Lush Life Podcast Transcripts: Eddie Ludlow – How To Taste Whisky (#167)

Lush Life Podcast Transcripts: Eddie Ludlow – How To Taste Whisky (#167)
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Eddie Ludlow, The Whisky Lounge, York

Make yourself an Old Fashioned and settle down to imbibe this transcript of my interview with Eddie Ludlow, founder of The Whisky Lounge which introducing the spirit he adores to folks who might not know the difference between Glenmorangie and Glenfiddich. 

Now he has penned his first book, ‘Whisky – A Tasting Course: A New Way to Think and Drink Whisky’ with 20 individual guided tasting sessions. Whether you are a beginner to whisky or a pro, there is no way you can’t learn something from his book. Everything about it makes you want to pick up that bottle and serve yourself a dram.

This episode originally aired on October 6, 2020.

You can listen to this episode here, or any of your favorite podcatchers.


Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Eddie Ludlow. Just remember that I own the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of Lush Life podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as my right of publicity. So if you want to use any of this, please email me!

Transcription made possible by:

Susan: I am so excited to have you on the show. I am sitting here with three fabulous whiskies in front of me, and I have been longing to talk to you after reading your book, “Whisky – A Tasting Course.”

Eddie: That’s absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Susan: Oh, absolutely. I want to know everything, because you have titles that I don’t even know how to pronounce and I want to know how you got those.

Let’s start with how you fell into whisky. I’ll probably interrupt and ask you a million questions along the way, but how did you even decide that you wanted to be in the spirits industry?

Eddie: I’m not sure whether it was me that chose whisky or whisky that chose me, to be honest. I went to college in a place called Newcastle upon Tyne. I went to art college for a couple of years, sorry, one year. Then I decided that even drawing was too much like hard work. I did a music course for two years after that, and then found at the end of the course that, I’d learned quite a bit, but I realized that my options were limited as a professional musician. I enjoyed playing with my blues band, but I couldn’t see myself as a teacher or a session musician, compromising my musical taste. Which a lot of people have to do in order to make a living out of music.

Susan: What did you play? What instrument?

Eddie: Well, I still do play guitar. I don’t play as much as I used to obviously, but I still enjoy playing now and again. It just suddenly hit me – What am I going to do? I’ve learned to draw and play guitar, but I’ve learnt very little apart from that, no life skills. I went home, almost with my tail between my legs, back down to the Southeast of England. Worked in a pub for six to nine months, I think it was.

I  learned about beer and beer making, because the landlord there was very into his real ale, way before the current trend, I’m not going to call it a fad, it’s a genuine enthusiasm for real ale now in this country and elsewhere. But this was way before that.  It just fascinated me that someone would be into alcohol.  It wasn’t just about getting loaded.

There was actually something a lot more behind it all. He used to drag me into the cellar and say, “ Try this, try this one. I’ve had this one laying for a week or so and taste how different it is now.”  It was just this pure enthusiasm, which became infectious.

I continued with that. My dad, as well, he’s not into whisky, but he’s into wine. He won’t thank me for this one, but we were having dinner once and it was before I was drinking, and he was drinking a white wine. He said, “Oh, could you get me some more of that delicious Chablis from the fridge.”

 I looked at the bottle of wine in the fridge and it was English white wine. At the time, this is what English wine was, not what it is now. When English still wine was perhaps not the best.

Susan: Not award winning.

Eddie: He’s never lived it down that he couldn’t tell the difference between an English table wine and a Chablis, but it all contributed to my very early education in alcoholic products. After my experience in the pub, I ended up moving back to Newcastle upon Tyne because I got reverse homesick because I loved it so much up there. I missed all my friends from the college days, and most of the guys from college lived there.

I moved back. I trod the streets looking for work. I literally just needed a job. I walked past a branch of Oddbins, the old wine merchant, and saw that they had an advert in the window looking for a van driver/sales assistant. I wandered in, I had my guitar on my back and my ponytail.  I must’ve looked at a bit of a sight and, I went in and said to them, I’m looking for a job, this sounds like something I could do. How about it?”

Susan: Okay. I want to say and the rest is history.

Eddie: Exactly. Yes. There’s obviously a lot more history to it. Well, that’s how it all began. I needed two interviews to get this job, it wasn’t easy. I remember I had to sell them a bottle of beer, because I knew nothing about wine at that point, but I knew a little bit about beer, and they had beer. I remember the beer as well. It was Hopback Summer Lightening. I had to describe the beer to them and really sell it to them as if it was a new car or something, which tickled me and I thought, wow, this could be quite cool.

Susan: I love it. I love it. Selling wine is different from selling whisky. When did you start falling in love with whisky or even drinking whisky or knowing it was there?

Eddie: Yes, well, probably back in the pub days, because it was my dad’s birthday and I’d seen all the whiskies behind the bar. I thought that most men like whisky, back in the bad days. My boss, the landlord there, I remember he recommended I get him a bottle of Macallan 10-year-old. I remember looking at the bottle and thinking this is not an attractive item, it looks really good.

I ended up buying him a bottle. I don’t remember what happened to the bottle. I suspect probably my dad’s friends drank it for him, because I don’t think he would have done, but that was my first experience with single malt whisky. Oddbins, back in the day, was almost as much a whisky specialist as a wine specialist.

Particularly the further North you got in the country. The branch that I worked at Newcastle upon Tyne city center was one of the biggest selling scotch whisky and particularly single malt whisky branches in the UK. We had access to all the really good stuff. It breaks my heart actually to think back to some of the stuff we had in the mid to late 1990’s, which seemed expensive at the time, but was dirty cheap really.

I can still remember a lot of the prices that were drilled into my head. I wish I could go back in time with a fresh credit card and buy, buy, buy. Oh, it’s incredible. You couldn’t give it away then in the 90’s. There were one or two people who were in the know and were very savvy and bought a lot of stuff.

Some people drank it as well. but generally speaking whisky was not in the same state as it is now.

Susan: People were drinking, cosmos and caipirinhas were just happening or they were to us, at least when I lived in New York. I remember the nineties, no one ever mentioned an old fashioned.

Eddie: Oh, in Newcastle, they wouldn’t, at that stage, have been drinking caipirinhas. It was more vodka and Red Bull and 20/20 and cider and black currant.

Susan: When did you start drinking it and teaching yourself or giving yourself that whisky education?

Eddie: Well, it was in the Oddbins. I had two Scottish bosses – a manager and assistant manager, plus we had a team of sales assistants. Most of whom were probably older than me, who had quite a lot of experience in wine and whisky tastings.

I think because of my artistic background, I became the shop artist and I would do all the labels for the bottles. I don’t know if you remember Oddbins of old, but it used to be really lovely, handwritten, descriptive labels for all the wine, all the whisky, everything.

If you went in and you didn’t speak to someone, you could easily select something just by these lovely descriptors. I think it was when I was writing the descriptors for the whiskies and I became more and more fascinated. The whole Ralph Steadman connection I found really powerful as well. He did Still Life with Bottle, a book of his illustrations of Scottish distilleries and it’s beautiful. They’re really lovely and had an influence on me as well.

I think I just became more and more fascinated by the look of it, then the taste of it. We had a lot of bottles open that we would be given by distillers in order to help customers make their selections. We’d have, at any one time, we would have 50 – 60 bottles open.

To this day, I would say to anyone who is whisky curious that they should always shop in an independent specialist, because the independent specialists are run by people who worked for Oddbins or similar companies who’ve then gone on to do their own thing.

They’ve learned from that. They’ve learned that the most powerful tool for selling is to be able to taste. Of course, there’s no substitute for that. You can’t generally do that in a supermarket, as it’s fairly anemic experience, and you don’t get to chat with people who really care about the product.

I would always say go to a specialist. I know it’s a little bit more challenging at the moment with the current circumstances, but there are specialists out there who will actually send small samples. You don’t have to invest in a full bottle to begin with, which is a great idea as well.

Susan: Yes, it’s a fantastic idea. You became, please correct me if I’m wrong, the best seller of whisky in that Oddbins for the whole of the UK.

Eddie: Yes, certainly that shop, and our team. We were the biggest seller of single malt whisky in England. There was a couple of stores in Scotland that sold more, but not many of them.

I decided to start visiting Scotland and visiting the distilleries myself. That’s really where I got set off. I’m sure you’ve been to one or two distilleries in your time. There was no substitute for going where the stuff is made and tasting it with the people that make it whilst they’re telling you how they do it.

Susan: Especially in Scotland where it’s so romantic and, you just get caught up in the stories as well. I’m a storyteller and fan and it gobsmacks me every time I go to one.

Eddie: Yes.

Susan: The liquid is fabulous obviously, but combined with the history of the story, the place, you can fall in love with it, it can get into your blood. It can obsess you. Absolutely. When did you think it was time to move on from Oddbins and then become the brand ambassador to a few of these?

Eddie: Well, I spent a few years in that shop in Newcastle. I started doing whisky tastings because they had already started doing wine tastings outside of business hours for customers. I thought why shouldn’t we just start doing whisky tastings on a similar basis? That’s really how it started. Once I started going back and forth to Scotland, and then I would move around the country from store to store as a manager, just exploring new areas. I would start my little whisky tasting club in each of those areas.

From there I moved to York, which is where I still live. I got a call from one of the older managers of the shop I was running in York saying, “There’s a recruitment company that might be in touch with you because there’s a role that they’ve heard of that they think might be right up your street.”

This recruitment agency called me up and said that this business is looking for someone to be a whisky ambassador for one of their brands and would I be interested?  I’d done as much as I’d wanted to with Oddbins, similarly to my musical career, to the point where, yes, I could maybe have gone on to be the area management or your desk jockey role, but what I enjoyed the most was talking to people face-to-face and really helping them along their journey. I just didn’t think I could do that anymore. I leapt at the chance.

It was Moët Hennessy UK and the brand at the time was a very niche blended scotch whisky called the Bailie Nicol Jarvie, which very sadly is no longer with us. They delisted it. They stopped making it because it just wasn’t within the luxury portfolio. They didn’t really know what to do with it. Fortunately for me, when I was working for them, they also distributed Ardbeg and Glenmorangie, two of my favorite single malt whiskies.

I said, “Well, look, if I’m talking about one whisky, it surely makes sense to me to talk about these guys as well. And I transmogrified my role from being for one whisky to being three, very, very good whiskies. I did that for a couple of years.

Susan: Were you going all around the country and introducing people to the whiskies that are Ardbeg and Glenmorangie?

Eddie: Yes. I would. It would range from representing them in whisky festivals, ironically, doing tastings for hotels and sommeliers.Also training the staff within Moët Hennessy itself because, by their own admission, they were very much wine and champagne orientated. They knew a bit about cognac because of Hennessy, obviously, but they didn’t really know about whisky. It was my role to train the UK sales staff in the ways of whisky and how it should be presented.

Susan: Well, I know in my limited knowledge of whisky, Glenmorangie, which I’m looking at right now is one that most people have heard of. Ardbeg, maybe not so much, at least unless you’re maybe a diehard peaty whisky fan. Did you find that, excuse my ignorance on whisky, but how did you find, during the time that you were there, that people responded to the two whiskies? Was it surprising to you or was it teaching people things that they already knew?

Eddie: It would vary incredibly because, obviously, certain parts of the country tend to be ahead of other parts of the country in terms of their evolution, drinks-wise, food-wise and so on. London, almost out of necessity, is always well ahead of pretty much anywhere else in the UK.  It would really vary a lot. I would be surprised sometimes because you would think most people would prefer Glenmorangie, probably that was the case. I remember a couple of females who would be on the tasting and would actually prefer the Ardbeg to the Glenmorangie, even though they would confess to never having really tasted whisky before.  I think that’s because when you taste them side by side, because they are so diametrically opposed style-wise, all right. It’s like two different categories of spirit rather than two different whiskies.

If you have that affinity with something smoky, forget about the whisky aspect of it, then you can understand how that might be attractive to somebody. Yes, I would definitely have the odd surprise.

Susan: I had a grandmother who loved a single malt. I think the first thing she ever gave me was something very peaty. If I’m sitting down to have a whisky, that’s what I would reach for. It feels like you’re having an illicit cigarette, even though I’ve never smoked or ever wanted to smoke. It gives you that edge and maybe women like that. I definitely did.

You started The Whisky Lounge before the new cocktail renaissance now when everyone is drinking bourbon and whiskies. It’s not surprising that people might not have been in tune with the specifics of each.

Eddie: We started the York Whiskey Festival back in 2001-2002. I’m always very hazy. Some people insist it’s 2001, but I just don’t think I can remember past 2002. We started the full-time business in 2008. I finished with Moët Hennessy in 2007. I think back to those days and they feel like very innocent days when life was quite simple. People didn’t have the same level of knowledge, but at the same time, they perhaps didn’t have the same level of preconception and being very judgmental about things.

I think what we’re at risk at the moment is people getting too bogged down in the minutiae of how a whisky is made – the casks it’s been in and whether the cask was emptied on a Thursday, and just getting too obsessive with detail.

What I’d like to see is that people just enjoy it. The stuff is being made for you to enjoy it and, yes, if part of that enjoyment is the detail, but don’t let that get in the way if you’re just kicking back with a friend and just enjoying the stuff.

Susan: Were you ready to talk about all different kinds of whiskies when you created The Whisky Lounge? You’d been talking about two or three for Moët Hennessy for a long time. Did you think now I get to talk about every single one that I want to and to the whole wider world.

Eddie: Yes. What you need to remember is that I was with Moët Hennessy for two years, but I was with Oddbins for a long time before that. I had already a lot of exposure to a lot of different whiskies and I kept that up through my Moët Hennessy days. My focus, job-wise and professionally, was those three whiskies, but I still had an interest and still did a lot of research and reading about other whiskies. Actually, as part of my role, we would taste competitor whiskies at certain training sessions to give the sales guys a taste of the competition as they saw it. I was more than prepared.

Susan: I’m sure you were very prepared. Why did you even decide to leave and start The Whisky Lounge?

Eddie: In all honesty, there was a couple of reasons. This might sound really ungrateful, but I didn’t enjoy the job as much as I thought I would. I didn’t feel that I fitted into the corporate world. There were a lot of great people there and still are, and, all credit to them for sticking it out, but equally there were a lot of people who are just ladder climbing and could have been working with any product.

I’m all in, if I’m working for you or, I’m working for myself, I need to be focused and I need to be passionate about what I’m selling, what I’m doing, and if I’m not, then I’m not going to give it a hundred percent.

Susan: I hear that a lot. I actually have heard that quite a bit from a few brand ambassadors that they’re out there. A lot of them who’ve come from bartending and they’re all of a sudden stuck in a corporate job where they’re not able to have what they get from the bar or what they get from chatting to people all the time in their role. It makes them unhappy. They want to go back.

Eddie: Exactly, for them as it was for me, I’m sure it’s also challenging to not be able to talk about all brands, because that’s not your role. You’re paid to talk about the brands that your company is associated with.

There are one or two brand ambassadors who are very successful. I take my hat off to them who have managed to carve out their role for years and years and work around it and do talk about other brands. They were allowed to, which I think a very powerful thing. They are, I think in the minority. I think most brand ambassadors have a lifespan.  Probably two to three years before they burn out.

Susan: I’ve heard anywhere from two to three to nine . One of my guests said he could only be a brand ambassador for nine years. He said he knew into the ninth, he just couldn’t do it anymore.

Eddie: Nine years. Well, that’s hats off.

Susan: I know and he was international!  Now, onto The Whisky Lounge. What were your first steps and how did you see it grow?

Eddie: The first steps were really that, Amanda, my wife and I, we would talk about work and play and whatever else, even before we were married. It got to the stage with Moët Hennessy, I was just getting really hacked off with it all and I didn’t really know what to do about it.

I even considered applying for a global ambassador’s role with Glenmorangie, which a very good friend of mine who works in Glenmorangie quite high up. I won’t mention his name. He said to me, if you do that, you’ll risk your family life because, you’ll be away so much, it could have a very detrimental effect on your, on your family.

We just had our daughter at the time. I didn’t go for it. I’m very pleased that I didn’t go for it, even though I’m sure it would have been great fun to travel the world. Amanda and I were talking what I could do. We already had the York Whisky Festival still on the go.

She basically talked me into the fact that this business, which wasn’t yet called The Whisky Lounge, that this could be a business for me. It was a serendipitous moment, in the autumn of 2007, when I was called into the office in the London office.

They said, we’re really sorry. You’re going to have to make you redundant. It’s weird because I had this dream the night before this, that I was going to leave and I was going to start my own business. I think they were expecting my reaction to be upset, but my reaction was oh, okay.

Susan: This is the moment of my dreams.

Eddie: Yes. I feel very lucky because obviously most people who, in my position, think it’s a disaster. They offered to keep me on the same wages as a sales guy, that was just not for me. I’ll take my redundancy. Thank you very much. I started the Whisky Lounge three months later.

Susan:  Were people receptive to it right away?

Eddie: Yes, generally speaking. If I think back to those early days, it was a far cry from now. In the first year, we had the York Whisky Festival. I started doing tastings around the country in London, Brighton, Lancaster, other places basically within pubs that I knew during my years with my Moët Hennessy. It was just me driving my beaten-up, old car with a bunch of whisky and glasses in the back, almost like a traveling salesman, but not.

I would occasionally stay away, if I was in the deep South, but if I was not too far away, I’d drive home. I’d be home midnight or a bit late. It just became perfectly normal. Then following year, we started doing the Manchester and Newcastle whisky festivals along with York. They were a hit straight away because Newcastle, obviously I had history with, even though where I’d been was no more by that point. I think people already remembered me from my Oddbins’ days. That didn’t do me any harm, thankfully .

Manchester, I’d identified as a potentially strong area and it proved to be. Then the following year we went from doing three festivals in 2009 to doing five in 2010. Then we were up to eight and then ten or something like that.

Susan: Did the audience for these change throughout the years?

Eddie:  Absolutely. Absolutely. Particularly when we started doing them further south, in London and Brighton. The first year in Brighton was a real eye opener. I actually lived not too far from Brighton when I was a kid, about an hour’s drive, but I didn’t remember it being the way it was when we first went there with the whisky festival.

It was a very bohemian and vibrant city which is completely bonkers in the most wonderful way. We put on those whisky festival in the Hilton in Brighton, which is this network of function rooms. It’s immense. I did get lost in there. I think there’s customers still trying to find a way out.

The customers we had there were just incredible – these young people. I remember a guy dressed in a pink Tutu over jeans or something. I think it was wacky, but it was brilliant.  Just seeing all these young people coming to enjoy whisky and it definitely illustrated quite early on that whisky was about to go through quite a revolution.

Susan: Seeing that revolution, was that when you thought, you know what these people really need a book and I need to write that.

Eddie: No, it’s not as simple as that. I’d been meaning to write a book on the subject for years and years, and I had come up with the ideas, but never brought them to life. I’ll be super honest about this. I was very fortunate. I was contacted out of the blue by a publisher and, not just any publisher, but DK/Penguin/Random House.

I was actually sent an email through the website saying, “We’re trying to contact Eddie Ludlow about potentially writing this book for us.” This email was forwarded to me. I read it.  My immediate reaction was this has got to be a practical joke. This is my Geordie mate, Connor, putting me to task. I replied that it sounded really interesting, and then we had a phone call, and then I went for a meeting on the Strand. I was very fortunate, they wanted a specific book, a guide to tasting whisky as it is. They wanted me to write it because I think they thought I was younger than I was.

Susan: No, no, no. They heard about you. I know, but I have to say I have this book right here and. I devoured it literally in one day. It is so beautiful, not only beautifully written, but beautiful inside and so accessible for anyone from a beginner, really for a beginner, to even someone who knows a little bit to masters. It makes it so easy to understand.

I think it was the smartest thing to do to the four tastings for four specific types of whisky at one sitting.  I think that’s brilliant. It is just such a wonderful book.  Was it your conception to do it this way?

Eddie: Yes, it was in consultation with the publisher. There’s a lot of whisky books out there and a lot of very good whisky books out there. Fabulous whisky writers and, to be honest, I was quite surprised they didn’t ask one of those more established ones. When we were putting this together, we wanted it to have a point of difference.

The point of difference was going to be that it was a practical book, in which people could actually taste along and see, using their own taste buds and olfactories, the difference between the whiskies. It was quite challenging in terms of choosing the whiskies.

Susan: That was going to be my next question – how to choose the specific ones with options underneath them.  That must have been the hardest part.

Eddie: Yes, probably it was actually. I think because I knew that it was potentially an international book, not just a UK edition. I needed to consider what was available globally.  Yes, it did my head in, to be honest, what to do in that regard, apart from anything else.

You can’t help but look at reviews on Amazon. There’s one on the US site, which is a little bit unkind, I think, because the person writing says that it’s completely impossible to get hold of any of the whiskies, which I think is unfair.

Susan: You cannot believe in Amazon reviews. Don’t worry about that.

Eddie: I know, but you can’t help it. I’ve been told, stay off the Amazon reviews, but you can’t help it. I’m lucky most of them have been really lovely. In fact, I had a message completely out of the blue, through Facebook saying, “I hope you don’t mind me messaging you. but I thought I’d let you know that I bought your book. Myself and a group of us had been going through all the lessons, one after the other. We’ve so far bought 45 of the whiskies and we are working our way meticulously through it.  None of us have been into whisky before this and our confidence has been built exponentially through each lesson.” It was just such a lovely, lovely thing for someone to say. Just that makes it all worthwhile.

Susan: Oh, what a compliment. I can’t wait to start actually. I’m going to start from the very beginning and go through it because I love my bourbon, maybe because I’m an American, and I’ve always wanted to learn more. I can’t wait next week. I don’t have all of them.

Eddie: Maybe we can do lesson one together.

Susan: That would be fabulous for the show. I think you’re being super modest when you said I don’t why they came to me when you have many titles in your bio and ones that I don’t even know how to pronounce.

Please tell me how to pronounce the Keeper of the…

Eddie: Keeper of the Quaich.

Susan: I didn’t want to embarrass myself by trying to say it. You are a member of so many whisky groups and guilds. You are the man, really, you are one of the whisky guys in this milieu. It’s not surprising that DK came to you.

Eddie: Yes, it makes me feel very uncomfortable.

Susan: That’s a very English thing to say.

Eddie: I think I’m very fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time on many occasions. I am extremely lucky, not just professionally, but in my personal life with my wife and children. I think passion and determination and strength of character can carry you through a lot of situations.  I think that probably could be part of the reason I got to do all the wonderful things I have.

I would never, ever address myself as a whisky expert, it’s really not something that I would be comfortable self-applying. I’ve heard other people applying wine expert or things like this to themselves.  I just cringe because there are hundreds of thousands of people out there that know far more than I do. I probably have a good broad range of knowledge on the subject.  

For me, the thing is communication. It’s about not necessarily how much you know, but how you actually communicate that knowledge that’s been entrusted. It’s almost like a respect thing. I respect whisky and I respect the people that make it. I think it’s important to convey that and the people are able to enjoy it in the best way.

Susan: Absolutely. It’s for us to call you an expert. You don’t have to call yourself an expert. We can call you that!

Now I want to talk about your festival, The Whiskey Festival in a Box. Obviously this year, we can’t be having the Whisky Lounge in real life, but you have thought of something super creative and you’re doing The Whiskey Festival in a Box. Tell me a little bit about how that concept started and what it is and when it is and all of that.

Eddie: Yes. As you rightly point out, we’re not able to bring our events physically to people in the venues that we normally would. It’s very challenging because we’re all social creatures and, for us, seeing people face-to-face, welcoming hundreds of people into these venues to enjoy whisky – it’s why we do it. It’s really heartbreaking not being able to do that. The next best thing are virtual events, there’s no getting around that. We’ve thought long and hard about the best way of putting these events together. Over the last few months, we’ve done a lot of virtual tastings with accompanying tasting packs.

People can enjoy at home whilst we’re doing presentations and chats and so on. That’s where our Whisky Festival in a Box has come together. It’s a knitting together, if you like, of different festival sessions, which have different subject matters, each with their own accompanying tasting pack, which is very, very exciting.

I’m going to be presenting it from one of our local distilleries on the lovely North Yorkshire coast, a place called Spirit of Yorkshire, and that’s going to be exciting in itself, and then I’m going to be presenting or hosting tastings with presenters from literally all over the world.

We have people not flying in, but they’re hosting their portion of the tasting from the United States, from India, Sweden, and so on. It’s really, really exciting. That’s one of the great things about this. It just wouldn’t be possible in a physical event. It’s one thing that we can do differently among others, where we can actually bring people from all over the world into this into this event.

Susan: Fab. Where can people find out about it? What is your URL?

Eddie: It’s thewhiskylounge.com and it is the Whisky Festival in the Box. It’s right slam on the home screen. It’s pretty obvious when you go to the homepage. We’ve just today put up the list of whiskies for each session. I think there’s a couple still we’re waiting to hear about, but we’ve got most of them up there. It’s looking really, really exciting and, yes, it should be really great.

Susan: Fabulous! I’ll see you there, but before we go can you tell me your tips for the home bartender when it comes to whisky shopping, if they’re just setting up their first bar. What would be the four whiskies or so that they should have in house? Or types if you don’t want to be specific.

Eddie: Yes. I think, and this is reflected in the whisky industry in general that good whisky is now being made everywhere all over the world. Whereas, maybe 20 years ago, I might have chosen an exclusively scotch whisky selection. I would say now I would be tempted to go with a couple of scotches, maybe an Asian whisky and an American whiskey.

I’ve come to probably the opposite way around to you. I come to American whiskey quite recently and particularly for the book, I had to do a lot of research, which were very pleasurable. I’ve come to really enjoy a lot of American whiskey.

I would say probably an unpeated scotch whisky, something like Glenmorangie 10 year old or Glenlivet 12 year old, which is going to be a very nice, light, citrusy, aperitif style. Something I would certainly describe as a breakfast whisky, not necessarily for breakfast, but the first whisky of the day. Then either something medium peated, even a blended scotch, like Johnny Walker Black Label, but I would even maybe go for something like a Springbank 10-year-old, which is a Campbelltown single malt. It’s not super heavily peated, like an Ardbeg or Lagavulin. It’s just got just enough just to balance out the sweetness and the natural sweetness of malt whisky. There’s a unique dram really worth trying.

Then I would maybe go for something like a Kavalan Taiwanese single malt whisky, or a Japanese single malt whisky, something like Nikka Taketsuru or Kavalan Classic or Concertmaster. There are so many to choose from nowadays, but basically something that has a little bit more spice and richness than the Glenmorangie or Glenlivet. It doesn’t have the peatiness of the Springbank. It’s distinctly different from those.  

Then in terms of the American whiskey, I would struggle between bourbon and rye, because I love both. However, I think I probably drink a little bit more bourbon than I do rye. I do quite like a bourbon that’s quite rye heavy. I’m trying to think there was a Four Roses. I can’t remember if it’s the small batch or the single barrel. One of those is rye heavy. I really enjoy that. I think it might be the single barrel and I liked that because the rye for me just gives it that lovely little bit of dry spice, which sometimes bourbon can be just a little bit too sweet, but the rye just tempers that slightly like peat in malt whisky, that’s probably what I would go for.

Susan:  Would you serve them neat?

Eddie:, I would serve the two scotches with a jug of water as an option.  Water for me is, and for a lot of people, the most revelatory thing about that whisky drinking experience, because it just brings out so much in the whisky. Not everyone likes to do it.  I would definitely not say to anyone that they have to do it, but I would always encourage people to try it at least and just see for themselves what it can do.

Similarly to the Japanese or the Taiwanese,  I would also advocate the highball, which is something I really came across in Whisky Live in Paris many, many years ago in Nikka archive area, which was just incredible and had a couple of these highballs well, I was away.

It was so delicious, which is essentially crushed ice, the whisky and soda water, very simple it’s whisky’s gin and tonic moment, I think. Then for the Four Roses, I would certainly either have it just with ice, a big lump of ice, or I would make an Old Fashioned,

Susan: Definitely. Now, if you could drink anywhere in the world right now, where do you think that would be?

Eddie: We go to Islay, normally at least once or twice a year and we obviously haven’t been able to go this year and I really missed it even more than I thought it would. I would probably choose either the pier at Ardbeg. Well, any of the peers on the Southern Islay distilleries, like Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin. In fact, probably all three, I’d walk from one to the other until I walked them all. Yes, to drink whiskies in the location that they were made is special, but, I would drink any whisky at those locations to be honest, as long as it was good quality.

Susan: Oh, sounds divine.

Eddie: Okay. Yes, it is! In the summer time, particularly, but anytime of the year, to look back at the distillery, whichever one it is from the pier while you have a glass of the whisky in your hand and you’re with a friend or two, it’s just magical, it makes the back of my neck stand up just thinking about it.

Susan: I can’t wait to get back there. Thank you much for being on the show. I enjoyed so much talking to you and I’m going to reread the book and I can’t wait for our tasting.

Eddie: We’ll definitely do that soon. Thanks again for having me on. It’s been really cool. I don’t get to tell those tales to too many people! Thanks for listening.



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