The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once referred to whisky as ‘liquid sunshine’ – and although I’m no Shaw, after three days of wetting my palette with nothing but the water of life few other drinks seem even comparable.
Now I’m no connoisseur when it comes to Scotch – in fact only over the past two or three years have I drank whisky, and whiskey, at all – and even then I didn’t know how to take it.
My drink was, and still is most of the time, Carling followed by even more Carling until I’m so full of gas that I can barely walk home – but even in my local I’m a dinosaur. Almost extinct. The age of cheap lager and rotgut vodka is dwindling to a close for young people as they fill their mouths with quality rather than quantity.
Most millenials no longer opt for the cheapest fix of the largest bottle – something to ease the pain of a dull week at work and propel them into a drunken haze of mediocre utopia.
Instead they’re going for IPA’s, real ales, gin and tonics, and expensive cocktails – but is Scotch the chosen one? The light at the end of the tunnel? The supreme top of the alcohol pyramid?
On a road somewhere in the highlands just outside of Aberdeen there are dozens and dozens of picturesque distilleries. All hidden away in the hills producing their own unique brand of Scotch. Smokey, grainy, blended, and single. Every branded bottle significantly different to the others.
If you follow this road to the end you will eventually come to the village of Craigellachie where the world renowned Craigellachie Single Malt is distilled.
With a hazey head from liquid sunshine the night before, I travelled to the Craigellachie Hotel to catch up with a man who was once voted as the Best Barman in the World, Jamie MacDonald, to talk whisky and why young people need to get it into their glasses as soon as possible.
Speaking to UNILAD he said:
Whisky has always been cool but it’s really coming to its own now. We think it really started in the recession when people started looking to purchase something more expensive and valuable instead of just throwing their money away.
But now we’ve a new generation of whisky drinkers who have come looking for their brand, their type of association, and whisky has that sort of association. There is a whisky for you and another different whisky that’s for a certain occasion.
At the minute we have a big craft movement going on with new, adventurous beers such as Brew Dog, and wines too and I think that whisky fits exactly into that. People, and young people in particular, are looking for a beverage which takes time and skill to craft, artisan in a way, and what delivers in that department more than Scotch whisky?
Jamie currently works as the Brand Ambassador for Martini UK – who now own Dewar’s Whisky, who themselves own Craigellachie Whisky.
Jamie also revealed what his favourite whisky is, telling us:
My favourite whisky is Craigellachie. I do love a Dewar’s. I love a highball with Dewar’s, blended Scotch – but I love all of our distilleries. They’re all very, very different in flavour and taste profile, but Craigellachie has to be my favourite.
I was born in Moray and we’re actually situated right now in the heart of Moray, where Craigellachie is distilled. But it’s more than that that I love about it. It’s the country, it’s the people. it’s the romance. But for me Craigellachie is all about the production. It was a unique whisky back in the late 1800’s and it’s still a unique whisky now because of that production.
Following our highland rendevous, myself and Jamie cracked open a bottle of Copper Dog and drank wee drams until the liquid sunshine was no more – but not before he revealed to me his top five tips for young people who are looking to get into whisky. So here they are.
Jamie’s Five Tips For Young People Who Want To Get Into Whisky
1. Don’t be afraid of whisky.
People think of big smokey whiskys, and at times I think they can feel intimidated by it. They don’t know what they’re getting into.
But when you think there’s over 115 different distilleries in Scotland, that’s 115 different types of brand or whisky and style – there is a whisky for you. So don’t be afraid and you’ll find it.
2. Try it in whichever way you desire.
Don’t feel that whisky is about being snobbish. Don’t think that because your father and grandfather didn’t put water or ice with it that you should do the same. Go out and do what you want with that whisky.
Find the sort of flavour that you love.
3. Try it in cocktails.
Absolutely. Cocktails are a great base for whisky drinks. Try a Rob Roy or a Bobby Burns. There’s dozens of incredible Scotch based cocktails now – and they could definitely be the easier route into getting to know your Scotch.
4. Don’t be afraid to connect with older whisky drinkers.
They know what they’re talking about.
5. And finally – don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Through questions you’ll get to know the whisky and the intimacy of whisky.
Gone are the days of Scotch being a drink solely for the old, the mature, the wise bearded highland men. This, right now, is the age of the younger whisky drinker. The interested, the passionate, and the thirsty young whisky drinker.
The light music of whiskey falling into a glass—an agreeable interlude.