All the Single Malt Ladies Highland ParkA few weeks ago I requested that anyone who had been affected by the issues in my blog – i.e. those who were experimenting with whisky – get in touch. Three lovely ladies put their hands up, and now here are their experiences. They might entertain you, they might resonate with you, they might even inspire you to drop into a pub and order a dram of whisky.


Get a piece of charred wood, chuck it into a bottle of methylated spirits, and you’ve got the rough equivalent of what my friend Laura tastes when she drinks whisky.

Laura, like many young ladies with style and panache has acknowledged that whisky is the drink of the moment. It’s multifaceted and cool and if you don’t drink it you are missing out. She is also haunted by national guilt. The abandoned bottle of Highland Park in her kitchen, taunts Laura. “Call yourself Scottish?” it seems to say. “You don’t even like whisky!” She ignores it, but like a drunken friend with a line up of shots at 3am, it is tenacious. “Come on, get it down you, you know you want to,” the whisky jibes, until, eventually, Laura caves in, shelves the cherry brandy she was looking forward to and pours a glass of the hard stuff. Maybe this won’t be so bad, she thinks. It’s smells a bit like Mr Kipling’s Battenburg cake. Oh yes, this will go perfectly with a night in front of the fire and a good Scottish drama.

With Waterloo Road on the TV, the lights dimmed and the flames up full, Laura wiggles her toes in her knitted bed socks and swirls the golden dram in her glass. The atmosphere is just perfect. The delicate Battenburg scent intoxicates her and she believes that, finally, tonight is the night that she and whisky will find each other.

But when Laura takes a sip, it’s just the same sensation as every other time: chargrilled turpentine and disappointment.

Laura considers that maybe her taste buds just need some more time to mature; she is still prepared to try different whiskies and let them into her heart. But she is conscious that the process seems to be going on forever and she wonders how much longer it will take. With five months experience under my belt, I tell her it will take time, I like whisky a bit more now than I used to. But as I am still a probationer myself I cannot be certain. I can only hope that Laura finds her whisky feet someday.

Juliet Jura

Across the other side of Edinburgh, my friend Juliet is also experimenting with the golden grain, but is a little more advanced in her studies.

A brave adult, but scarred by youthful experimentation with cheap blends, Juliet could easily have been put off whisky for life. However after many years living abroad, Scottish nostalgia fired her interest in the drink. Memories of Hogmanay parties, of people dancing, singing and scoffing shortbread meant Juliet would never drift through duty free without buying a bottle of single malt  to sip and think of home. Circa 2009, she could often be found watching a Chinese sunset and lesson planning with a glass of Scotch by her side.

Now, back in Scotland, Juliet is lesson planning to the sound of crap weather, but her enthusiasm for whisky hasn’t abated. Last year she visited the Talisker distillery and loved learning about whisky production. She also has several inspirational whisky drinking friends: one is a member of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and another has an exciting and humorous whisky discovery blog.

But for Juliet, it is simple. Whisky is locally produced and is part of the Scottish landscape. We should be embracing it, whether it’s having a swift half in an old man’s pub on the way home from Lidl or a rewarding a dram by the fire after a day spent roaming in the Autumnal hills. It’s one of the few drinks that really has an atmosphere that goes with it.

Juliet recently went for a break to a hotel overlooking the isle of Jura. She considered the complimentary whisky sour upon arrival an original and impressive touch. She also considers that maybe if more establishments followed this lead, whisky newbies would get in the swing of things.

And I agree – because, some novices need encouragement to get into whisky. And that encouragement might just be whisky chapping on our door, wearing its cocktail jacket. Dewars CabinetDee

I should also mention my friend, Dee, another non whisky drinker. The last time Dee featured on this blog she was pretending to take photos of some whisky but was actually snapping a good looking gentleman next to the whisky. After attending that event, Dee went to the pub (on a different day) and drank the following in one sitting: a Balvenie Doublewood; a Macallan; a Bowmore and a Dalwhinnie 15 year old. She thought the Dalwhinnie tasted like a Kwik Fit garage.

And if that tasting note in itself isn’t enough to entice a non whisky drinker to give it a go, I don’t know what is.

Single Malt Female

Then there’s me. Where am I at nearly six months into my whisky tasting project? Well, I have progressed somewhat. After attending a whisky cocktail event, I lusted after such concoctions for some time, and I do believe that drinking these has helped attune my palate to the taste of whisky. For example, the Edradour 10 year old which I first thought tasted of vanilla and booze, now tastes sweet, citrusy and rich. It’s like liquid, alcoholic pudding. I have also found that whisky, when sipped slowly, is far kinder to my head the next day than wine.

So, if you are not into whisky but feel like you might want to try, maybe start with a whisky sour or an old fashioned, or pour a dram over your ice cream or sticky toffee pudding. Mix it up a bit with other things until your palate becomes attuned. And then when you are feeling up to it, stop on the way home from Lidl and grab yourself a Kwik Fit flavoured dram in the pub – the real old fashioned way.

Chocolate, Whiskies and Cocktails at the Edinburgh Fringe

IMG_2646The blurb from the Edinburgh Fringe website began with what was clearly a rhetorical question.

“Love chocolate?”

And continued with a question tailored just for me.

“Not sure about whisky?”

Then dropped in another rhetorical question.

“Fancy trying something different and matching it to carefully selected chocolate?”

The “something different” was to drink whisky based cocktails.

Absolutely I wanted to do this! How exciting! Pairing whisky with chocolate and cocktails. It was bound to be a truly decadent affair, and almost definitely my secret passage into the wonderful world of whisky. And the venue was the glorious Pommery Bar, an historical library transformed into an elegant champagne cafe bar for the duration of the Edinburgh Fringe. I was tipsy with delight at the mere possibility.

I immediately found some willing alcoholics…I mean friends, to join me on my Sunday afternoon indulgence and we descended upon our host, The Whisky Belle, for an afternoon of whisky and chocolate flavoured enlightenment. chocolate, whiskies and cocktails,

The Whisky Belle, Annabel, seemed to be delighted at our presence. We were, she said, just the target market they were aiming for. By this, I presumed she meant women in their 30s (who look like they are in their 20s) with a bit of disposable income which they like to spend on cocoa based confectionary and alcoholic beverages that aren’t whisky.

And I have to say, it was easy for us non whisky lovers to be enthusiastic about whisky when Annabel herself showed such delight at sharing her knowledge. Her enthusiasm was enhanced by the careful and intricate presentation of…well, absolutely everything.

Waiting, invitingly, for us at each setting were two glasses of whisky – one a rich, toffee colour and the other a mellow, golden elixir. There also happened to be an extremely handsome South African gentleman sitting at our table, who proved something of a distraction to my friend, Dee (I’ve used her real name in case any hot South Africans want to get in touch).

chocolate, whiskies and cocktails, there were ushered in to each of us four beautiful artisan chocolates, crafted by The Highland Chocolatier. As these were being served we could hear lots of ice rattling from behind the scenes. It was the exciting sound of our cocktails being conceived.

And not long after, the first concoction was delivered: a Whisky Old Fashioned, resplendent with cherries and all.

The Old Fashioned went down like a glass of fizzy pop – possibly because I couldn’t actually taste the whisky in it. But maybe that was the idea. And, surely, liking a whisky based cocktail is a step in the right direction towards fully fledged whisky appreciation.

This first cocktail was matched with the chocolate covered cherry, which was quite frankly, chocolate perfection. It went astoundingly well with the drink, and I believe this was based on more than the just the mutual cherry factor.

Next up was the rich, toffee coloured whisky. And it actually did have hints of Sticky Toffee Pudding about it. Annabel revealed that it was a blend called The Naked Grouse (the scantily clad sister of The Famous Grouse).

Because I have listened to naysayers, I admit to being a little hesitant about blends, however, this was delicious. We drank chocolate, whiskies and cocktails, it whilst guzzling the All Milk Velvet Truffle and another part of me just melted away. Annabel revealed that The Naked Grouse also goes deliciously well poured over ice cream. I tend to think she might be right.

The next cocktail was a Bramble – usually made with gin, but in this instance whisky – which was paired with an Enrobed Truffle. The Bramble had a very strong taste of Parma Violets and having never tried one before, I’m not sure if this is usual, but it was certainly unique. It also came with an edible flower, which I can confirm is edible in theory only.

The mellow, golden whisky was a Glenturret 10 year old single malt which was more gentle and malty than the Naked Grouse. This was paired with the glorious All White Raspberry Truffle. Bliss!

chocolate, whiskies and cocktails, notes I was writing on a napkin seem to have ended around this time. I was doubtless starting to lose sense of where and who I was, but I do know that I was having an excellent time. My condition was no doubt exacerbated by the fact that one of my friends hadn’t been able to make it and the spare whisky at her setting had somehow managed to find its way onto mine.

I do remember this, though. From start to finish, Chocolate, Whiskies and Cocktails was amazing. The Whisky Belle fizzed with a contagious enthusiasm for whisky and there was no question she couldn’t answer. Apart, perhaps, from “do you have that hot South African guy’s number?” I truly believe my palate altered in some way during this event and I would most definitely return next year and pretend that I don’t like whisky just to do it all over again.