Whiskyography was inspired from experiences where special whiskies, special people and special places have come together to create wonderful memories.
The concept behind Whiskyography
The concept behind Whiskyography is simple – drinking whisky should be an experience and with each experience there’s a story. The best whisky experiences depend not only upon what you’re drinking and with whom, but also the setting – the where. Whiskyography is where I share reviews of whiskies I’ve had and the background about the places and situations where I drank them.
Whisky is a global spirit – it is produced in many different countries and is often consumed far from where it is produced. We often drink whisky in company and these shared experiences, where people come together to form connections, tell stories and celebrate, contain moments that enrich our lives. Alternatively a dram of whisky alone can be a relaxing, contemplative time and the whisky becomes the focus allowing us to explore the alchemy that gives us such wonderful, diverse spirits. Either way whisky is made to be enjoyed, whether it be around a campfire, from a hip flask on a mountain hike, in a bar, at a birthday party or in a comfortable chair after a hard day’s work.
This blog aims to celebrate whiskies from around the globe and to tell the stories of where I end up drinking them.
To this end I aim to choose a special location to enjoy each dram and add to the entire experience.
One of my aims is to give you a perspective on what each whisky is like, in case you’re thinking of buying a bottle, but more than anything I’m trying to encourage you to go out and drink whisky with great people in amazing places. I hope that Whiskyography will inspire you to try whiskies from new regions and seek out special places, maybe somewhere far from home, to enjoy a dram (or two).
How are the reviews done?
I do the reviews on location, in the moment. I use the glassware you see in the photos and I make notes as I drink. Sometimes I’ll need to do a second tasting (at home out of a tasting glass) if I think something about the experience might have impacted my ability to review the whisky (less than ideal glassware, salt spray blowing into my fave, camp fire smoke or simply too many other whiskies before). I’ll also do a second tasting to back up the first when I’ve been drinking with others and haven’t wanted to spoil the mood by antisocially making notes, or where there’s a flavour I can’t identify and I need another try to figure out what it was.
I almost always taste the whiskies neat – I’ll be clear if this isn’t the case.
The first sip is for me, I don’t analyse it, I just enjoy it. Then I’ll get more serious and start to pick the flavours out and describe the whisky. I’ll often go back and have a 2nd, or third glass – especially if I have a small glass with me, to make sure I capture the key flavours and aromas. I don’t aim to dissect the whisky and discover everything about it, I’m looking for the key characteristics. I take my time to enjoy each drink.
Sometimes I’ll throw some notes in about various preparations usually with a touch of water or as a highball if I think that it’s relevant. I like whisky other ways than just neat – I love highballs and sours for example. But tasting a whisky neat is the best way to find the flavours inherent in the whisky without flavours from mixers or garnishes getting in the way.
I don’t taste using brand new bottles, I prefer that the whisky has had some time to breathe. Usually I’ve had a dram or two out of a bottle before I drag it out for a tasting and the bottle has been opened for a week or two as well. My own bottles are usually a maximum of around three months (since opening) when tastings are done – I can’t easily comment on bottles that belong to friends, families, bars or distilleries.
As I’ve mentioned a few times the glassware I use isn’t ideal for tastings (although some of them are). Where this is the case I’ll usually have another dram at home out of a Glencairn glass to make sure I’ve captured the characteristics of the whisky accurately. If you’re curious about the glassware in my photos, which I use them, what my favourite glasses are and where I get my glassware click here.
The point of the tastings is to enjoy whisky somewhere special, it’s not to give you a clinical breakdown of each whisky, although I aim to provide an accurate representation. Whisky is very subjective and the aim of many tastings is to take away the subjectivity and make the process more objective – by using standarised glasses, by tasting in an environment where the temperature and outside influences (e.g. smells) are controlled. I don’t do this because while tastings in almost lab conditions can be a lot of fun and can tell you a lot about a whisky it’s not how most of us drink and it prevents you from properly experiencing whisky in many wonderful situations. So use the reviews as a guideline being aware of the subjectivity and the variables that could affect what I experience. That’s one reason why I compare each whisky to other’s I’ve had, to give you an idea of what I think the whisky is like and what it is similar to (and where I can, how it differs). I think knowing a whisky’s component flavours e.g. vanilla, sweet oak, raisins, caramel, etc is handy, but if you tell me a whisky is like a Glenfiddich 21, or a Balvanie 12, or a Laphroiag 10 that comparison tells me a whole lot more and gives me an idea of how the individual components of the whisky come together as a whole.
Where do I obtain my whiskies? Am I sponsored? Do I get paid? Do I get given free whisky?
Short answer is that I’m not sponsored and no bottles or drinks are provided for the purposes of promotion by any bar, distillery or distributor. I’m not paid to do this and aside of whisky given to me by family and friends I don’t get any free whisky.
I purchase all my bottles at retail outlets and pay for all the drinks I get at bars and pay for tastings myself. The only exceptions to this are where I’m gifted a bottle (by family or friends, not for proportional purposes), where a friend buys me a drink at a bar or at distilleries where tastings are provided for free to any adult member of the public.
This gives me to the freedom to write totally independent, unbiased reviews, although it isn’t deliberate. I have no problem with reviewing something provided to me by someone connected with a product or brand, I believe I can maintain an unbiased opinion, but it’s not something I’ve pursued or had the opportunity to explore.
‘Whisky’ VS ‘Whiskey‘?
Historically (and traditionally) whisky (with no ‘e‘) only applied to grain spirit distilled and matured in Scotland whereas whiskey referred to (certain) American or Irish grain spirits. However, since the Japanese initially produced spirit based on Scottish techniques, they too adopted the term whisky. Distillers in other countries (e.g. Teerenpeli from Finland, Kavalan from Thailand, most Australian and New Zealand distilleries) have also used the term whisky and at the moment ‘whisky‘ is the vogue spelling for new comers to the market (outside of America and Ireland).
I want to cover the full spectrum of barrel aged distilled grain spirit from around the globe that are considered to be whisky or whiskey and I’m choosing to respect what it says on the bottle – so if you have a problem with the spelling take it up with the distillery.
I’m sure this won’t please everyone, but it pleases me and that’s good enough.