By Dave Broom

There to be broken

Dave finds a high flying attitude to malt whisky at altitude
He was about to walk past me when he paused and offered me some bread. “And may I have some wine as well please?” I asked. He was holding the very bottle I wanted to try.“This is from the Languedoc, sir,” he replied.“Yes, thank you, I’d like to try it if I may.” “I have a Bordeaux sir. It is the one to go with your meal.” “But... I’d like to try the Languedoc please.” He stiffened with disapproval and stood in front of me.My two glasses were empty.“Which one for wine and which for water?” he asked.“This one is my wine glass,” I indicated the one on my right. He began to try and pour the wine into the left hand one. “No, that’s the water glass,” I offered, helpfully.“But sir,” he said. “The normal way is for the wine glass to be on the right and the water to be on the left.” “It is,” I replied. “You’re facing me.” He huffed, poured it into the ‘wrong’ glass and flounced (there can be no other word) off.If I hadn’t been strapped into my seat I would have followed him and, as we say in Glasgow, had a wee word.Then again, I reasoned, air travel makes the best of us slightly ratty which is probably one reason we are all strapped in. In any case I had the wine.I’d (almost) forgotten about it when the dessert came round. “A digestif, perhaps?” The smile was thin.“Do you know, I will. A malt whisky please.” He looked at the trolley. “We have Cognac, Armagnac, Eaux de vie, Calvados... a whisky liqueur.” “No thanks, if I may... a malt whisky.” I knew they had some as it had been offered to me as an aperitif.“I’ll see what I can do,” he said and disappeared, never to return.Glancing at the route map I realised that pushing this matter was likely to see the plane making a unscheduled stop in Archangel and one passenger being thrown off.Three rules broken in the course of one meal!I’ve always had a problem with sommeliers, whether they are travelling at 500 miles an hour or not.There is an arrogance about the manner in which they sum you up and then force you, yes you, the customer, the one who is paying their wages, to conform to their rules.You will drink the wine they want you to drink, when they want you to drink it. They will brook no argument.These are the rules after all.Enjoyment isn’t part of the equation. The customer, in their world, is never right.This attitude may be prevalent within wine, but whisky too is burdened by rules – many of which the industry has created: you should only drink whisky before a meal...or after it; you should only drink it with a little water... or no water; you must only have it out of this glass; you cannot drink it if you are a woman; you cannot fully appreciate it if you are under 37.Look at these rules. Every one is a negative. Don’t have it at this time, don’t have it this way, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. Is this really the way to get people to enjoy whisky? I know of no other drink which tries to promote itself by telling people what not to do.Maybe it’s time we threw away the rule book and accepted that whisky is a drink to be enjoyed in whatever way we want, at whatever time we want, at any temperature and by everyone irrespective of sex or age.Maybe then these mythical new drinkers may be willing to try it. Maybe then, too, will supercilious sommeliers be put in their place which, at this moment, I suggest is in a retraining school... in Archangel.