York sip code: A bluffer’s guide to whisky

10 Oct 2012 @ 10.39 am
| Food & drink

JR's happy. Either Sue Ellen's fallen down the stairs or he's coming to York Whisky Festival
It’s the York Whisky Festival this weekend. Here Joe Clark of organisers The Whisky Lounge arms you with all the information you’ll need to become an expert on the hard stuff


What is it about whisky that makes it special?

There are many things that makes whisky special: the heritage, the incredibly skilled people who make it, the fact that it’s one of the few surviving industries on the British Isles. But to give one answer it would have to be the simple fact that it’s the most diverse spirit in the world and nothing else even comes close in terms of variety of flavour. From light, sweet, grassy styles to the big, heavy, smoky styles, whisky has got it all.


Can New World whisky rival Scotch?

The whiskies on offer at our recent World Whisky tasting they all stand up against the well-known and much loved Scottish malts, they’re really impressive and are clearly being made by distillers with equal skill to the Scots. Having said that it’ll be a long time before we ever see a nation out-producing Scotland in terms of whisky. Thirty-six bottles of scotch are exported every minute, I’m sure you’ll agree that’s a lot of whisky and with the best will in the world a hand full of distilleries in Tasmania or Sweden can’t compete with that.


What gives each whisky its own distinctive flavour?

There’s no real quick answer here, but I’ll try. Each stage of production puts its own fingerprint on the finished spirit. Even though all malt whisky from Scotland has only three ingredients each distillery’s spirit can be totally different. A bit like asking three artists to paint the same landscape using
only three colours, in the end each picture would be different.


Which is the best mixer for whisky: coke, Ginger Ale, Canada Dry or something else?

Whatever you like I say. For me personally straight up, maybe with a touch of water if I’m dealing with a 60 per cent cask-strength monster. Whisky is hugely subjective and the truth is there is no right or wrong way to enjoy it and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Just enjoy it that’s the main thing.


How many fingers of Scotch is too many?

Ha, I wouldn’t want to say this is the kind of thing you can get quoted on years down the line. A hefty measure does allow you to get right into a whisky, just one finger is never usually enough.


What are your three favourite whiskies, why, and which bars serve them in York?

Tough call, at a push I’d have to say:
1. Brora A long closed distillery that you’d be lucky to find behind any bar, if you see it anywhere let me know.
2. Ardbeg This distillery has always been a favourite, a big smoky style but with a subtle fruity thing that sits in the background. Trembling Madness on Stonegate usually have the ten-year-old behind the bar, awesome stuff.
3. Springbank A small independent distillery found in Campbeltown, a rich rewarding whisky with a superb balance of flavour. It’s got some guts and you know you’re drinking it. The recently opened Sotano have it in, well worth a try.