January Outturn 2024 Ambassador’s Address
I like to think there are three phases that every whisky appreciator goes through. For many, the first one is discovering whisky through different mixers, like when that bartender at a wedding gives you a ‘Jack & coke’ or ‘Scotch & dry’. Not too shabby!
The second phase every whisky appreciator then hits, usually some months or years later, is the “I only drink it neat, maybe with a drop of water” phase. Suddenly you have a few single malts on the shelf, you’re a Society member, and your interest in strange and differing glassware continues to evolve. You have a copy of the Malt Whisky Yearbook. You’ve heard all the jokes about Jim Murray and his hat. Hell, you might even now own a flat cap yourself. You say lines like “Yep this is an 8.25 out of 10” and “This is good, but I preferred their floor-malting era”. This is a lot of fun, and you’re always exploring different malts, casks, and flavours. The third phase of any whisky appreciator is then the “Damn this whisky would go great with some ginger ale” or “I wonder how well this 19yo single cask would go with tonic and lemon?”.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that third phase. Even renowned whisky writers like Dave Broom and others have written about great mixers before, and our own Andrew Derbidge has referenced this journey before on Whisky & Wisdom. Your whisky, you enjoy it how you want it. If you want to mix a 25yo single cask whisky with soda, then go for it. You paid for it, you enjoy it however you want to. If you’re vehemently against this idea, then you might be in that second stage I referenced above…the time will come for you.
If someone else is pouring something special for you from their collection, that’s a different story, but that said, my recommendation for you here is if you are mixing, mix with the best ingredients you can muster. As an example, if you’re mixing say Cask 156.2 Smoke devils and tipsy angels with a ginger ale and some ice, then go with something like a good Fever Tree or Strangelove ale. The difference a good mixer and some clean ice can make to the end product is incredible. And on the summer days ahead reading this, you might be tempted to really give this a go…
The other thing I see even the most seasoned whisky appreciator get too wrapped up in is zeroing in too much on the colour of the liquid, even if it’s mostly meaningless to the flavour, and, of course, instantly assuming older age statements mean a “better” whisky. None of this is true. This month’s Malt of the Month with Cask 156.2 is pale in colour, young in age, but a testament to the quality of the spirit in glass. We’re starting 2024 strong with 2x new codes you’ve never seen before, both new to the SMWS, and we’re really kicking things into gear with a new Japanese whisky, a thick and luscious 78, an absolutely perfect summer pick with the 5 from the Lowlands, a 35 that’s perfect for summer parties, and more…
Mix it up this month, start your engines, and welcome to 2024 with SMWS. We have a huge year planned ahead, and we can’t wait to share it all with you in time. Keep your eyes peeled…
This article is featured in January 2024 Outturn — bottles will be available to purchase on Friday the 5th of January at midday AEDT exclusively to members of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Not a member? Click here to learn more about the world’s most colourful whisky club.