Meet Andy Watts…

I first became aware of Andy Watts when he was invited to give the “Whisky Circus” a talk about his whisky work during the pandemic lockdowns. The opportunity to listen and talk to someone with so much experience will never be taken lightly. Since that day I have always had a bottle of Bains Single grain on my shelf. Think I’m on my 4th bottle. Light, easy drinking, and great value for money, why wouldn’t I? Andy has been in the whisky industry for a long time and I just wish we could get more of his bottlings here in the UK. But for now, let’s hear from the man himself. So, you know the drill, pour a coffee or dram, sit down for a couple of mins and meet Andy.

Andy, thank you so much for taking time out to take part. Please would you tell my readers how are you involved with the whisky industry?
My involvement in whisky started back in 1984 when it was literally a transition from willow to oak. Being previously a professional cricketer, I laid down the bat and transitioned into the world of whisky.
I worked for 38 years at Distell Group Holdings, the marketer and producer of a number of
alcoholic brands. I had various roles over the years – transforming the James Sedgwick
Distillery into what is now the Home of South African Whiskies and managing the distillery
for 25 years before taking up the role as Head of Whisky in 2016. Although I retired in
October 2021, I have been a consultant for the business.
My whisky career has many highlights, not only launching South Africa’s first single malt and first single grain whisky but also being recognised for my contribution to World Whisky:

World Master Distiller / Master Blender 2018

World Whisky Ambassador 2020

Inducted as the 70th inductee into the Whisky Hall of Fame 2021 (the pinnacle of my

I am in the process of launching my own business, The Watts Whisky Company which for
the next 12 months will still be working closely with Distell whilst exploring future avenues and opportunities.

You are a busy man! So, please name your first whisky, and why you have chosen it:
My first experience with whisky was in my late teens and an evening with The Famous
Grouse. The next day I promised myself I would never drink whisky again! Only when I
became involved in the whisky industry did I admit that the “day after the night before” had
nothing to do with The Famous Grouse but fully with my youthful over exuberance.
The Famous Grouse, in my opinion, is still one of the most consistent quality blends on the

That sounds like a familiar story to many I expect. What’s your second whisky?
Without a doubt, Bowmore 12-year-old Single Malt. Everything I know about whisky I learnt from my time spent on the Island of Islay in the late 1980s under the mentorship of Jim McEwan. The island became a spiritual home for me as I fell in love with the natural beauty, it’s people and whiskies. Bowmore has such a special and emotional place in my life that it could not be anything else.

And you final whisky Andy, and why you have chosen it:
I am going to be naughty here and choose two.
The Three Ships 5-Year-Old blended whisky which was the first whisky I launched in my
career back in 1992. It was created to remind me of my time on Islay. A smoky, peaty and
robust blend which with closed eyes takes me back to the shores of Lochindaal. To this day
you will rarely find my fridge without some blue cheese to enjoy with this whisky.
The second whisky is Bain’s Cape Mountain whisky; A grain whisky conceived back in 1999
and launched in 2009, long before grain was seen as anything other than only suitable for
blended whisky. I love working with grain and it just lends itself to different cask types and
has so much to offer.
Both these whiskies have gone on to be awarded the World’s Best Whisky in the respective
categories of blended and grain whisky at the World Whiskies Awards.

As I have noted, I can attest to the Single grain Andy came up with. It’s especially good if you are just coming into the whisky world and want something a little lighter. Great stuff!

If you would like to know more about Andy’s work, as always below you will find his social media details.

Twitter: @TheWhiskyMaker
Facebook: Andy Watts | Facebook
Instagram: @andywatts55


Meet Dave Worthington…

Well, it is a bank holiday weekend, so I have your undivided attention (between chocolate eggs, Simnel Cake and of course a wee dram.). This weeks’ what3whiskies guest is Mr Dave Worthington. I will try not to take too much space here, but Dave (or Boutique-y Dave to many) has been very much a friend and whisky mentor for at least 5 yrs. Dave gave me my first “break” working at whisky festivals, helped build my confidence and taught me whisky “networking”. How he manages to remember so much about every dram is beyond me, and sets him in the ranks of one of, if not the best global brand ambassador in the industry today. In fact Dave has won the “Icons of Whisky World Whisky Brand Ambassador of the Year 2018”, but, like many of us, he started off as a whisky drammer, an enthusiast, and is testament to the fact that enthusiasm, attitude and aptitude will serve you well. So, get your coffee, emergency olives (if you know, you know) and take five to meet Dave….

Dave, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting you, please tell us how you are involved in the whisky industry.
I’m a Brand Ambassador for that Boutique-y Whisky, since 2016.
From a little whisky blog started at the end of 2010, running a small whisky club, hosting club tastings to working alongside brands at whisky shows from 2013, I ended up in the right place, at the right time for That Boutique-y Whisky Company.

Now, given all the drams you get to try, what have you chosen as your first dram, and why?
Cadenhead’s Caol Ila 15 Year Old, Distilled 1991 Bottled May 2006, one of just 378 bottles.
It’s the whisky that changed my life, and I’ve told this story many times over the years…
The seed was originally planted at the end of 2009. Sales Manager and friend, Philip
Maurice bought in the ‘heel’ of a special bottle of whisky for me to try. Initially I didn’t want to even try it, I wasn’t really a whisky drinker. Back then I was a red wine and Guinness drinker (not in the same glass), and I would have a rum chaser in the winter.. But Phil persuaded me that this would be unlike anything else I had previously tasted.
He was right. It was a Clynelish 14 Year Old cask strength whisky and I immediately enjoyed the nose. I can’t remember too much about it and went back to drinking my red wine and Guinness throughout 2010.

Then at the end of the year Phil brought a different bottle for me to sample. I didn’t need
persuading this time, and jumped straight in.
It was another one of his special bottles, and another single cask from Cadenhead’s. This
time it was a 15 Year Old Caol Ila. I was smitten by this whisky – it was like nectar. Phil very
graciously let me take the heel of this bottle home. I’d never tasted anything quite like this,
and was going to investigate further. The following weekend I went out and bought my first
bottle of single malt whisky, it was an Islay malt, but not the Caol Ila I was craving more of!
I still carry a photo of that Caol Ila around, just in case there’s another bottle of it hiding
somewhere…I know it’s unlikely as there were only 378 bottles.

Now, for your second whisky, and why you have chosen it:
I’m going to pick Balcones ‘True Blue’ – as Balcones plays another defining moment in my
whisky life. I went to my first whisky festival in 2012. I went to my second, third, fourth, and
many more that year. I met Balcones founder Chip Tate at one of them, and called him up
early 2013 asking if he needed any help at Whisky Live London. Chip signed us up (my
daughter and I) for helping at Whisky Live London that year. I learnt a lot from Chip, and he
welcomed us back the following year, and at a number of other events over those years. It
was a great introduction to brand ambassador work, and where my whisky ‘career’ really
started, I guess. I’ve always got some Balcones in the cabinet, and True Blue is still a firm
favourite of mine.

And your final dram Dave, and why you have chosen it:
I’ve picked a Rye Whisky from Zuidam Distillers. It was my first taste of rye whisky, and the
one that started my passion for great rye whisky. This was a single cask pick from Milroy’s of Soho back in 2012, a Millstone Rye Whisky, bottled at 46% abv, so perhaps impossible to
find now! However, Patrick continues to make great rye whisky (to be honest everything I’ve
tried from Zuidam Distillers, be it malt whisky, grain whisky, rye whisky, rum, or their
Genever, has been excellent). I really do love the big, bold flavours you get from rye
whiskies. I’m talking about those distilleries that are using a very high percentage of rye, not the minimum 51% that the American standards call for. Some great rye whisky is coming out of European distilleries; Helsinki, Distilling, Spreewood, Kyro, and Millstone, of course. There’s a new wave of American distillers across New York, Colorado, and Pensylvannia rediscovering rye whiskey too, it’s all rather exciting to me. Rye whisky makes the best Old Fashioneds. Period.

It’s always difficult to pick favourite whiskies, especially when I have sampled so many over
the years. I have had some absolutely wonderful moments in whisky, but these are the three defining whiskies of my life. However, ask me what my favourite whisky is – and I’ll always answer: “Usually the next one.”

If you don’t already follow Dave, it’s definitely worth it! Not only does he chat whisky on various channels, but also bread baking, emergency olives, cigars and on occasion dog-sitting! You can find him here:

Twitter and Instagram: @BoutiqueyDave
Company website (if applicable): https://www.thatboutiqueywhiskycompany.com/


Meet Amy Teasdale…..

This week, we get to meet a Brand Ambassador, who doesn’t seem to understand what “stand still” means!! If you follow Amy already on any social media channel, you’ll know she has been bouncing all over the place, chatting about whisky. Another person, who’s smile just brightens any room she’s in. Luckily, she found a few minutes in her hectic schedule to talk to us about what3whiskies have impacted her whisky world so far. So, pour a cuppa, put your feet up and meet Amy….

Amy, hello! Thanks so much for chatting to me. So straight in, can you tell me how are you involved with the whisky industry?
I have been involved with the Spirit of Yorkshire for 4.5 years, and I am loving my role
as brand ambassador. Before getting my job with the distillery I had actually worked
within the drinks industry after leaving college. Mainly behind bars, making cocktails,
and I am also a fully trained barista…drinks and flavour have always been a love of
mine, and so finally working in a whisky distillery is amazing.

When you are presented with a choice of only three whiskies that you want to talk
about, it can be a little hard. There is so much to choose from, and honestly, the
whisky world as a whole, is so varied that if these questions were asked again in a
year, my answers could be different.

Ha! You’re not the first person to say that. But you did it. So, name your first whisky, and why you have chosen it:

Auchentoshen three wood “old style” whisky, 43%ABV. The most delicious of the
Auchentoshen whisky in my opinion. Auchentoshen was my grandfathers favourite distillery
and whisky of choice, and so whenever I get a bottle out of this, I am guaranteed nostalgia.
Sitting down after Sunday roasts with my family, my grandpa sipping away. First whisky I
ever tried was from this distillery, ( Cheers grandad!) and so it will always hold a very special place in my life. Lots of plums and raisins in this, just a fruity syrupy dram.

Your second whisky. More memories?:
Caol ila 18 year old 43%ABV I am a sucker for an Islay whisky, and this is a dram I always
enjoy. Lots of good memories sipping this whisky. Lots of bonfire smoke and sweetness, just
an all around delicious whisky. It is definitely one to share with the people you love the most.

And now, your final choice, and why you have chosen it:
Filey Bay IPA Finish #1 46%ABV – This was my favourite whisky for such a long time,
and the one that really made me realise I was part of something special. The
collaboration between our whisky and our sister company, Wold Top Brewery, gave us
the chance to really showcase the flavours of our whisky, and made for a really
unique experience. Field to bottle IPA whisky, where we matured our beer in our
whisky casks, giving lots of grapefruit hoppiness, combined with the creaminess and
fruitiness of our spirit! Unique and Delicious! Always reminds me of Summer.

If you would like to know more about Spirit of Yorkshire and their whisky, you can find them here: https://www.spiritofyorkshire.com/

And, as always, if you would like to know more about Amy you can find her here:


Twitter : @Fileybay_amy

Linked in : Amy Teasdale


Meet Richard Foster

Richard is one of the busiest, most passionate whisky people I know. He is the founder of the Croydon Whisky Festival and English Whisky Festival and runs tastings locally in South London. So in a timely post (me? plan something? Don’t know what you mean…), please take five mins to meet Richard.

Rich, tell my amazing readers how you are involved in the whisky industry.
I run ‘Exploring English Whisky’ and the ‘English Whisky Festival’ (as well as local tastings
and the ‘Croydon Whisky Festival’ in South London). I’ve been involved in whisky for around
5 years now, but only in the past 18 months has it become my main occupation.
Back in 20I7 I started working at a content studio where Diageo were my client. We’d do
shoots for Johnnie Walker and their single malts range, so I’d get to try all these whiskies
and learn the stories behind them. I became intrigued with the depth and breadth of a
product I’d never really given much thought to before then.
Then, when I moved to Sydenham in 2018 I started running whisky tastings at Ignition
Brewery as a hobby*. It was really an excuse for me to buy and try whiskies I wanted and
get other people to pay for them (!).
These took off and then during lockdown we ‘pivoted’ to online tastings and I decided to do
an English Whisky tasting for St. George’s day. We had 5 distilleries join the Zoom and 50
people sampling 8 whiskies and spirits. It was such a success and there was so much love for English Whisky that we started a membership organisation and put on two online English Whisky festivals – before finally bringing 24 English distilleries and brands together under one roof last year for the first in-person event in Birmingham.
I also run the Croydon Whisky Festival (big promo!! it’s 1st April at Stanley Arts, South Norwood) , which features craft brands and independent bottlers from around the world and is in just its second year, so please come and support us if you can.
*Ignition is a not-for-profit employing people with learning disabilities to brew, bottle & sell great beer!

(comment from Claire: I can attest to how good this festival was, so do see the link at the bottom and grab a ticket. I do have an involvement in the show myself as a brand ambassador).

So, what is your first choice of dram, and why you have chosen it?
I remember a bottle of Bowmore 12, possibly an 18th or 21st birthday present from my
parents, but it didn’t impact hugely on me at the time. I also chose a bottle of Ben Riach on a work trip to Scotland that my colleague offered to buy for me (I was too polite and went for one of the cheaper bottles in the shop!). But I think the first whisky that made me really sit up and appreciate what was in my glass was Johnnie Walker Green Label.
There was half a bottle left after a photo shoot and me and some colleagues drank it
together at the end of the day. Not only was it delicious, but learning about the Johnnie
Walker story and the unique aspect of this being blended malts really got me excited about
the category. I suddenly wanted to learn more about and understand what made this such
an enjoyable dram.

And your second whisky, and why you have chosen it:
It has to be an English whisky really, doesn’t it!
My first English Whisky was Cotswolds Odyssey Barley, back in 2019. I hosted a Six Nations
tasting night with a bottle representing each country and Cotswolds bagged the win for
England with almost blanket votes from the assembled attendees (Puni Alba came a close
second from Italy, interestingly).
Cotswolds distillery has done so much to promote and elevate the English Whisky category
and this bottle will undoubtedly be remembered as the whisky that (I believe) turned the tide for English Whisky and brought it into the mainstream. Dan Szor and the team’s single-
minded determination to create a whisky available in supermarkets the length and breadth of the country deserves the gratitude of many English whisky drinkers today who might
otherwise not have discovered the category.

And finally, your last dram, what is it?

Being relatively new to the industry there are often whiskies that surprise me, add to my
understanding of the category, and challenge my preconceptions of what whisky can be. A
lot of these have been blends (probably because you can get a decent age blended whisky
for less than a comparative single malt) and I’d like to shout out one that really sticks in my mind for a couple of reasons; Yula 21yo from Douglas Laing. I was given a sample of the 20 year old Yula as my secret santa present at work and when I left the role my colleagues hunted far & wide, finally locating a bottle of the 21 (travelling to Mayfair on my last day to get the last bottle).

This blend was divine. It was competitively priced (though now no longer available – I’ve
looked!) and as someone who isn’t a “peat-head” I fell in love with the nuanced peatiness
this dram delivered, alongside toffee & BBQ notes that still make me salivate to this day.

If someone reading this were to take one thing away about whisky, I hope it’s that blends are fascinating, skillful and delicious and to never, EVER overlook them if you’re new to whisky and want to explore great liquids without the crazy price tag!

FINALLY… Thanks Claire for the chance to share my story, I love what you’re doing with
What 3 Whiskies and I’m honoured to be in such esteemed company as your other
interviewees, many whom I know personally, but all of whom I respect professionally and
would happily share a dram with anytime. Sláinte!

(yes I left that comment in, as well, it’s nice to hear.)

You can follow Rich and Exploring Whisky / Exploring English Whisky at the following links.

Social media handles:
FB/IG: @exploringwhisky / @exploringenglishwhisky
Twitter: @exploringwhisky / @explorengwhisky

Company website: http://www.exploringenglishwhisky.co.uk /

Croydon Whisky Festival tickets can be found here: https://croydonwhiskyfestival.com/


Meet Dawn Davies…..

Well, this is a treat. This week #what3whiskies brings to you Dawn Davies. The fact I even managed to get Dawn to take five minutes to be involved is going on my list of lifetime achievements!! For those who don’t know Dawn, she can be found working for The Whisky Exchange as head buyer, but also, and far more animatedly as lead events organiser for such events as The Whisky Show. She is an absolute whirlwind of energy, fun and quite honestly I truly believe she has cloned herself as she seems to be one of the busiest people in the industry with her ability to work and play equally as hard! So, pour a drink, settle in and meet Dawn….

Dawn, for those who have yet to witness your ability to create amazing spirits events, could you tell us how are you involved with the whisky industry?
I have been in the drinks industry for over 20 years. First in wine and restaurants and
then into retail working as the head buyer for Selfridges wines and spirits department.
For the last 8 years I have been the head buyer for the Whisky Exchange working
across all the drinks categories but of course with Whisky at the heart of what we do.
I also have the privilege to head up the events team who run some of the best drinks
shows in the UK including The Whisky Show.

So, today we focus on whisky, lets hear your first whisky, and why you have chosen it: Compass Box Hedonism.
When I first joined Selfridges and started to really learn about whisky Compass Box
was one of the first brands I really tried. I came into whisky with no preconceptions
and to me Hendonism was this beautiful explosion of sweet fruit and soft spices. I
didn’t realize that grain whiskies were seen as ‘lesser’ whiskies by many and still to
this day do not understand those that snub the great blended whiskies and grain
whiskies out there. Not only are they full of wonderful flavours when you find the good ones but also they are a great stepping stone into whisky as a category and
even aged spirits full stop.

And your second choice, and why you have chosen it: Thomson Manuka
Smoke Single Malt. The favourite part of my job is discovering new producers and
new trends and right now world whiskies are on fire. Scotch is getting more
expensive and people are becoming more adventurous so are turning to different
parts of the world to discover new flavours. The wonderful Dave Broom introduced
me to Thompsons and I haven’t looked back. They are from New Zealand and are
using Manuka wood to smoke the barley creating this wonderfully aromatic spirit.
Their whiskies are beautifully crafted and have a real elegance to them and are
definitely my bet to be the whisky that puts New Zealand on the map.

Ooh, will keep an eye out for them! And now, your final dram, and why you have chosen it: New Riff Kentucky Straight Rye – I like my whisky full of fruit but with attitude whether its cask strength, peated or just an explosion of flavour like this Rye from New Riff a relatively new kid on the block in the USA who is doing some amazing things with this tricky grain.
Jeff the master distiller here is also all about the yeast and this is sadly another thing I
am very passionate about. Most people focus on oak and age as the major flavour
provider but these amazing little cells can really affect the flavour of the final spirit
and should be given more love. I think rye whiskies have an exciting time ahead of
them as more people get to know them.

Now, if you want to know more about Dawn (and you should!!) you can follow her exploits here:

Dawndaviesmw – instagram

Company website: http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com /www.whiskyshow.com


Meet Barry Chignell….

Barry is better known in the social media sphere as one half of “The Whiskey Chaps”. Over the last couple of years, he and his partner in crime, Mick, have created a great website full of whisky reviews and resources including maps of whisky shops and distilleries. They also have online tastings on twitter where they pour and discuss various drams with the people who make them. Now, you will note that Barry is a man of few words, so do make sure to check out the online persona to get more of his whisk(e)y thoughts; details at end of interview.

How are you involved with the whisky industry? I run a whiskey resource website as well as regular online tastings with @stillsurreal.

And for how long have you been doing this? 3 years roughly

Barry, what is your first whisky?  Islay Mist: it was my gateway whisky. At the age of 40 I still didn’t like whisky, even though it’s tried to ‘get into it’ for many years. For some reason this whisky, given to me during a lock in at the local on Burns Night, finally clicked with my palate. From there I started to try other whisky.

And your second choice? Currach Single Malt Kombu Seaweed: My first official tasting as part of The Whiskey Chaps and the first truly unique whisky I’d experienced. This Whisky was such a revelation in terms of aroma and taste, but also a great way to discover an ability to identify specific elements of a whiskey.

What have you chosen as your last dram? anCnoc 24. My all time top whisky to date. It’s the first whisky that lived up to everything you want from a whisky. Amazingly friendly, moreish and simply superb. It’s the benchmark for all other whiskies in my opinion. It also led me to explore the anCnoc range and discover over if the most underrated distilleries around today.

Well, I said it would be short and sweet. Barry and Mick (the other whiskey chap) will be tasting new indy bottler Fragrant Drops this evening, Sunday 12th March at 8pm on twitter. Fragrant Drops is owned by George Keeble, who has been a previous #What3Whiskies interviewee. George’s partner Rachel, will be joining the Whiskey Chaps for this tasting. So give them a follow tonight and see what it’s all about. (Don’t worry, if you miss it, details will go up on their website).

Social media handles: @whiskeychap @thewhiskeychaps

Company website (if applicable):  TheWhiskeyChaps.com


Meet Tony “Pancakes”…

Ok, so it’s not really Tony “Pancakes”, but that’s how we know him on the “socials”. Anthony Dillon, will tell you below how he is involved in the industry (apart from asking for music recommendations for mashing time). I decided to publish Tony this week as I was in Birmingham yesterday for *Whisky Birmingham*, so it seemed timely. Anyway, lets meet Mr Pancakes…

So, Mr Pancakes, sorry, this will be the last time I call you that, how are you involved with the whisky industry?
I’m co-founder and distiller at Birmingham’s first grain to glass distillery, Spirit of Birmingham.
Having enjoyed drinking whisky for 20 years, we hatched a mad plan of making our own, in
our home town. After two years of difficulties and applications, we began distilling, in
summer 2021.
Running an English whiskey distillery feels like a bit of a dream at the moment, especially as we wont be able to sell any whiskey till late 2024. However, seeing that spirit trickling from our still makes it all very real. I love to get out there, spread the word and let enthusiasts know what we are doing. The whisky community is a lot of fun and full of characters.
However, most of my day-to-day is making spirit and cleaning the mess up afterwards!

So, what would your first whisky (or whiskey) be?

Buffalo Trace. (Yes a bourbon!) I tried it at the Good Food show when it was kind of new to
the UK. The ambassadors were blind tasting it next to Jack Daniels and Jameson, simply
asking “what was your favourite?”. This was the first time I started to ask questions about
whiskey and what made them different.
The Buffalo Trace was really good, since then and I have always had a bottle on my shelf.

And your second whisky? Why you have chosen it:

Glenfarclas 15yo. This was the bottle that opened my door to scotch. I had been put off by the taste of cheap, readily available, back-bar staples and naively assumed there was something about scotch that I didn’t like. I treated myself to a bottle after trying it in a whisky shop. Finding it agreeable to the sweeter palate I had developed from drinking bourbon and Irish blended whiskey. I remember thinking it was like Christmas in a bottle. Glenfarclas 15 opened my mind to what scotch could offer. I soon realised that I hadn’t even scratched the surface.

Glenfarclas 15 is so good!! So where do you go now you have a taste for scotch?
Benromach Peat Smoke, Cask Strength, 2009 vintage.
Kilkerran sherry cask 8yo 57.1% gets a nod here, for inspiring a search for an alternative. In
a world where great whiskies sell out faster than I can type 16 digits, I found a way to get
over the FOMO by reaching out to the wonderful whisky community, asking for
recommendations based on the style of “that Kilkerran”.
It didn’t take long for for me to end up with a bottle of Benromach CS. Smoke, tick! Sherry,
tick! Cask Strength, tick! Happily, one of the best whiskies I’ve ever purchased (arguably
better than “that Kilkerran”). Probably hard to get now, however, it highlighted the fact that
there are always other options than following the hype train to auction sites.

If you would like to help Tony choose music to mash to, or find out more about Spirit of Birmingham, you can find him at the links below.

Twitter. @MCDrammer Instagram. @m.c.drammer
Twitter. @SpiritofBrum Instagram. @SpiritofBirmingham
Company site: http://www.spiritofbirmingham.co.uk


Meet Bill Linnane…

Well, this should be a fun one. Bill describes himself as “Ireland’s Worst Journalist”, but I will leave that to you to decide for yourself. However my experience of Bill (limited to social media at this stage), is someone who engages with his fans*, enjoys a dram and has a wonderfully dry sense of humour. Definitely someone I would love to share a dram with some day. So please, pour yourself something Irish (or like Bill, something Scottish), and take a moment to meet Bill.

(*hollering, bantering followers on Twitter).

Bill, thanks so much for doing this, please tell everyone how are you involved with the whisky industry?
Proud to say I am but a lowly consumer and occasional blogger.

Well, that was short and sweet. So, what is the first whiskey you have chosen?

My first whiskey in this list will be the first whiskey I ever had, and given that I was a child, I
couldn’t tell you what brand it was. Chances are that it is one of the three whiskeys you
would find in almost any Irish household or pub – Paddy, Powers, and Jameson. I was only
given it to help with a toothache so it’s possible it would have been Paddy, which was
considered good for medicinal purposes or cooking. I can clearly remember my mum
rubbing some whiskey on her finger and then rubbing it into my gum; I was probably only five or six at the time. Alcohol was part of the fabric of life back in the late Seventies or early Eighties; people drank heavily and kids were given a drop of whiskey for a toothache or a bit of brandy for a sore tummy. Whiskey had that talismanic, ritualistic role – you’d commonly find it being used to wake the dead, or to wet the baby’s head. I think some aspects of that remain, but for the most part we are more enlightened now. Nobody gives their kids booze.
It’s easy to say that well, it never did me any harm, but I can see now how self-destructive
my drinking was in my teens and early twenties. Maybe if we had treated alcohol as a
decadent indulgence or a potentially harmful intoxicant instead of seeing it as medicine Irish society might have been a better, safer place for us all. But my kids have a different attitude to booze than I did – my eldest is 20 and she hardly drinks at all, and definitely wouldn’t drink whiskey, mainly because her dad is such a tedious bore on the subject that she has no interest in it.

That’s a really interesting take on alcohol as part of a traditional “cure-all”. What made the grade for your second choice?
Redbreast 12 was the first premium whiskey I tried; it was at a tasting in Midleton Distillery and I was blown away by it. Prior to that I had been rummaging around in blends and slowly building up my palate so when I had that first drop it really struck me of just how good Irish whiskey can be. It’s a single pot still whiskey, so a mix of malted and green barley. There is a long history behind the style, and I try to avoid getting into it because I think life is too short for a lesson in imperial tax law. The style is a hot topic here as the technical file which oversees and defines the various styles of Irish whiskey is seen by some as being misleading – too rigid on what grains and in what quantities single pot still (SPS) mashbills should be made up of. Some of the debate around SPS and the technical file reminds me of the Dogme 95 movement, when directors like Lars Von Trier decided that cinema had become corrupted by special effects and style over substance, so he wrote rules that stripped it back to cinema’s raw core. The end result produced some good films, but also produced a lot of self indulgent crap (many of which broke several of the Dogme rules anyway).

I think there is a danger in hunting for purity in the past, or dreaming of some pre-industrial idyll where mashbills should be more of a harvest cornucopia than a strictly defined category. A new definition is being worked on at the moment so it will be interesting to see what form it takes eventually, and in the meantime there is plenty of single pot still V1.1 out there like Redbreast which is just an excellent product.

Now, your final dram for What3Whiskies, what are you having?
Back in 2015 I was lucky enough to be asked on a press trip to the Spirit Of Speyside whisky festival. I was there for eight days and had the time of my life – going to tastings, ceilidhs, and behind the scenes distillery tours, as well as having some amazing food and drink. I had so many great whiskies on the trip, but of all the bottles I lugged home with me, the one I have kept replacing was the Benromach ten year old. It’s just a belter of a whisky and has a great balance and depth. It is also, like many scotches, far more affordable than a lot of Irish whiskey. I think the trip to Speyside really brought home to me just how developed the Scotch whisky industry is – in Ireland we have a lot of new distilleries and it is all very exciting, but I just don’t think the scene here can compare with Scotland, which is why I consume a lot more whisky than whiskey. I think this is a really vibrant period in Irish
whiskey’s history, a sort of belle époque when we mourn all the distilleries that we lost over the last century but at the same time there is such a spirit of optimism and rebirth with all the new ones, and all of them are free from the constraints of heritage or tradition. Ireland is in a position to really redefine the category and the identity of Irish whiskey over the next few decades and that is really exciting. But for the next ten years or so, I will be mostly drinking scotch, like a traitor.

If like me, you are now even more intrigued to know more about Bill and his musings, you can find him at the following:



Meet Libby Barmby…

I have met Libby a number of times over the last year at various whisky shows. Firstly with the Spirit of Yorkshire team, and now with The Glasgow Distillery. Generally I would hear her first, with laughter and banter coming from whichever stand she is working on. A joy to be around, and her personality bubbles on social media too, so wait no longer; meet Libby Barmby.

Firstly Libby, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting you, can you share how you are involved with the whisky industry?
In the Summer of 2018 I started my employment with Spirit of Yorkshire distillery as a ‘team member’, meaning I did a bit of everything from working in the café to sitting in ‘Front of House’ greeting the customers and later moving on to becoming a Tour Guide within the first few months of my time there.

As soon as my tour training began, I found a real passion for what I was learning, which lead to me doing more events both at the distillery and festivals around the UK. After four and half fantastic years at Spirit of Yorkshire, in November 2022 I moved to Scotland and with the move, bagged myself a job as Marketing Executive with Glasgow Distillery.

So you may say you’re relatively new to the joys of whisky. What’s the first dram you have chosen for what3whiskies?
My first whisky is Glenrothes PX 18 year old. Going back to Manchester Whisky Festival in
October 2019. This was my second festival that I had attended (however the first festival I could drink at as I wasn’t driving). Spirit of Yorkshire (SOY) had just released their first single malt whisky, Filey Bay First Release. With that in mind I’ve pretty much been ‘brought up’ on really young whisky, some stuff so young that it wasn’t actually whisky yet. Something that soon became the norm was to be sent off by Joe (Joe Clark, Whisky Director at SOY) to find a dram or two to enjoy. You know? Research.
As you can imagine with this festival being my first that I could drink at, I was a little bit like a kid at Disney World. I can only remember two or three of the whiskies that I tasted, one of those being the Glenrothes 18. With little knowledge of what kind of whiskies I liked other than the stuff we had at Filey Bay I was really surprised at what I got from the Glenrothes dram. It really stood out for me as normally I tend to enjoy a whisky with a bit of a kick to it (going back to being brought up on young whisky/spirit) yet the soft sweet notes of the whisky certainly ticked the box and the whisky soon went on to the Christmas list. It became the whisky I looked for behind bars etc to finally get another taste (unfortunately Santa never brought me a bottle), which finally happened in the Pot Still in Glasgow early 2022. To my surprise, my taste has obviously changed over the years as I didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as I had the first-time round, but still, an important whisky in my journey so far.

I love your thoughts around whisky shows, and yes “research” is very important!! What’s your second whisky, Libby?
The second whisky for me is Filey Bay STR* Finish. This whisky will always hold a special
place for me. From my first sip of spirit from an STR red wine cask I’ve been hooked. I
wasn’t particularly a red wine drinker, or a wine drinker at all for that matter when I first tried it so it came as a surprise to me. Of course, this meant I had to try the red wine that had seasoned the cask, Rioja. With a bit of help from Joe and Amy (UK Brand Ambassador for SOY) over the years, I started to really appreciate the world that is red wine. For me, the
STR casks always leave a little tingle on the tongue which is something I really enjoy from a whisky. STR casks have been my go-to since the release of Filey Bay STR Finish back in 2020. Basically, STR casks define my favourite profiles in a dram.

*STR – Shaved, Toasted and Recharred. This is a process created by Dr James Swan. It’s a process of rejuvenating casks and bringing about flavour profiles from the wood. Give it a Google!

So what is you last whisky, and why has it made the grade?
Having said that about STR, my heart is currently in the world of peat. I grew up in a place
not far from Loch Lomond and so this was often a place my family and I would visit during
the summer. With that in mind, Summer 2021 found us in Loch Lomond where I went to visit the whisky shop found at Loch Lomond Shores, a place called Stevie’s Drams. I got chatting to the gent in there who offered me a dram of something good which I simply couldn’t say no to. The dram this gent gave me just happened to be the Peated release by Glasgow Distillery which is finished in a PX cask. This was one of the first Peated whiskies I had tasted that I genuinely enjoyed. A nice, sweet smoke rather than a peaty smoke if that
makes sense? I think of this whisky as my first step into the world of peat which as I may
have already said, is currently where my heart is (and probably will be for a while yet).

Big thanks to Libby for her time, and I look forward to seeing if these three drams change at all over the coming years.

You can find out about the Glasgow Distillery here:


And you can follow Libby here:

Twitter @DramaticLibby

Instagram @dramaticLibby

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/libby-barmby-546436222/


Meet George Keeble…

George was one of my first main contacts in my whisky journey. He was working at the Soho Whisky Club in London, and helped get me started on my whisky story, pretty sure he poured me a Linkwood. That was a long time ago. Since then George has travelled and worked in Australia with Starward Whisky, has his own whisky wholesale business and has just launched “Fragrant Drops”, his independent bottling company. So lets get to know what 3 whiskies have marked out his whisky life.

George, you’ve been around whisky for while, but can you tell me what you do now?

I operate a whisky wholesale business, through which I sell bulk whisky that’s still matured in the cask. We also source spirit for bulk blended whiskies for export.

I know you from Soho Whisky Club originally, so I know you have had the opportunity to try some great drams. What’s your first choice?

Blackadder Raw Cask ‘Blairfindy’ 1964 (45YO) – Cask Ref. 4713 – 53.4% (single cask) –
Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
My whisky career began back in 2011, as a part-time barman at Soho Whisky Club, in
London. During the following 6-7 years, I was fortunate enough to sample countless brilliant whiskies at work. This ‘Blairfindy’ (an unnameable Glenfarclas) was bottled by the world-renowned independent bottler Blackadder. It is one of the finest whiskies I’ve ever had the great fortune to taste. It is very rich, very dark and very complex – a true ‘Sherry-bomb’

Wow, so where do you go after that? What’s your second dram?

Starward ‘Nova’ – 41% (small batch production) – Australian Single Malt Whisky
After several years of pouring drams and hosting tastings at the aforementioned Soho Whisky Club, I found myself yearning for a career change. With a longing to learn whisky production and a newly-acquired brewing and distilling certificate under my belt, I left London in search of distilling experience. I chose Australia as my destination.
As luck would have it, I managed to snag a distiller job – at Starward no less!
It’s nice to think that there are bottles of Starward in the world that were mashed, distilled,
filled, re-racked, bottled or labelled by yours truly. Fully matured in Aussie red wine casks, the Starward Nova is bloody delicious!

That’s a pretty cool legacy to have. Now, your third and final dram, what have you chosen?
Fragrant Drops Ardmore 2009 (14YO) Mezcal Finish – Cask No. 9001334 – 55.9% (single
cask) – Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
Fast-forward a few more years and I have found myself where I am today – running a whisky cask wholesale business and on the cusp of launching a brand of indie bottling – Fragrant
Drops. (note, Fragrant Drops was launched in January 2023). Shameless self-promotion aside, starting an independent bottling range has been a dream of mine for many years. This Ardmore 2009 single cask, which has been finished in a fresh Mezcal barrel for a full year, was one of the first casks I purchased with the hopes of one day bottling. And it has finally, after several delays, been bottled. If you can find a bottle, I recommend it!

If you wish to find out more about where you can buy Fragrant Drops, you can find it here:


George’s cask business is here:


George is also on Instagram -whiskywithgeorge


Meet Emma Ware…

Emma is a member of the Glen Moray Distillery team, and I blooming love her! Why? Well, like me she is an advocate of the “C” word, and is #TeamManzanilla (a Glen Moray Warehouse 1 release), what more to like? Annoyingly she also seems to keep houseplants alive far better than I do. So , please take a couple mins to meet Emma.

Emma, thank you so much for taking time out to be part of What 3 Whiskies. I suspect a lot of drammers on social media know who you are, but for those that don’t, tell us a little about your involvement in the whisky world.

I have been with Glen Moray Distillery for almost 14 years now, here at the Visitor Centre. I also help with national shows and festivals, brand promotion and anything else that comes up. My main job is to make sure that each of our guests; whether they are coming to the site, to a tasting or to a festival stand; has a fantastic Glen Moray experience. It may be their 100th time trying our whisky or their first, but they should leave not wanting it to be their last.

In my time with Glen Moray I have seen the expansion and development of both the distillery itself as well as the range of whiskies we produce. I’ve been lucky enough to help choose new casks and unlucky enough to have to hand bottle and label entire releases, both of which can alter your bias towards a dram!

So what would be your first whisky?

Bowmore 15, an easy first choice as it is one of my favourite drams. Always a comforting and warm whisky, something that puts me in my happy place. Always a bottle in the house, and not one I grudge paying for at the bar either. It’s not my typical go to style which makes me love it more.

And your second? Is this where it all started?

Ardbeg Supernova – the dram that opened the door. I remember being very VERY new to the industry and someone gave me a sample of Supernova to try. I had never really had, and certainly hadn’t enjoyed any peated whisky up until that moment. It was less of a “I like that” moment and more of a “I survived that” feeling, I clearly remember thinking ok I definitely want to try more peated whiskies now.

Yep, I think peated was where I had my first “hello whisky” moment. So, your third whisky, what makes the grade?

Glen Moray 2003 Chenin Blanc

This was a single cask we bottled by hand at the Visitor Centre back in 2011 and it’s still one of my favourites. It encapsulates everything about my favourite type of whisky, it’s young, full maturation, cask strength and intense characteristics, essentially a very tasty kick in the face.

Emma can be found hanging around the dark corners of Twitter here:





Meet Colin Hampden-White

I have met Colin a few times now. First introduced to me at a whisky show, our mutual connection being Dave Worthington. You may know Colin from his writing for various whisky publications and of course, he is one third of “The Three Drinkers” along with Helena Nicklin and Aidy Smith. Here are Colin’s #What3Whiskies;

Colin, thankyou so much for taking time out of your busy life to share your whisky history. Can I ask, how are you involved with the whisky industry?

I am a journalist, TV presenter and I am a director of Cask Trade. I started in the industry just thirteen years ago in 2009 writing with LUX magazine and Condé Nast. Nowadays I spend my time writing for Club Oenologique, and the on-line magazine for ‘The Three Drinkers’; I also make a podcast called ‘Bring a Bottle’ which is ‘The Three Drinkers’ podcast. I also enjoy advising Cask Trade, which I think is the best cask trading company out there, otherwise I wouldn’t be working with them. We supply independent bottlers all over the world and help those wanting to live the dream of owning a cask of whisky.

Your first whisky then, what was it, and why you have chosen it?

Lagavulin 16 year old. When I was a teenager on a shoot in the boarders of Scotland, which my home country, it was a freezing cold day and I was frozen to the bone. A game keeper took pity on me and handed me a hip flask. It warmed and cheered me up, and I thought it tasted amazing. I was told it was Lagavulin in the hip flask. My love of whisky started then.

Moving onto your second whisky now, what did you choose?

Mortlach 70 year old by Gordon and MacPhail. This expression was launched at Edinburgh Castle in March 2010 and up to that point I had not tasted any very expensive or whisky older than 40 years old. I had always wondered if the super rare and expensive bottles of whisky were worth all the fuss. This whisky showed me that this one at least certainly was, and that there would probably be many others to come which would be just as good. It remains one of the top ten whiskies I have ever tasted. That day was also a day I’ll always remember of meeting old and making new friends with a reception and dinner at the Castle.

And your third and final dram please…

Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old. In the world I work in I get to taste a great deal of whisky. Time is spent writing notes, analysing, and contemplating the quality of each whisky. Although I take great pleasure in my work, sometimes I just want a whisky to drink. If I can’t think of what I might like, I’ll always reach for the bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label. It has great complexity with lots of fruit and touches of smoke, but above all it is easy to drink, mixes well with a lot of different mixers, and takes water well. It’s a pleasure to simply enjoy the drink and not have to think about it. It also doesn’t break the bank and once I’ve finished a bottle, it goes on the shopping list, and I replace it. I believe it is the best all round whisky in the world.

You can find out more about Colin’s work at the following links:

Instagram: @champdenwhite

Twitter: @champdenwhite

Linkedin: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/colin-hampden-white-7063498



Meet Sophie Pashley

I first met Sophie, virtually, via The Whisky Circus a couple years ago. She is a rising star in the English whisky industry, working as a brewer and distiller for Cooper King Distillery in York. A wealth of knowledge, great palate and pure joy to be around. My memories of Sophie during the UK lockdown were very much about post-it notes when she was studying and of course #FreeJosh (some may know what this means, others won’t, but lets just say a source of amusement for many)….anyway, over to Sophie:

So Sophie, I’ve given a info little about you already, but lets hear from you; how are you involved with the whisky industry? and for how long?

I am a brewer and distiller at Cooper King Distillery in York. I’ve been working in the drinks industry since I was 19 years old and have been making whisky by hand for the past 3 years. I’m a huge advocate for showcasing that the whisky industry is for everyone. I believe that bringing more diversity to a currently male-dominated industry, will help create a more sustainable, a more interesting, and more varied world of whisky for everyone to enjoy.

There has been some great progress, with many fantastic women in whisky, creating incredible products, making leaps and bounds within the industry. Though, we’re not there yet. The day I feel the whisky community is accessible for all, is the day I’ll finally stop talking about it!

So what is your first whisky, and why you have chosen it:

Whisky has been a part of my life since I was a toddler, holidaying on Islay, playing around in peat bogs. Bruichladdich Classic Laddie was my first ever dram, my first Islay whisky, and my first beverage that made me realise alcohol isn’t all burning stuff! Laddie is light and floral with sweet barley undertones, which is perfect for someone who is just old enough to drink… It will always remind me of good times, and always tastes as great as the first time I tried it.

And your second whisky, why this one?

Loch Lomond Single Grain (unpeated) is my second choice. The Loch Lomond team have created a wonder here: malted barley distilled in coffey stills creates wonderful, spiced apple pie notes. It’s incredibly good value – under £30 a bottle – and always one I keep in the drink’s cabinet. It’s blooming fantastic, and a rarity to find such a good dram at this price.

And your last whisky, what made you choose it?

My third whisky is Ben Nevis, 12-Year-Old, White Port Pipe Finish. The balance between spice, sweetness and alcohol is exquisite My appreciation for how they blended this so perfectly has increased tenfold since I started blending whisky myself. I’m not sure if my Dad still has one buried away in his collection, but I may have to persuade him to crack this open at the next special occasion. Now a hard to find whisky, it was the one dram that made me consider a career in producing the sweet stuff myself.

Social media handles: Twitter & Instagram: @whiskysophie

Twitter: @CKdistillery | Instagram: @cooperkingdistillery

Company website (if applicable): https://www.cooperkingdistillery.co.uk/


We need to talk……

……four words that would on occasion make a cold shiver run down my spine. But I’m not here for that conversation.

I’m writing about the need to talk.

To talk. To converse. To communicate. Effectively.

We need a dialogue, a tete-a-tete, a consultation, a sit down and thrash this out.

We need more than one person or group in a room, constructively talking with each other. Not a Zoom or panel where one group is talking to a group of people who already agree with them and nod encouragingly, while being silently observed by many others.

We need to be constructive in our comments, and to quote many a good leader “don’t come to me with problems, bring me solutions.”

Fairly sure all the above can be applied to myriad situations, but this is my whisky blog, so you already have an idea of where I am going.

For those who may not know, I am ridiculously enthusiastic about whisky; not just the drink but the people, even more so those people who are new to whisky. I have enough experience in working at whisky events, working in male dominated industries, working as a leader, managing people, managing projects and in my endless career a serious bent for Health & Safety.

I am also a brand ambassador for a whisky company.

Just over 3 weeks ago, the London Whisky Show took place at Old Billingsgate. As usual it was three days of fun, ridiculously demanding work, seeing so many people. Meeting old friends and new. The show had its highest numbers ever (I think, maybe I will get TWE to confirm), but it was busy. It wasn’t the first show since CV19, but an uptick in attendees.

For those who don’t know, the layout downstairs is quite open with space to move around. Upstairs is a little more compact. Stands facing each other along the “corridor” and are packed in quite closely next to each other.

Now, here is my H&S head:

  1. I pulled our stand out a little to give space to be able to move around easier. It can get a little claustrophobic behind a small busy stand, plus when surrounded by lots of people you need a way out. It’s quite simple. You need exit space.
  2. I made myself aware of who is around me exhibitor wise, talk to people, be aware of who my neighbours are.
  3. Know where security is. Who are they? How are they dressed? How can I contact them?
  4. Read the exhibitor pack. It holds the information regards H&S during the day, contacts etc.

So, under HASAWA 1974, as an employee, I have done my checks. As an event organiser TWE have done theirs. This is the conversation. This is two groups working together. Now, the last part of this conversation is the client. On the website there is a code of behaviour for everyone who buys the ticket. This part is the “unknown.” TWE had taken measures regards behaviour expectations from visitors at the show, but what they can’t do is know that everyone has read them, taken them on board and will behave accordingly.

So next step is further risk management. This is in the form of security, exhibitors agreeing their part of the H&S contract. The rest? Well, that’s down to people holding themselves and each other accountable.

Having worked in area’s that need high level H&S legislation and enforcement, I can tell you now, NOTHING is ever perfect and not every scenario is covered; new ones pop up all the time.

Now, I’m an eyes everywhere person, watching and monitoring crowd behaviour, understanding from experience which session may have more issues than others. Saturday afternoon can be quite fraught at this show. More people, more alcohol = more problems.

I used to be a Licenced Door Supervisor (a bouncer). If you’ve met me, you’ll appreciate I am suited to that job. But it came with amazing training, and I have a skill set many don’t. I can see who may cause a problem and when, sometimes hours before it happens. But we’re not in Minority Report so you can’t remove someone because they MAY behave a particular way. But my skill set also gives me the confidence to be able to step in and deal with problems should they arrive.

It also means that when I am in a room, or any kind of space, I am looking for doors, exit routes, and with regards to whisky shows, how stands are set up, how people are behaving.

Now, next to my stand was a stand monitored by a full female team, who are not particularly tall (fact not opinion). That stand was busy, and should it have had any problems, trust me, no-one would have seen it. The exhibitors would have been blocked from view very quickly and easily. So, a conversation needs to happen about set-up, and we need to design more safety into that somehow.

So, with all the work done to make an event welcoming and safe, there will still be people who have a negative experience, whether they be visitors or exhibitor/event staff.

To recap:

Organisers have done full due diligence regards H & S.

Exhibitors have done full due diligence regards H & S.

Visitors have been advised of expectations and various other H & S on the website.

These are the three parts of this conversation.

So, what happens if someone has a negative experience?

Well firstly, we need them to speak up, if possible, at the event/venue. The sooner the team know of an issue, the quicker it can be resolved, and the person supported appropriately.

If that wasn’t possible for whatever reason, then as soon as possible after, contact the event team by email or telephone. My advice is always put something in writing. Your experience is important. Your thoughts are important. There is NO silly scenario. If you felt blocked from getting to the stands to enjoy the whisky, say so. If you felt ignored by exhibitors at a stand for whatever reason, say so. But say so to the people involved so the next conversation can start. The conversation that is about your experience, and what can be done to try and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

If a stand was too busy there can be many remedies: firstly, the simple one, walk away and see if it’s a little less busy later. If it was too busy all day, then the feedback is that that stand needs to be bigger, or in a different space.

Thirdly, if you have the confidence (and I say if, because I know too well that many don’t) find a way to speak to someone on the stand. In all my time doing this work, which is few years now I have not met ONE exhibitor who doesn’t want to take a little time to help someone. Most of the people who do this work do it out of passion…because its too much hard work to do just to earn a crust. We want people to have an enjoyable experience.

Now, what doesn’t work is not speaking up to those who can help. Speaking blankly into social media to highlight a displeasure or negative experience is useless. The entire world is not on social media and many of the bigger company’s socials are not managed in-house, so your comments will not go to those who can help you.

Social media is not a space for meaningful, constructive resolution behaviour. We see it every day, we know this.

There is also an element of unfairness in bringing something to social media without having been in conversation with a company/person first. Give them the opportunity to listen and help you. Your conversation with them could highlight something they didn’t know was happening and can also lead to change in company training, behaviours ect and not only does this help you, but everyone else who then visits that show or venue.

In all these spaces, events, venues etc if a person has behaved in such a way to negatively effect another person, verbally, physically etc and they can be identified, then something can happen to remove the privilege of attending such spaces. A ban can be put in place, a membership revoked.

But in order for these things to take place, we need to have those conversations.

I don’t believe in “X-only” spaces. But I do believe we can make things easier for people. I personally am not great in crowded spaces, and if my head isn’t in the right place, I can have a panic attack. Could event organisers arrange shows that are a little quieter? Less people? A different set-up? I expect so. But has the need for that ever been identified, I expect not. Not in a direct constructive way anyway. It’s likely a ticket may cost more due to overheads of an event taking in less people at a time, but its still an option and yes, it should be looked in to.

So, lets start talking to each other better. We can find solutions together and we can all attend an event or visit a venue feeling confident that we will have a pleasant experience.

And my commitment to you, as a visitor, as a fellow exhibitor, as member of the whisky community, I’m keeping my eyes out for you, I will listen to you, and I will help you.

As always, love to you all.




Oh, I get by…..

…….with a little help from my friends.

 I realise I don’t write on my whisky blog very much and there are various reasons for that; I don’t cover what other people already cover. I only really write when I have something I feel is worthwhile saying. Oh, and I don’t do reviews here. (sometimes on my Instagram, but not churned out like there is no tomorrow, I mean how many times can one whisky be described from one persons point of view….)

But looking back on my posts, something they seem to have in common is people, my observations of people, behaviour, kindness, but always about people. And this is what I love most about whisky. It’s all about people.

So I wanted to use this little space provided to me via the world wide web to highlight some of the people that have made an impact on my whisky life so far. This thought process was triggered by bumping into a whisky industry acquaintance in Milroys and me happily telling him I’m now a brand ambassador. His response was so positive and supportive that it triggered this whole thought process. It’s been quite the ride and well, I never expected to be doing what I am doing, so read on if so inclined.

Let’s start with my dad. He liked a dram, I remember Johnny Walker Red being in the house. I remember when I was old enough to buy him a bottle for birthday or Christmas, I would agonise over it, knowing absolutely nothing, then realising that it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. He would do a bottle of Naked Grouse (I thought the bottle was pretty), in two days over Christmas. But I also remember hating the smell of whisky and retching when I smelled it. I vowed it would never be a drink for me. My dad passed away before I really got into whisky. It’s sad that I will never share a dram with him. (It would have been the cheap stuff mind you!!)

When I did make a move towards drinking whisky it was off the back of a health diagnosis. Ironic eh? But essentially it boiled down to finding a “clean” alcoholic drink, that would pretty much be all I could drink. So, from hating the smell deciding it’s now the drink for me, I needed help. I approached the Soho Whisky Club, London. Where I met George Keeble. I explained the situation him, and he signed me up to the club and served me my first real dram, a Linkwood. From that moment on, I immersed myself in whisky (not literally, though it could be interesting) but I tried to visit the club every couple of weeks, I went to tastings, bought bottles and began following whisky people on Twitter.

After a while my relationship with the SWC dwindled and another whisky friend, Jason Vaswami introduced me to Milroys, Soho. Well, that was the beginning of a new beginning. Milroys staff are a rare breed. Their knowledge of whisky, customer service and welcoming demeanour is EVERYTHING. It’s why I keep going there. Now, Eddie de Souza was, for me the main man in Milroys. Extraordinary knowledge, his perception of client and their palate outstanding. I never make a second decision in Milroys. I make the first, what mood am I in, then ask the staff to suggest a dram. Happens every time I visit.

Back to Eddie. When he had time, he took time. Time to chat, to engage, to teach, to connect people. It’s a rare skill and I will always be thankful for Eddie’s guidance on my whisky adventures. I would also mention Simo here too. Simo owns Milroys and has allowed me opportunities many who want to work in the industry would die for. I have worked at Milroys Spitalfields both in the Dram House on the whisky side and in my day job, designing the big moss wall in the cigar terrace. It really is one of my favourite projects.

Another person who has had a HUGE impact, and actually got me started working every now and then in the industry is Mr Dave Worthington (or Boutique-y Dave to many).

I met Dave via Twitter and one day he let me know about a Boutiquey Whisky tasting at Black Rock Bar, London, would I like to go? Now, meeting a person off social media can be a little dodgy. But I went. Dave was an absolute delight and remains one of my favourite people in the industry. We chatted whisky all evening. Towards the end he asked me I would fancy doing a stint at a whisky festival at the Oval, Kennington. My initial response was to do myself down and state that I knew very little and probably would be terrible. Dave responded with, “Well, you’ve just chatted with me for three hours about whisky, you’ll be fine.” And I was.

Dave has been a cheerleader promoting women in whisky, giving people a chance and sharing his encyclopaedic whisky knowledge. From that first conversation I have worked at a number of whisky shows and continue to build my own knowledge and experience.

The person I mentioned right at the top of this piece is James Goggins, who at the time I first met him was working with Atom and was running the Boutiquey tasting where I first met Dave. I have since bumped into James in various places, as you do with the industry. So when I saw him last week and told him what I am doing now, he was happy for me. He mused that some people want to be in my position (BA) and that very few get there, he was genuinely thrilled for me. It made me realise, again, what a privileged position I find myself in.

The next person I want to thank would be Sorren Krebs. At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, Sorren set up The Whisky Circus and invited me, amongst many others to join. This little group of whisky enthusiasts, from the UK, Europe, Canada and more became a wonderful family of drammers. Not only were there whisky tastings, online parties (no, I can’t talk about them, what happened at the Christmas Party, stays at the Christmas Party), but some really lovely and genuine friendships came about, and although I stepped away from the Circus some time ago, those friendships are still there, with friends visiting from France, and me actually leaving London to travel ‘norf’!!

Via The Circus, I got to know Richard McKeand from Mackmyra. He helped us organise an exclusive bottling which was lovely. One day, Mackmyra invited me to be involved in an online tasting of Bjorksav with Angela D’orazio. A while later I was invited onto the Mckmyra online Pub which was great fun.

And now, here I am working with Mackmyra (freelance) as a brand ambassador, where last week I held a whisky tasting in Milroys, my first solo outing and it was brilliant fun. The feedback has been excellent.

There are so many others in my adventures, Graham and Faye Coull of Glen Moray and now Dingle fame. So welcoming, so lovely and I genuinely can’t wait to get my A into G and sort out a trip to Ireland to visit them. Warren and Craig, brothers from north London. When I busted my foot in 2019, I had to spend a lot of time at home recovering (long story), and these gents kindly “encouraged” (dragged) me back into society and I will always be grateful for that.

The thing is, I never set out drinking whisky, with a mind to “working in whisky”, it’s been a natural and fun progression and I have no idea if I will take it further or just stay where I am. All I know is this; every person you meet in whisky, whether as customer or as an industry bod can have an influence on your journey. And I can honestly say that most are bloody lovely!! Yes, even you!



Just keep walking….

…says Johnnie Walker.

And they/he are right. In a world that is just hard work right now, we can only just keep walking.

Don’t worry, its not going to be a heavy blog. In fact, I am going to indulge in a little bit of reminiscing over a trip I had to Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago. It’s basically a review to be honest, but in two parts. So grab a dram and settle in.

Part one is about my attendance at a tasting, and part two is about visiting the Johnnie Walker Experience.

I’ve never been to Edinburgh before and a couple of months back I was contacted by a member of the “International Wine and Spirit Competition” (IWSC) team, to invite me to a the  IWSC Scotch and Worldwide Whisky Tasting, 2021.

The section of the day I was able to attend was to take part in tasting whatever I wanted from a selection of approx. 250 gold and gold-outstanding medal winning whiskies from all over the globe. Now I must admit the old ego did swell a bit. I’ve never had the opportunity to attend something like this before. I checked travel and accommodation costs and realised that yep, it was game on.

Now, I haven’t stepped foot into an airport for a couple of years, and quite frankly I was so happy to be flying again (even if only to Edinburgh) I didn’t even mind the irritating child in the seat behind me!!

My first Airplane in almost 3 yrs

I got into Edinburgh, jumped onto the shuttlebus and within 30mins was happily checking out my hotel room. Next morning up and out around Edinburgh until the tasting in the afternoon. Edinburgh is just perfect for me. Lots of architecture, walking, mooching, exploring. Coffee, haggis and whisky. What’s not to like?

In the afternoon I made my way to The Balmoral. When I made my way to the whisky tasting itself, I honestly thought that people would be there talking us through the whiskies and it would a bit like a show.

NOPE!!!! There’s the whisky, here’s a glass and off you trot. Free pour, drink what you want and try to not make a tit of yourself, and, dear reader, you’ll be pleased to know I didn’t.

Table of Whiskies at IWSC Tasting Event

In fact it was quite a sedate affair. Firstly, the overwhelming issue is “where do I start?” what do I try first and why that one? Do I go for age or colour, country or reputation?

Well eventually I settled in and tried to ensure I tried some that I haven’t before.

Here is a little run through:

Abosolo – Mexico, 2yrs old.

Arran Sherry Cask

Glenfiddich Gran Cortes XXII

The Dalmore 25

Swiss Mountain Single Malt 8yrs

Golden Blue – The Summit 20yrs (South Korean)

Canadian Club The Chronicles 43yrs

Lark – Chinotto Cask release (Tasmanian)

Mountain Distilling Company, 3 yrs Red aged Gum cask (Australia)

Stork Club – Smokey Rye  (German)

Glenmorangie Sonoma Cutrer Reserve 25yrs

Ardbeg Committee “Discussion” 8yrs

Ardbeg 25yrs

I’m not going to say there was one amazing dram, because they are all amazing for various reasons. Even the one that I really did not take to had some merit. My sole purpose here was to explore, and I did.

Apart from whisky, the other great part was of course meeting people. And I noticed that it seemed the majority of the people attending this particular event was female. Now, it was trade and press; Are there more females in the press side of whisky? Or was it just that way on the day. Whatever, it was noticeable and welcome. I met some great people and it was lovely to talk whisky, be introduced to new whiskies. However, word of day was “Interesting”….

Mr Johnnie Walker

Now, as the song goes, “Lets, skip to the good bit”.

The Johnnie Walker Experience. I could not visit Edinburgh without visiting this new and well publicised attraction.

I will wax lyrical, I will sing its praises from the rooftops and I will tell you to visit. (Note, I was not invited, I paid for myself and so this is a completely honest review). I will try not to give any spoilers. This is new and I think you should all have your own experience of it, not mine.

I booked the “Journey of Flavour” tour.

The Johnnie Walker experience starts when you book, before you even get there. When you book your tickets online, you will be sent a “taste” questionnaire. Now, I will say two things. 1) DO THE DAMNED QUESTIONNAIRE and 2) the wording I feel needs to be adjusted. It asks how “often” you experience flavours, not how much you like them. I personally feel you should answer on “like” to get the best experience later on.

When you arrive, the team will welcome you, explain the process of your tour. They will help you take a selfie with the Johnnie Walker Statue if you want to. When the tour begins it’s like being welcomed to the factory run by Willie Wonka. (I did ask at one point if the walls are lickable!!)

This place is SLICK. It’s stylish. It’s modern, bright and airy. It makes you walk around with your mouth open and eyes flitting all over the place.

Now, as I said I’m not going to give out spoilers. But I will note the following:

Johnnie Walker is owned by Diageo, and Diageo are a very forward-thinking company. Innovation runs through the veins of the company, and innovation ran through the veins of Johnnie Walker.

The whole tour is informative and fun.

The building and the experience are designed for looking to the future while acknowledging the past and experiencing the present. It IS designed with social media in mind and this isn’t a bad thing, it’s an “engaging with your audience” thing.

As an example, at one point, when you are sat in a futuristic bar, sipping your personalised cocktail, you are told to move the wooden board to one side. Under the board is a light. You are advised at the point that to take a good picture for Instagram, you should place your drink over that light.

Not bad……..

There are a number of points like this on the tour. Those people at Diageo and JW, they know exactly what they are doing. They are bringing a brand screaming into the social media age with fun and engagement. And it works.

You are taken through the tour by a great technical and visual experience, along with a score that really excites you and, in some places, involves smells and tastes to accompany all of this.

If you didn’t care about or take seriously Johnnie Walker whisky before, you will emerge from this with at least an appreciation for the drink.

I was like that a little. I have a bottle of Black label at home, never touched it. When I got home after visiting JWE I was inspired to mix a cocktail and add it to my #12Under30 list. The appreciation at least is there. Then I went to a tasting and tried the Green Label, 15. Now I’m hooked.

As with all attractions, when this is all over, you “Exit through the gift shop”. And here, again is a good experience. The staff are quick to acknowledge you, quick to assess if you want/need help and are quick to adjust to that. So there is no hovering or pushing, but helpful if you want it. Spot on.

Now, if you are a whisky nerd, you’ll probably know a lot of the history and how whisky is made etc. That’s ok. YOU WILL STILL ENJOY THIS.

If you are tagging along with the whisky nerd in your life and you aren’t much of a fan, that’s ok. YOU WILL STILL ENJOY THIS.

I want to go back to experience the restaurant and based on the menu, again they demonstrate a modern thinking approach. Instead of leading with meat centred meals, it’s all vegetarian forward, to which you can *add* meat.

There is a driver/non-alcoholic option for the tour, so do tell the guide.

So again, in the words of Johnnie Walker “Keep Walking”.

Claire xx

27 November 2021

Links to IWSC and Johnnie Walker Experience




Can’t find the words for the whisky…..

…well sometimes, neither can I.

I haven’t written here for quite some time. It’s been a bit of a year hasn’t it? And I always said, I will only write when something triggers me to do so. Much of my thinking time this year has been captured by politics and climate issues, and when I have a spark of a topic, it’s disappeared pretty quickly as more important thoughts come into my head. So with all that in mind, I haven’t written much. I won’t ask for forgiveness, I never said this would be a regular gig.

Many people blog about whisky therefore many topics are covered. I won’t necessarily write about any particular whiskies here as there are great whisky review blogs out there. You don’t need my opinion as well.

I have however embarked on a little series on Instagram called #12Under30, where I choose an easily accessible whisky to write about. The whole idea is that its always under £30, easy to find and doesn’t bust your budget, especially if you are new to whisky. Its at @cevokins on IG.

Now, believe or not, all this rambling on does lead to the point of this piece, and why I am writing it.

I’ve been drinking (and enjoying) whisky seriously for around 9 yrs. 7 of which have been ‘guided’ and yet I will still call myself a newbie to the drink and the industry. Others may disagree; I have around 80 bottles (all open) at home, ranging in price from £20 – £800+, though the average is around £65 – £80. I have a couple of hundred dramples (drams/samples) from swaps or tastings. I have had the privilege of working for a well known independent bottler at London whisky shows over the last few yrs, I have had a stint at Milroys in Spitalfields, and take part in online tastings. In reality, I can hold my own when chatting about whisky, but I do it my way.

You see, I still feel, as I said quite new to whisky and my early experiences still sit quite fresh in mind.

I remember my first paid for, professionally given tasting at The Soho Whisky Club. I felt so out of my depth. I was in a room of what I thought were experienced whisky drinkers and as we were going through the drams all these nose and palate notes were being thrown around and all I could think was this “Vanilla, I can taste vanilla”. That was it. By the 5th dram I was half cut, promising to buy a bottle of Coal Ila and had another 2 drams to go. (I learned pretty quick you don’t have to drink the WHOLE dram at a tasting, I also learned to bring my credit card with me).

But back to the tasting notes; vanilla. That’s all I could name for my first few tastings. Then one day I got blackcurrant, I wrote it down and showed my friend. When the person giving the tasting said that we may pick up black currant in the notes I was elated!! I was getting better.

It actually took me a good year or so to my head around a couple of things. Firstly, my palate wasn’t rubbish, it was just not used in the way we use it in whisky. Most of taste is from smell, its also very much from suggestion (hence if you ever meet me on a whisky table, I will not give you tasting notes before you try the whisky). The way the brain works with the scent and taste senses is complex. A fleeting smell, less than a quarter of a second can trigger a memory or a feeling, and then that connects to the smell that was there with that memory or feeling and if you are lucky you can name it. But more often than not, the process is so quick its gone before we can recall it.

Other times the smell and taste are wonderfully obvious, and we can connect them quickly to words.

Over time I have found my nose and palate has developed well within my own parameters and experience (this is important!!!). For example, I will never say I can detect crème brullee within a whisky. I’ve never had one, so how can I. But for me the same whisky may give burned brown sugar and custard creams.

I also have little tricks I’ve learned to detect different smells in a whisky, from how I angle the glass, to closing nostrils (one at a time), to breathing in through my nose with my mouth open (try it, weird but you get different scents). I also still rub a little of the whisky on the back of my hand, let the alcohol dry off and I am left with another layer of scent.

When drinking, I sip first, enough to cover my tongue, but not enough to swallow, make a note. Then a normal sip, make another note. Then a 10-20 second stint just holding the liquid in my mouth, make another note. Take a sip, hold my nose, hold the liquid for a 10 secs, swallow, release nose, make a note. All these little exercises get the liquid and tiny particles to different parts of your mouth and nose, and all those parts give different experiences of scent and flavour. But please believe me, I only really do this in tastings.

Going back to my point of “Can’t find the words for the whisky”. The other day I was on a tasting, a few of you reading this were likely on that same tasting (it’s an online Twitter one).

The whiskies we were trying were created by their team to be accessible both financially and by flavour for the drinker, especially those who are new to whisky. With that in mind I entered into this tasting with my “newbie” head on. If a whisky is to be for a new drammer, then its not going to be complex with multiple layers of nose and palate notes. It needs to allow the drammer to identify at least one flavour note easily, it’s a confidence builder. And for me, these drams absolutely nailed the brief. They were simple, with between 1-4 main notes. They were sweet. They were very smooth. They avoided all the things that people who don’t like whisky say; “it burns, it makes me retch, its like TCP”. One was a little too one dimensional for me, but that’s me, someone who has been drinking and tasting whisky for coming up to a decade, not someone who recently decided to try whisky.

As the tasting went on, I was amused (amused is the politest word I can think of) when I saw notes with lists of seven or more scents/tastes per dram. Look, you can say “Custard cream, crème brulee, hints of Devonshire clotted cream with a dash of Madagascan tesco finest icecream” as much as you like. But in reality you’ve used 4 terms to describe vanilla. JUST SAY VANILLA!!!!

Again, these drams were not complex nor crafted to be and I feel sometimes we forget that. If I was new to whisky and was told that whisky “a” at cost “b” was a great place to start your whisky journey, then saw all these tasting notes, I would be terrified that I was a complete idiot if I couldn’t find all those flavours.

The online tasting community is brilliant, but I do feel sometimes there is a weird competition to come up with the most complex, unusual tasting notes. (Nosing I understand, it is more evocative than tasting, but seriously!!). Do we really need ten ways to describe lemon? Do we mix flavour up with something else? Sweet is sweet, salty is salty, and they sit at different parts of our mouth and tongue. Lime and salt trigger the same part of tongue, they are interchangeable. Wet and dry, thin and thick, all what we call “mouthfeel”, literally how something feels in your mouth.

I do understand that tasting notes are likely from personal experience, but honestly, when was the last time you laid in a field eating sweet sticky sileage with a side of burned Pirelli tyre rubber?

Continuing with words in whisky, I saw a conversation the other day where a whisky had been described as “entry level” and that peated whisky was a seen as a point of being a more experienced drinker and if you like it you have progressed. What absolute nonsense.

Using this kind of language really keeps the “club” going, like there is some kind of progression route and until you can drink “a, b and c” then you can’t try or appreciate “x,y and z”.

There is a thing called “Dunning – Kruger” syndrome/affect, and I do wonder if this is part of the situation. (Google it, is that you??)

There is no hierarchy and if people try to claim one, they need to check their drinking ego. My first whisky was Aberlour 12, hated it. My second was Talisker 10, blooming loved it. My preferred whisky has always been peated, and oh, I love a filthy Ledaig. My whisky collection is probably a 70/30 split of peated/unpeated.

Words like entry and beginner can either degrade the person drinking it, or the whisky itself. If it’s an easy sipper, like the drams we had on the tasting noted above, lets think about using the word  “accessible”. Open for everyone. Maybe we can have something a little more complex afterwards to balance the tastebuds?

Whisky is an inclusive drink, so I for one will be more careful about keeping that inclusivity with the words I use. I don’t want to be responsible for putting someone off what is fundamentally a wonderful drink with a wonderful (generally) community drinking it.

Final thoughts: Its just a drink. Drink it how you want, don’t worry if you can’t find the flavours everyone else is (they’re probably making it up anyway). Find your own flavours, from your life experience, find the scents from your own memories.

It’s your whisky, in your glass, in your hand and only you are drinking it. (though I will question your tyre eating habits).


Claire 30 August 2021


Peat VS Peat…

The reason my site is called “Can’t see the wood for the whisky” is because I wanted a space that incorporates my interest in horticulture (see nature, climate, sustainability…) and my love of whisky.

I came into both around the same time, about 8 years ago. Horticulture became my day job and whisky, my drink of choice. As time has gone by the relationship between the two becomes ever stronger and as stated, you can’t have one (whisky), without the other (horticulture).

One of the topics that challenges me personally is Peat.

So I stand before you now, and state “My name is Claire, and I love peated whisky”.

This statement makes me a hypocrite, because in my day job I am very much for ceasing the usage of Peat, but my word I love a dirty, filthy peated whisky.

My original purpose for this article was to break it into two separate posts and examine Peat from a horticultural perspective and a whisky industry perspective. In my research however, I ended up heading down rabbit holes that all lead to the same place, especially within the whisky sector.

Everybody is talking (writing), but there is little demonstrable practical action right now. So, this will be a mixture of opinion (mine) and website links to various projections of “We will”. I wanted this to be factual and offering guidance, but I sort of can’t, because right now the pertinent information I was looking for simply hasn’t been made available….yet.

Peat: what is it, why is it important?

If you don’t already know, then either you’re a climate change denier, don’t care or simply haven’t got to that point of wanting to know.

Here is a good explanation from Garden Organic:

Peat comes from peat bogs, it is an accumulation of partially decayed organic matter. Because it is stored under water, it doesn’t release carbon as it decays.  Peat bogs are the largest and most efficient carbon store on earth (10 times more carbon per hectare than any other ecosystem, including forests) and they are an important defence against climate change.

Peat | www.gardenorganic.org.uk

The more you read into it, the more you find that peat is a really important part of the ecosystem and our future survival.

From a horticultural perspective:

Peat has been used for approx. 40+ years as a growing medium. Mixed into compost it holds water well, adds no nutritional value (so directed nutrition can be added) and when dry is extremely light, making it cheap to transport.

The total amount of UK peat for horticulture is around 25%, the rest generally comes from Ireland and Eastern Europe. Recently Bord Na Mona, have announced that they will be ceasing peat harvesting. This is a very positive move, however on reading the PR a couple of other companies will continue to provide peat for horticulture.

Bord na Móna announce formal end to all peat harvesting on its lands | Bord na Móna (bordnamona.ie)

My take on peat usage in horticulture is this;  For hobbyists its not required. There are companies supplying good alternatives using a variety of materials. The hit and miss of these products is far more “hit” than “miss” these days.

However, some growers may state that the new materials are not quite good enough for their requirements. I will disagree. Some companies are fully unpeated and doing a roaring (pre covid) trade.

Secondly, I would also ask if compost is even required on the scale which we currently use it. If you’re buying plants, they generally already come in nutrition heavy compost to help get the plant started. If you’re growing from seed, then you may require some compost, but not much.

Think on this; how often have you walked through woods, meadows, forests and seen teams of people every year out there adding bags of compost to the woodland floor? You don’t. Nature takes care of this with leaf drop, soil inhabitants and wildlife. Compost is NOT needed.

In your gardens you are constantly working against nature and have to bring items in to create a faux natural environment. If managed properly, aligned with nature, you’d never need to buy compost again (but that’s a piece for my hort based pages).

Peat from a whisky perspective:

Those of us who enjoy a peated whisky are enjoying a by-product of a historically necessary practise. Peat has been and, in some areas, still is, a material used for burning to create a heat source. In whisky that heat source was for heating the Pot-stills. It was and still is for some distilleries used as part of the process of drying malted barley.

Peat from different areas can give varying flavours to the malted grain, and this then is transferred into the whisky. I personally prefer a sweet, coastal peat, to an inland more herbal peat.

I could sit here and wax lyrical about peated whisky, but that’s not the purpose of the article.

The bottom line is this: peat is no longer a necessity within the production of whisky. It’s not required to heat the stills, its not required to dry the barley. Those things can still happen without peat. Peat is now a preferred luxury.

So, the same as plants can grow without peat, so too can whisky be made.

Now, I can hear the cries “Oh but the whisky industry is *only* +/-1% of total peat usage, leave us alone, and focus on the bigger users!!” and I get it, my tastebuds agree with you. But it’s still peat.

I spent quite some time over the past two weeks emailing distilleries, global whisky brands, the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association), even malting companies to try and find out if someone would be willing to answer some questions about peat use in whisky.

In fact only one company responded regarding sustainability, and one lovely weather forecasting Mr Brodie gave me some great background information.

 Is there an acknowledgement of the climate issue, would there be a response?

Well, yes there is. Both the SWA and Diageo for example have highlighted the usage of peat, and how it aligns with the overall  global actions from the UN (United Nations) Sustainable Development Goals. Many are talking about Net Zero emmsions. Well, if you are using peat, you’re not quite hitting that.

I digress.

This link goes to the SWA Insights page and gives some great info on the plans for the future:

Scotch Whisky Sustainability (scotch-whisky.org.uk)

This link focuses specifically on peat and Scotland’s landscapes:

Scotch Whisky: Caring for the Land (scotch-whisky.org.uk)

This is also part of the SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) action plan:

Scotch whisky sector plan | Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)

Diageo have released the Society 2030 programme which incorporates all manner of responsibilities, from people, to water to land.

Our Role In Society | Our Priorities | Diageo In Society

The biggest negative for me is the timeline. 2030/2035/2040/2050. All these numbers are far away and much damage can be done in that time. Personally I rather see steps taken now towards this.

The one company that did respond said they are waiting on the Peat Action Plan, which is yet to be published.

Can anything be used in place of peat for flavour? Well yes and no. We already char barrels for a smoky effect and some distilleries are experimenting by using other materials within the drying process for flavour. Mackmyra are well known for the use of Juniper. I know its not peat, I know it won’t give that particular profile, but…planet or peated whisky?

Both in horticulture and whisky, the issue is being talked about and planned for. But we are still waiting for that plan for peat in whisky.

So, with all this in mind, how do I feel about peat? My conscience struggles, I’ll be honest. I think where I can easily do without, I will. So, in my day job, no peat. I’ve been doing this for a while anyway.

The process Bord Na Mona has taken is logical and effective. People have been part of the equation and have been retrained to work in the company in the sustainable sector.

Regards whisky? Well I feel comfort in the fact that *something* is happening, I will feel more comfort when I see it happening.

What I don’t want is for all the chat, to remain just chat. Eventually a government will make an order, and rather than a planned phased reduction, which will keep people in jobs, and support distilleries, the process will just be stopped. With such an abrupt seizure, businesses will be lost. Best to plan ahead and adjust on your own terms, than on enforced terms.

As an addition to the research, I asked whisky Twitter its thoughts:

The use of peat in the whisky industry is now more of a choice (flavour) than a necessity (burning for fuel). As we all know (or should), peat is vital to the planet for biodiversity and Co2 sequestering. How would you feel if the use of peat was stopped in the Whisky industry?

Not a problem hate peat – 16.3%

Wd miss it but understand42.9%

No Peat? Whats the point? – 35.5%

Other (please comment) – 5.3%

245 votes·Final results

Will I still drink peated whisky? Yes, but I will reduce how much. I may only be one person, but every small action, from every single person, can create a big impact.


23 01 2021

Note: The picture at the top of this piece was taken by me, at Keston Common, Kent. It’s a peat bog that is now an SSSI, and was used regularly by Charles Darwin for his studies.


My Last Sunset……

Sounds a bit ominous doesn’t it? Maybe it comes across as a bit whimsical, or maybe it sounds like I’m not feeling great and could be contemplating seeing my last sunset.

Thankfully, it’s not that bad but given the year I and many have had it would be understandable.

The last sunset I saw was Tuesday evening on 24th November 2020. I was on my way to meet a whisky friend and grab a socially distanced takeaway coffee. Well, that’s what I thought.

Rewinding just a little, let me explain why this sunset was so important and why it stood out for me.

I see sunrise more regularly than many people. It’s one of the joys of being a gardener. We work daylight hours and generally begin our day early. We have a natural affiliation with the seasonal rhythms and take an almost nerdy interest in weather. Our work depends on it. Even at weekends or on days off, I will still witness a sunrise, and will bask in the warmth on my face.  

This year however, due to various restrictions and trying to do my civic duty, when I wasn’t working, I was indoors at home. My only window faces east. So it turns out that I can’t remember seeing a sunset this year. That small, guaranteed, taken for granted event that happens every single day had not noticeably made it’s way into my life this year, and the realisation hit me hard. I wasn’t expecting it, and when I did see the sunset on Tuesday, it choked me up. It made me realise how closed off my world has become over the last 10 months. On many levels I have found myself feeling lucky; my job enables me to be outside, I’ve made friends with an amazing group of people in the whisky world, some old relationships have faded, and some beautiful new ones have come about. I thought I had this year sorted, within the realms of what we have been allowed.

However, the thing that has become apparent, that all this time indoors by myself, set away from other people has led me to think that a lot of the outside world isn’t there, isn’t available. Yes, I’ve been walking and going to wonderful parks and green places and yes I have on occasion met with friends, but not regularly.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my own company and I’m good with being alone. But the intensity of this year has led me down a path I wasn’t aware I was on. I have become ridiculously isolated and I didn’t really know it. The sunset on Tuesday showed me this.

Now, back to the sunset.

I was meeting my friend around 4.30pm to give him some whisky samples. It’s good to share!! I got off the train at Shoreditch High Street, stepped outside the station, turned right heading to Commercial Street…and looked up. The sky was glowing purpley-pink and any reflective space was doing the same. I haven’t seen something so stunning for such a long time and it stopped me in my tracks. I saw an area that I normally absent-mindedly walk through in a completely different light…literally. I saw the colours of the amazing street art in the area glowing from the walls, the lights from the hand carwash creating an almost blinding, clinically white space. I was seeing London.

Upon meeting Thom he suggested we head to Brick Lane and Bethnal Green. Not being over familiar with the area, I followed his lead. Thom is a “Whisky Slinger” and works at Milroys, Spitalfields. On occasion I have the *pleasure* of his company when I either work at or visit the bar. His industry experience is far reaching, and I was just about to experience his local knowledge.

Now, we are in a national “lockdown” and the hospitality industry has been hit significantly. I have seen brand ambassadors gradually get laid off over the year, businesses shutting down and some, luckily have been innovative and diversified their offerings. Virtual tastings have been the huge success of the year, small whisky groups have been set up and meet in virtual pubs. Bars, such as Milroys have created tasting packs to be sent out to clients to then have online tastings with staff, cocktails have been bottled and made available for purchase.

What I hadn’t been aware of, was how other bars had managed. Walking down Brick Lane with the temperature dropping, the waft of Bagels, takeaways and general street smells were beginning to kick in. Thom headed towards a bar that looked closed, but once we got there the front window was open and there were various offerings of takeaway cocktails, hot drinks and canned beers. Welcome to The Cocktail Trading Company.

I had an Irish Coffee. Not just any Irish coffee, the cream part was infused with Tumeric. We spoke with the team there for a bit, cradling the coffee. Enjoying the contrast of sweet Jamesons whiskey, the bitter coffee, the slightly salty turmeric cream. Trust me, it was so good!! We grabbed a couple of cans of IPA and wandered towards Bethnal Green Road.

Its dark now, the windows of shops that are open are misted up with condensation and its cold. I can’t remember the last time I wandered London streets at night drinking alcohol…but I’m loving it. I’m starting to “feel” again, to experience more than my isolation. Along Bethnal Green Road, food shops with open frontage displaying all ranges of fruit, veg, meat and fish are open. On the other side of the same pavement are market stalls selling their wares. People are there, bustling about and doing their shopping. It’s noisy with people talking over each other. It feels normal.

I cracked open my can of IPA and continued to enjoy sublime, noisy, smelly normality of London.

Next stop was “Coupette”. A French inspired bar with a nod towards Brandy and cocktails. Again, the same system; a selection of takeaway cocktails was available, served from the front window. This time I had a Mulled Wine, served with (if I remember correctly) Hennesey. Warming, slightly dry, spicey…served in a takeaway bottle and plastic glass. Just a hug in liquid form.

From here we travelled a bit further along the road and came to our last stop, The Sun Tavern; cocktails and Craft beer in a Rustic space (so says Google maps). There was quite a number of people milling around (socially distanced of course), having a drink, smoking a cigarette. I looked through the hatch into the dark bar and could see a warm, welcoming space. Rows of spirits behind the bar and I made a mental note to return in more normal times. Meanwhile a lager was purchased. As we stood chatting watching the world go by, people-watching and just doing those things that were so normal, so unnoticeable in the past, I found myself witnessing my city through new eyes. Seeing the vibrancy, the community, the support. Feeling normal and sociable (very unusual for me). Also feeling a bit rebellious, this is us, this is London, we will get through this.

We were joined by a friend of Thom’s, and so we remained for another couple of pints and I think, another mulled wine. We were also joined by complete strangers. You know, the “interesting” guy in the pub, who has a lot to say, but says nothing at all; who doesn’t stop talking, makes comments that really should be called out, but you just listen, waiting to see what he may say next, whilst swapping wry smiles with your mates. Standard pub entertainment. And yes, it was getting colder. And no, you can’t use a toilet (men have this a little easier).

Eventually I had to call it a night and get home.

On reflection, this is probably one of the best nights I have had in many years.

Firstly, it wasn’t planned. All the best nights are unplanned.

Secondly, it gave me hope for the hospitality industry. It’s surviving by the skin of its teeth, but it’s surviving.

And lastly for me, it made me feel human again. I experienced the thrill of the unknown, of discovering a world I live near, but not in. I experienced a small adventure and some excitement. I felt I had been let in on a secret which few know. It reminded me of living in Bristol where I ran pubs and lived the hospitality industry, the unwritten rules and the community spirit.

I felt re-grounded. I felt a little more “Vokins” than I have done for a while.

So, wherever you live go out around sunset, and see where it takes you. You may just find yourself in a different world.

(The pic at top of piece was taken by me in India, 2015. No photos were taken on the night this piece talks about, because I was just soaking up the moment, through my senses, not a lens.)

NB. For anyone who may be experiencing feelings isolation, loneliness, anxiety or depression, please reach out to someone.

This link for UK may be helpful:

Mental health charities and organisations – NHS (www.nhs.uk)


He said, she said……..

Just over a week ago the whisky industry was rocked by the highlighting of language and opinions given in a well known and dare I say, once popular, annual publication.

Before I go any further, I will just say that at times during this piece you may think I don’t agree with the general feeling many have. I do. However I also see things from a different point of view and have taken some time to get my thoughts in order, before issuing a knee jerk reaction.

I understand the “why” of the situation. Why it was highlighted and why it should be addressed. But I do have discomfort with the “how”. More on that later. First, lets talk about me (far more interesting).

My working life has been very much in male dominated industries. I studied aeronautical engineering and worked as an aircraft mechanic. I have also worked in the construction industry. I now work in the horticultural industry and sometimes get paid to work in the whisky industry. I’ve run pubs, played on boys sports teams at school and generally find men far easier to get along with than women. I am not a girl’s girl. I sometimes view myself as the world’s worst feminist, other times the best. Why? Because as far as I am concerned any person should be able to do any job, follow any dream, play any sport, drink any drink they want, without having to justify their position. That said, I know real life is far more nuanced than this.

I sometimes say I do not believe I have been subject to sexism and stereotyping and I can be flippant about it. But if I was pushed, then yes, I have, but how I handled it was purely on me.

Me in my school years:

Sir? Can I play basketball? No, only a boys’ team. Well, then I want to play on that team.

Teacher checked the rules, I could play till third year, then we got a girls’ team going.

Sir? Can I go to the RAF for work experience instead of working at the hairdressers? Don’t know, we’ll look into it. Yep, there’s a company that organises it.

I had two weeks at RAF Odiham, which helped me confirm my career choice at 15 yrs old.

Me in early work:

Apply for jobs working on aircraft. Goes to interviews. Gets jobs. Works damned hard. Learns how to handle “banter”. Isn’t quiet. Gives a good as she gets.

One of my favourite experiences was when I worked at Elstree aerodrome. I needed the toilet more often on one day in particular. The toilet for females was about half a mile away. There wasn’t one in the hangar. No females had worked on shop floor before. On my third trip of the day, the chief engineer came out and instead of just talking to me, shouted across the hangar “Oi, Vokins…where are you going?” “Toilet.” I replied. “Again?? You’re taking the piss.” Everyone had stopped to listen to the interaction. So I shouted back “I’m on my period, I need to change my tampon!!!!” Silence.

He turned on his heel and walked back to his office. The lads all cracked up and clapped. 2 weeks later a female toilet was installed in the hangar.

I’ve never really thought hard about this incident; until a situation arises some things are not seen as an issue. Was it sexist to not have a toilet for females? Or was it just something that hadn’t been deemed necessary before, because women in that industry was just not common at that time? I never worried about it. It was advantageous to some extent, I got longer breaks.

Working in construction, the only issue I ever had came from another woman. “Queen Bee” syndrome is a thing, and its evil.

But again, had I experienced stereotyping and sexism? Yes. When I walked buildings to discuss the installation of communal heating systems and other M&E projects, the visiting engineers would talk directly to the male site managers and not to me, even though the site managers were effectively my subordinates. Always amusing when after remaining quiet, I would ask technical questions and provide solutions to problems discussed.

Maybe this wasn’t the way to go about educating people that women do these jobs. But in the same vein that a black person isn’t responsible to educate a white person on how not to be racist I didn’t see it and still don’t see it as my responsibilty to educate someone on how not to be sexist. My responsibility was to do my job, on time on budget. I don’t see women working in construction as something to be highlighted, just accepted. Same for the aviation industry, same for……EVERY INDUSTRY.

So here I am again, associated loosely with another male dominated industry, watching it implode. There is a difference here though. The people working in the industry so far, in my experience are very much on board with women working in it. It’s not treated as novel, its normal. But there are some consumers who remain in the dark ages, and its those consumers who pay the money to drink the drink, so generally marketing and media plays to that audience.

The highlighting of the language within the publication will be seen as a positive move. However how it was done sits a little uncomfortably with me. One person, one publication, has been made scapegoat for an industry both by suppliers and consumers.

There is no place for sexism in any industry. In fact, there is no place for sexism.

When the original #MeToo movement had its time, there was a point where ALL industries could have and should have looked at themselves and adapted their diversity and inclusivity agendas and procedures. This movement could have been an umbrella to hide under, to change the narrative and gently ease into a more inclusive way of operating without making a big deal about it. Yes the #MeToo movement was more about actual physical harm and/or abuse of persons and of power, and the issue today is more about language, unconscious bias, micro-aggessions, but surely action could have be taken sooner.

This issue was highlighted last week. Why not last month, last year, last decade? Why does it matter now? I agree, time does need to be called on such language, and these things normally require a guarantee of support and a catalyst. So here we are.

Social media communication makes it so much easier to observe the behaviour of companies and people, and it allows the spread of ideas and collaboration in a fast paced manner. But it also has the same speed for negative news and views.

When the original post came out regarding the publication, I retweeted it. I agreed with it in general. What I should have done in hindsight was think about my role in that retweet. Yes, the language used was archiac, vulgar, not of this century. But the vitriol, the perceived bullying in return seems unjust to me. Within 48 hrs a number of companies in the industry issued statements in support of the post. But scroll through the Instagram posts and marketing material of these companies and you will see they are loaded with pictures of men drinking whisky and very few women. This makes the statements seem disingenuous. To me these are companies wanting to publicly fall on the right side of the issue. They felt they had to say something. Great, well done, you issued a statement. Twitter approves.

These statements quite frankly mean jack. They are a holding statement. They are the swan that looks calm and regal, while in the back-office companies are frantically reviewing posts and marketing to see if they too are complicit. Legal teams and PR are creating strategies just in case previous staff come forward with statements of negative behaviour towards them.

Social media is an uncontrollable animal and the companies who remained quiet are deemed to be on the wrong side of the argument. We don’t know that. They may just be taking a strategic look at themselves, making changes and quietly moving forward. Yet they are still judged.

Actions speak volumes, not words. Let’s see what it looks like in 6 months or in 2 yrs…will it quietly return to the status quo, or will there be change? Slow change, to me is better. We must make sure we avoid tokenism. It happens, and it can backfire.

Many have berated the author of the publication for their response, which was angry. Of course it was. This person has supported and raised awareness of whisky as a wonderful drink for many years. Many have happily accepted the awards without question, enjoying the publicity, the marketing and profit generated. The companies were complicit. We, the consumers were complicit.

Within a short period of time some companies have cut ties and stated they want nothing to do with the author. Well, that’s gratitude for you. But its also normal behaviour. It’s looking at the mirror and realising you are just as bad and no-one wants to be seen in a negative light. Social media creates a pack mentality and we’d rather be part of the pack, than be prey.

As has been mentioned a number of times, this is just the start of “the conversation” (God, I hate that phrase!!). Lets not sit around talking. Do something, but also don’t do something.

Don’t start going over marketing and behaviour from companies and people prior to this “moment”. Trust me, there will be dirt in the cleanest of houses. It wastes time. It wastes money. It can ruin lives.

Do draw a line. Accept that none of us is innocent. How many have heard stories, heard comments and NOT said anything in defence of the person to whom the comment was directed? Believe me I have judged men and women on what they look like, what they are doing in that moment of 10 mins that I met them and never saw them again. I have objectified people. I loved a “diet coke break” as much as the next person. I have drunkenly pinched the backside of a good-looking man in a bar. I am not innocent. I am human. (and yes, in true social style I expect to be “cancelled” for that admission).

Going forwards, many of us are in a position where we can instigate change, through example and education. Not calling out and humiliation (and yes I am guilty of that too).

We can show that the industry is a great place to work in. For long term change we need to show young people that the drinks industry is an inclusive industry, and that yes, you do need to have STEM subjects to be able to create great drinks, and yes you can make money from it. By showing that the industry can be welcoming both financially and personally, it will attract a broader scope of people, and a natural balance will come about. It will likely take another decade at least to see the impact so we should be careful about how we support each other in making that transition.

Anything else?

Yes. Lets consider our thoughts on those social media accounts that are basically good looking people (generally women) who are posing (generally scantily dressed) with bottles of whisky. Are we ok with that? Or should they be called out too? Frankly I really don’t care. People should be able to do what they want. But in saying I don’t care, is it a double standard then to say that it’s not acceptable within the industry either as a supplier or a consumer? Just a point to think about.

I’m not the youngest person about. Which means a few things; it means I have had to at times create my own path and not rely on the support of “social conscience, diversity and inclusivity” to help me, it wasn’t there, but I was. It means I had to grow “Claire-sized balls” and learn to hold my own. Do we really need someone to point out the use of language, to point out issues of diversity…or should we learn to be more assertive in our own way?

It means too, that I have come to the point where I see that sometimes, by trying to be so inclusive, we can sometimes create further division and alienate people. It means that to me, the world is pretty much divided into two; those who are arseholes, and those who are not.

Even when someone is perceived as doing wrong, I feel there are ways to deal with it using education, empathy and compassion. We should try consider the effect of our actions on others in all situations.

Final thought: We don’t raise ourselves by pushing others down.

A #what3whiskies update….

Just a small message to note that I will be taking a small break from #what3whiskies for a couple of months. As some of you may know I am studying for a degree with the Open University and I have a couple of exams coming up, and I will be dedicating more time to ensure I get my pass!!

But fear not!! #What3Whiskies will be making a return mid-end July and I have some great people already lined up to bring you their memories and stories.

And now, it’s your turn; the blog is getting people talking and I have had a few people reach out to me to see if they can take part. So far I have maintained my “rules”; ie I need to know the guests; either I have met them in real life or I interact with them on socials a fair amount regards the golden dram. Secondly, it’s not a sales pitch and I have no affiliate links. Basically I do this because I love whisky and I (mostly) love the people I meet through the industry. That said, if you would like to hear about anyone in particular, maybe a blogger or someone who works with a brand you like, or maybe you have a story you want told via the #what3whiskies format, contact me on the email address below and I’ll see what I can do.

Do not offer to send me samples. Do not think you can sell through me. I won’t publish, simple. But if you wanna share a story, then hit me up.