World Whisky of the Year

Islay single malt Ardbeg has won the World Whisky of the Year title in the Whisky Bible 2008 (a much better Good Book than the Good Book). I heartily approve; there’s a rapidly diminishing bottle of Ardbeg in my malt collection here in Woolamaloo Mansion and it is a damned fine malt. Along with Bowmore it is one I often recommend to people who aren’t used to single malts as a very smooth drink, easy to go down but still with a lovely combination of scents and tastes (scent and taste being inextricably linked). Recently I had to dissuade a Norwegian friend who kept putting ice into his whisky from doing so – it isn’t just insulting to the drink, it ruins it, since a glass of good malt should be held in the hand for a few moments to warm it with your own body heat, not chilled by ice like some cheap, trashy bourbon like Jack Daniels (which isn’t a whisky, I don’t care what the adds say, it’s a bourbon and not worthy of the title ‘whisky’, even if they mis-spell it with an extra ‘e’).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a whisky bore, I’m not one of those folks who can take a sniff and say, ah, that’s a 15 year old from the Angus Og Distillery on Auchenshoogle which has rested in oak barrels on the left hand side of the building… Nope, not that good – I can tell a good malt from a crap blend, but I’m not an expert. What I do like is – and increasingly as I get older – is enjoying the full range of a good drink (or food for that matter) and the includes the temperature, the scents that pre-inform my taste buds, then the taste on the tongue and, just as important, the after-taste it leaves. Malts come in such a complexity of colours and tastes and aromas that they are a delight to the senses and should never be treated like some cheap spirit with a few ice cubes, it isn’t just a drink, it is an experience, a sensual experience of pleasure.

I tend to take the same approach with my coffee – I take the time at lunch to brew proper, fresh coffee rather than instant and every day before I drink it I take a sniff and let the aroma tingle my senses first. It turns an everyday happening into a sensual pleasure and makes me appreciate it ten times more, it tunes the senses and delights them. You can do the same with good cheeses, wines, all sorts of things; don’t just drink it down or stuff it in, take a tiny bit of extra time, take it slightly slower, appreciate it, revel in it (and since someone took time to make it well, you should take a bit of time to appreciate it in turn). It’s the difference between a quick peck on the cheek and a long, lingering kiss. And it makes everyday life more pleasurable.