket fan to
thoroughly appreciate the world's finest whiskies, but for my money it helps. At 13, I had no intention in being a whisky writer, neither did I aspire to be a journalist, broadcaster, Prime Minister or racing driver. There was only one thing I wanted to be - a professional cricketer. But it was not to be, although cricket was to play a vital role in the eventual outcome of my future life. When I turned 15 and was still at school, I was commissioned to write my first professional piece for the evening paper. My brief: to cover a local cricket match. Within a year I had made my first national broadcast, again about cricket and now commentating on the game at first class level, I will always remember it; Northamptonshire versus Middlesex. And though my life wasn't to lead down a cricket writer's path of turf and ashes, it did for a number of my old friends and colleagues from that period. The point about the game, and the writing of it, was its absorbing complexity. It was a game that traditionally bored or perplexed Americans, although the majority whom I have taken to a match over the years have found themselves converted. But I think, vitally, from an early age I learned that when you discover something of almost unfathomable beauty then it is worth trying to recognise the age-perfected skills that makes it so and write about it not only with a passion, but, preferably, with a knowledgeable one. So it is that the writers who have subconsciously shaped my style are those from the world of cricket. And in turn they have fostered my appreciation and passion for the game. And from that, I am certain, I gained the patience to first analyse and then describe the glories, or otherwise, of the whisky in my glass.As I pen this very sentence, the England bowler Darren Gough is tearing in with all the scintillating fizz and spice that a Talisker rams against the tastebuds. The one player he cannot remove is the Zimbabwe batsman, Murray Goodwin, who has just made, aesthetically at least, the finest test hundred I have witnessed first hand. Goodwin's the perfect foil to the pugnacious Gough (Talisker): neat, compact yet at regular intervals cuts and thrusts with a delicious grace and style that would do justice to a Johnnie Walker Black Label.Both players are displaying they are the cream among their country's cricketers. Just as the majority of the bourbons I reviewed revealed they were equally elite. It is something you can judge only by knowing what else is around. And, just like at a test match, taking all the time it needs to savour the intricacies, twists and turns that a whisky is likely to throw at you.
Then you give your appraisal. Otherwise, it's just not cricket.