Can a Whisky Doubter Learn to Love Whisky?

IMG_2489Whisky – to some people it tastes like caramel, cinnamon and warm October evenings. To others it tastes like a glass of floor cleaner. But, whether you like it or loathe it, there’s no denying whisky is a complex and multi-faceted drink.

I have never been a whisky drinker. However, for a while now – and especially since I moved to Edinburgh, where it seems like every second shop sells the stuff – I have thought that it might be nice to enjoy drinking whisky. I want to smell smoky apple-orchards on the nose. I want to taste peat-infused bonfires on the palate. I want the Water of Life to be part of my life.

I am perhaps being carried away by romantic ideas. It is true to say that in my whisky dreams I’m reclined on an expensive leather couch, next to a roaring log fire, glass of malt in my hand, laughing wholeheartedly with a sexy, bestubbled man and having an altogether splendid time. The reality might turn out to be closer to a game of dominoes at a musty lock-in with some lobster-cheeked, bulbous-nosed gents. I don’t drink whisky, so I don’t know.

And, I will never know if I don’t try.

IMG_2672I have tried to like whisky before. But, like violin lessons when I was 8, I never really gave it my all. Often, after a night drinking wine, I would brazenly order a dram in the spirit of being adventurous (or a show off – I once ordered a Laphroaig simply because I could pronounce the word) then, after one antiseptic sip, gift it to someone who would appreciate it more. I wanted to like it, but it tasted just too awful for me to push on through. I didn’t have the staying power.

Now, however, I am older and stronger. I am tenacious and prepared to work for the things I want. And I want to know, if I get the right guidance, and if I really persevere, can I learn to like whisky?

So, for one year, I plan to immerse myself in the world of whisky to see if I can acquire a taste for the drink. I plan to visit distilleries, pubs, and whisky tasting events. I will read books about whisky, cook with whisky, and climb mountains and celebrate with a dram at the top. I even have a grand vision of hosting a whisky cocktail party. Basically, I will try all sorts of different ways to consume and learn about the beverage. Initially, I will limit myself to Scotch whisky, but, if things go well, I may promote my palate to more international flavours.

This escapade is not just about whether women can like whisky. It’s probably true that far fewer women drink it than do men, but a quick search of the web brings up details of women who are master blenders, whisky consultants and enthusiastic whisky bloggers: women who have broken through the taste barrier and found that their palates have adjusted and embraced this complex and often misunderstood drink. This, therefore, is about answering the question, can those who think they don’t like whisky – laddies or ladies –  learn to like it? IMG_2675

If, after several months, it looks like my palate is unconvinced, I fully plan to carry on anyway. I may never acquire a love of the malt, but I think the very least I can gain is an appreciation and an understanding. If, however, by July 2015, I am not a full-on whisky lover then I will accept that it is not meant to be.

There will be no criticism of whisky here – only recognition that it may not be for me. If things do not appeal to my palate, I have an enthusiastic human spittoon (let’s call him Mr Malt) who is on hand to tell me what my unfinished dram tastes like to the cultured palate.

It should also be noted that I am sponsored by no one and this is purely a self-motivated quest. I simply like a challenge and I love writing.

All business proposals and crates of Scotch will be considered, though.

The following are what I am starting with at the beginning of this quest. I like to think of these items as my Whisky Starter Kit.

Whisky Starter Kit

Whisky Starter Kit

A whisky tasting journal and pen

Michael Jackson’s Malt Whisky Companion (not the Moonwalker, the whisky expert)

Some money for the bus to whisky drinking venues

Feel free to join me in this quest. I would love to hear other non-whisky lover’s stories.


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10 thoughts on “Can a Whisky Doubter Learn to Love Whisky?

  1. How do you pronounce “Laphroig”? I would love to know. Great introduction, I am totally along with you for this ride, for I do not enjoy whisky, but I like all the things that go with it.


  2. I envy you this journey. It sounds fabulous. Like you, whisky was a closed book to me until a few years ago when a friend took me to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s club in London (there’s one in Edinburgh too — you might want to check it out and invest in a one-year membership). There, an expert barman guided me through their offering of hundreds of different whiskies — asking what I liked, what I didn’t, and why. In tiny sips, we homed in on one or two that really were to my taste (Oban and a 16 year old Jura, since you ask) and I now enjoy the odd tipple for genuine pleasure. I look forward to reading about how your adventure goes.


  3. If you do get particularly adventurous in the international whisky scene – check out some Tasmanian drams! If you can ever find any, that is. Nant distillery makes malts that my non-whisky drinking friends seem to like. Anyway, I realise I’m a little late in commenting on this post – but good luck all the same!


    • Hey whisky waffle. I’ve never tried a Tassie dram, but my other half went to the Lark distillery a year or so ago and they gave him a bottle of one of their whiskies. It’s long gone now. I think you can get some Tassie stuff in the shops here, but probably not in the pub so I would need to buy a whole bottle. There are worse hardships to endure though. 🙂


      • I’m so impressed that he made it to Lark! Yeah, the stuff they do there is fantastic! I was in Scotland recently and had NO luck finding anything remotely Tasmanian in the shops – but if you do, snap it up (if you’re prepared to pay the likely exorbitant price, that is) especially if it says Nant or Sullivans Cove!


      • Well, he was on a press trip so was being taken to all the good places and having whisky, Pinot Noir and rounds of golf poured down his throat. Some folk get all the breaks.
        I will keep my eye out for some Lark here though. I’d imagine some of the touristy whisky shops in Edinburgh sell it. I see that Lark are also involved in a proposed distillery in Fife, Scotland. That’s exciting news!


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