May 15, 2018

Following our successful gin tasting last year, the idea of another tasting – of sorts – was easily conceived. A quick conversation with the ‘Master in Waiting’ last autumn endorsed the idea. Although whisky tends to be a lot more ‘marmite’ than, say, gin, that didn’t seem to dilute the response by our Liverymen and their guests – who numbered 31 in total.

The equivalent of the Gin Guild (who hosted our gin tasting, and has direct links to the Worshipful Company of Distillers) doesn’t exist in the whisky trade. So, we found the next best thing (in my mind) – the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which is a Members Club that buys casks of whisky, bottles them, and sells them to their members. There are no additives – not even water, so all the Society’s whiskies are ‘cask strength’ (typically c 60%) – and we had five of them to taste!

Our host was the very passionate Chris Dabrowa, who gave us a quick precis of how whisky is made. One thing I noted is that the ‘peaty’ taste doesn’t come from the water that’s used; peat is added to the fire that roasts the germinating barley.

We were informed about the different types of oak barrels that are used; typically they are either old bourbon or sherry barrels – and the impact the barrel ’s previous use has upon the whisky. And, as we tasted, we decided whether/not to add water; typically we didn’t!

The range on display was from ‘young and spritely’ to ‘old and dignified’ – and the same description could have been made of the guests.

The volume of ‘chatter’ steadily rose as the evening progressed, and smiles became broader. This lovely relaxed atmosphere just might have encouraged me to purchase a bottle; I know I wasn’t the only one.

One ‘note to self’ that I took is that once a bottle of whisky is opened the clock starts ticking, as it begins to oxidise.  The less whisky in the bottle, the faster it needs to be drunk.  Pencil in a max of 2 Ys in your cocktail cabine – which means that I need to polish off a few bottles; a nice problem to have!

Max Elvidge

Chairman of the Livery Society