Whisky Heroes – Ian Wisniewski

Whisky Heroes – Ian Wisniewski

Whisky Heroes

Ian Wisniewski writes about spirits, particularly whisky. He finds the production process endlessly fascinating and visits distilleries as often as possible, as he sees this as the best place to learn more. He’s also very interested in the influence of glassware and dilution in the resulting flavour profile, and in the way that we perceive aromas and flavours, through the amazing cooperation between the palate, olfactory and the brain. Apart from that, he finds it really enjoyable to experience the flavours and character of a whisky without any analysis or thought, and just to feel it.

Can you remember your first dram?
Yes, vividly. My first dram as a spirits writer was The Balvenie Single Barrel 15 year old, in the company of the then Master Blender David Stewart which added enormous significance to the experience, as I asked him how the different flavours were created. His replies ignited my passion for whisky and the production process. Scotch whisky drunk before this was entirely pragmatic and consumed with a mixer for the effect, not the flavour. 

What attracted you to the industry? 
I was always very interested in food and drink, but assumed this would remain a personal interest and that my love of the Arts would provide a career opportunity. I applied for various jobs in journalism and was offered a job by a drinks magazine, which I accepted as I really liked the editor and the location of the office, just off Jermyn Street. Within a few months I found the drinks industry fascinating as there are so many aspects; production, innovation, packaging design, advertising, PR, on-trade and off-trade, and they all need each other.

Can you share some memorable moments of your career or with whisky?
Some memorable moments are personal and emotional. For instance, walking from Bowmore distillery with a dram enjoyed on the edge of Loch Indaal, on a quiet, moonlit night. Becoming a Keeper of the Quaich and then a Master of the Quaich was amazing, being among so many whisky people in a beautiful setting, and enjoying an amazing banquet. Visiting Aberlour and being snowed in at the Craigellachie Hotel which extended the visit.

What advice would you give to someone who is new to whisky?
It depends whether you want to go for full Geek and Nerd status, or remain a normal person who enjoys whisky without being addicted to detail. For the latter it’s easy; keep enjoying whisky, there’s no need to be an authority to enjoy the flavours, they are rewarding in themselves. To attain ‘Geekhood’, attend as many events and distilleries as possible and particularly tutored tastings. If you don’t like some whiskies it’s ok to say that, you will find plenty you do like! Also, read as much as you can. There are many sources of information, but keep an open and challenging mind so that you reach your own verdicts.

How much should someone spend on a bottle of whisky?
As much as you can afford.

If you could only drink one whisky for the rest of your life which one would it be?
Bruichladdich Valinch 1986. I tasted this at a launch event hosted by Jim McEwan, who is an amazing speaker as he conveys knowledge and emotion.

Who do you consider to be a whisky icon?
It is very difficult to name one person, because there are so many incredibly talented people in the industry and so many different aspects of the industry: production, innovation, blending, coopering, packaging design, distillery design and installation, ambassadorial work, cocktail creation and whisky communicators.

The late Dr Jim Swann was truly inspirational and very generous with his knowledge, I worked with him on a few projects and discussed articles with him, and it was a truly enriching and enlightening experience. Richard Forsyth is an icon of distillery design and construction, and also very generous with his knowledge which has elevated many of my articles and books. I have also been incredibly lucky to benefit from the immense experience and insights of Dr Jim Beveridge, Dr Bill Lumsden, Brian Kinsman, Alexandre Sakon, Dr Rachel Barrie, Emma Walker and Martine Nouet.

What is your favourite whisky bar in the UK and globally?
Can I turn this into an opportunity to state my favourite bar in which I have enjoyed whisky? It is the bar at the Hotel Kamp in Helsinki. My favourite bar that specialises in whisky is in the Craigellachie Hotel, partly because of the selection available and partly because of the amazing times I’ve enjoyed there with other whisky lovers. Also, after a great dramming session, it really helps that it’s just a short journey up the stairs to get to my room…!

Desert Island dram?
Glenmorangie 21-year-old Sauternes Finish as it combines elegance with complexity and the range of flavours includes Tarte Tatin, one of my favourite desserts. I love whiskies that deliver but also retain an element of enigma and mystery, which compels me to have another sip.

What do you enjoy drinking when you arent having a whisky?
Cocktails! One reason I love cocktails is the theatricality of seeing them prepared; it’s like bar counter choreography, and the sense of occasion this creates. I also love the twilight atmosphere and the design of cocktail bars. My favourite cocktails include the Margarita, with as much salt and lemon as possible, Bloody Mary which I like with a lot of lemon juice, horseradish, and celery salt (but not with Sherry). My love of citrus also explains why I’ll happily sip a Sidecar.

Polish vodka, especially Zubrowka, has such a complex flavour, and because this is the country my family originates from, there is also an emotional element. The same applies to a delicious Polish speciality, sok z czarnej porzeczki (blackcurrant juice).

Whisky Heroes

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Whisky Heroes – Greg Dillon

Whisky Heroes – Greg Dillon

Whisky heroes

An award-winning drinks writer, Greg Dillon is also the founder of GreatDrams.com and has recently authored his first whisky book, The GreatDrams of Scotland; a conversational book of distillery stories, anecdotes, and historical accounts from distilleries all over Scotland. Greg co-founded GreatDrams Ventures with his wife Kirsty and in their first five years have won over 30 international awards for their limited-edition whisky releases.

Greg is also a brand strategist and social media consultant, working with brands big and small within the spirits industry to define, fix, build and grow their brands.

Greg is a judge on several whisky judging panels including:

•The Spirits Business Masters
•The IWSC
•The IWSC Packaging Awards
•World Whisky Awards 

Can you remember your first dram?
Laphroaig 10 was the first whisky I truly loved and started my whisky journey.

What attracted you to the industry?
The people, the stories, the history, and the majesty of crafting the perfect dram.

Can you share some memorable moments of your career or with whisky?
1. Winning Double Gold at the San Fran World Spirits Competition with our GreatDrams brand which was founded by myself and my wife Kirsty.
2. Being invited onto my first press trip in 2014 to Edinburgh with Ardbeg for Ardbeg Day – that was special, I kept trying to pay for the flights, hotels and drinks as did not totally get that they were hosting it so paying for it all!
3. Launching our indie whisky brand GreatDrams in 2016 with Kirsty.
4. The publication of my first book, The GreatDrams of Scotland.
5. Working with all my superb clients on the consulting side of GreatDrams, be it new product development for Scotch, Irish, American, or world whisky brands, or marketing/brand strategy to even pack copy – every project is unique and fantastic!

What advice would you give to someone who is new to whisky?
Try, try, try – go to whisky shows and sample lots of different whiskies so you start to develop your flavour preferences, understanding of the spirit and experience the breadth of options that are out there.

How much should someone spend on a bottle of whisky?
Whatever they want and can comfortably afford… Some of my favourite whiskies are sub £50 a bottle, others are in the hundreds of pounds a bottle – it is whatever you enjoy, can afford and feel you want to own.

If you could only drink one whisky for the rest of your life which one would it be?
Our very own Benrinnes 9-Year-Old PX Cask finished single cask – Double Gold winner, why not?!

Who do you consider to be a whisky icon?
So many people; Stephanie Macleod, Mark Thomson, Billy Leighton to name just three.

What is your favourite whisky bar in the UK and globally?
Black Rock.

Desert Island dram?
Some ridiculous Redbreast or Craigellachie 23 -Year-Old.

What do you enjoy drinking when you aren’t having a whisky?
Gin and light tonic.

Where do you see Scotch whisky in 5 years?
Even stronger and more innovative.

What are the future challenges for the whisky industry?
Rising production costs nowadays.

Whisky Heroes

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Whisky Heroes – Millie Milliken

Whisky Heroes – Millie Milliken


Millie Milliken

Introduction

My name is Millie Milliken and I’ve been a journalist for 10 years, working for publications including The Good Food Guide, SquareMeal and most recently Imbibe UK magazine as deputy editor. I’ve spent the last year freelancing for the likes of Master of Malt, Club Oenologique and Whisky Magazine, as well as working for The Drinks Trust charity. I won the IWSC Spirits Communicator of the Year 2022 award and am embarking on some new whisky-related projects in 2022.

Q&A:

Can you remember your first dram?
I definitely would have started on the Jack Daniels and cokes as a teenager (probably at a festival straight out of a coke bottle) before I remember the first dram that actually made an impression on me – and that was a Laphroaig. I can’t recall the age but I’ve never tasted anything like it before and the peaty smoke flavours took me by surprise. I can’t say it was love at first taste but clearly, it stuck with me!

What attracted you to the industry?
I kind of fell into this industry. I started with a love of wine and got my level 2 WSET award just before I joined Imbibe. It was through my time there though that I got under the skin of the spirits and whisky industry and I’ve not really looked back. Now, I love discovering the history of distilleries, learning about the people who make them what they are and, of course, seeing those distilleries in the flesh. Nothing quite compares to standing among those stills with the people who run them. And I’d argue the smell of a whisky warehouse is hard to beat.

Can you share some memorable moments of your career or with whisky?
I’ve had such a varied career that also involves a lot of things other than whisky. I’ve been on safari in Kenya (and thrown out of a plane); gone caving in Barbados; visited Chile and its beautiful pisco distilleries; taken a surprise helicopter ride on a trip to Gleneagles on my birthday… I suppose with whisky, visiting the iconic distilleries is always a memorable experience. Most recently I was at the Glenmorangie distillery for the first time and I won’ be forgetting that in a hurry.

What advice would you give to someone who is new to whisky?
Ask questions. I think whisky can be quite intimidating for people who haven’t been exposed to it before but it is such an open industry full of people who want to help people learn about this category. Get your basics down in terms of definitions and get tasting! If you’re passionate, the rest will come. It’s also worth noting that learning about whisky is an endless exercise. I learn something new every time I visit a distillery.

How much should someone spend on a bottle of whisky?
However much they want! There is so much good whisky out there at affordable prices. I think the ‘the older and more expensive the better’ approach to whisky is misguided. Be led by your flavour preference and take it from there. There are some amazing whiskies out there for £30 a bottle – but sure, if you’ve got more in the bank then go for it. Just ask the question: ‘why does it cost this much?’. And make sure you drink it!

If you could only drink one whisky for the rest of your life which one would it be?
I can’t answer this question. My favourite whisky depends on my mood, my surroundings, what day I’ve had… Drinking whisky for me is about exploring and discovering new flavours, not drinking the same whisky over and over again.

Who do you consider to be a whisky hero?
Dr Rachel Barrie. She was one of the first people I became aware of in the whisky industry and I think her career has just been astonishing. I find the art of blending fascinating and I think most people would agree that she is one of the – if not the – best in the business. I remember trying Benriach when she was involved in the relaunch and it was a real education.

What is your favourite whisky bar in the UK and globally?
I live in London so I’m very lucky to have Milroy’s at my disposal. Not only is their selection of whiskies incredible, but I think their approach is so refreshing and the staff are incredibly knowledgeable. I can grab a quick highball out of the tap or sit with a dram among people who aren’t all whisky nerds, which is so refreshing.

Desert Island dram?
I’m going to take this literally and if I was actually on a desert island it would have to be the Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve. I love this whisky with its beautiful banana and caramel notes and it is such an easy-drinking whisky. Perfect on a hot day or to keep me warm once the temperature drops.

What do you enjoy drinking when you aren’t having a whisky?
I’m a Martini obsessive. It’s always my first drink at dinner and I have a 5pm Martini every Friday (usually) without fail. Gin is most often the base with an olive garnish, or a Gibson if I know somewhere that serves a good one. To be honest, the most insane the garnish the better – Pickled Onion Monster Munch at The George is the one to beat right now.

What are the future challenges for the whisky industry?
I think a constant challenge for the industry is accessibility. There are still barriers for people who are new to the category and I’d like to think communicators like myself are helping to break those down. Whisky doesn’t have to be difficult to understand or intimidating or even a huge expense (for those lucky enough to have a disposable income). It can be fun, exciting and playful – isn’t that what it’s all about?

Whisky Heroes

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Whisky Heroes – Ronan Collins

Whisky Heroes – Ronan Collins


Ronan Collins

Introduction

Hi, I’m Ronan Collins. I spent time travelling the world doing wee odd jobs and then I fell into bartending at Trailer Happiness and then Dandelyan, before becoming the Pernod Ricard Irish Whiskey Ambassador. I now run my own spirits and consultancy business called ‘It’s Ronan’, collaborating with fantastic people around the world.

Q&A:

Can you remember your first dram?
I do actually remember it. I was 21 and travelling through New Zealand. Myself and some friends had finished skiing in Queenstown and went back to our place which had a hot tub. One of the American lads pulled out a litre bottle of Teacher’s Blended Scotch… I have yet to try that same dram again.

What attracted you to the industry?
I was living in South Africa as a surf coach and during one of the slower days, I was watching the movie Crazy, Stupid Love. There is a scene when Ryan Gosling’s character makes Emma Stone’s character a drink in his house, with sugar, bitters, ice and all sorts of things. I Googled what it was (an Old Fashioned) and the internet had so many debates about how it was made and its history – at that point, I thought booze was booze or Teacher’s. Two weeks later I left South Africa for Dublin to follow in the footsteps of Ryan; cocktails and whiskey.

Can you share some memorable moments of your career or with whisky?
One of the most memorable was working in Dandelyan in 2017 on the night the 50 Best Bars was announced. We got named as the 3rd Best Bar in the world jumping from 50 on the list. Long story short Ryan (Mr Lyan) sabered a jeroboam of Champagne with a knife and I gave a layback of this to Dave Wondrich across the green Dandelyan bar top. That was pretty memorable.

What advice would you give to someone who is new to whisky?
Don’t listen to anyone. Make your own mind up and be open to everything and never disregard a whole category – variety is the spice of life

How much should someone spend on a bottle of whisky?
Always within your own means. Never hurt your bank for the sake of booze – some of the best drops I have ever had were due to the people I was with.

If you could only drink one whisky for the rest of your life which one would it be?
I will stick with Irish – Method & Madness 28 Year Old Ruby Port Cask Single Malt. I still dream about it.

Who do you consider to be a whisky hero?
I am not sure there is enough space for all of the names, but anyone who has their own voice and is filled with passion and knowledge is usually gravy in my book.

What is your favourite whisky bar in the UK and globally?
I love the Duke of York in Belfast. The building is steeped in history and it has a back bar to match – it really is one of a kind and the best in the world. There was a great one in Speyside in Craigellachie with a pool table, I am ashamed that I can’t remember the name and I am sure I will get grief for it. It was honestly amazing.

Desert Island dram?
If Method & Madness 28 Year Old Ruby Port Cask Single Malt is there I will be happy; if not, I expect chilled Champagne.

What do you enjoy drinking when you aren’t having a whisky?
I am partial to a wee gin martini or two but I will never turn down a bottle of Champagne.

What are the future challenges for the whisky industry?
The need for more detail on the labels on where the liquid has been distilled and matured etc. This will give more transparency and provenance.

Whisky Heroes

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