Whisky is making a comeback. Or so I’m told. I’ve never been much of a whisky drinker, but for some reason it keeps coming up in conversation as the new “it” spirit. At the Met Bar last Monday I was told that the field of mixology has witnessed a return to classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned. At Hawksmoor last Thursday the drinks menu was full of Manhattans and Mint Juleps. Indeed, it seems that whisky is on the rise.
Although I’ve never been much of a trendsetter, I make the occasional effort if the opportunity presents itself. Last week the opportunity could not have presented itself more conveniently. I was invited to attend a whisky tasting with Bowmore Distillers at the Malmaison hotel in London. Hailing from the Isle of Islay, Bowmore has been around since 1779 and produced the first legal single malt whisky on the island.
I wasn’t sure how big the event would be, but I walked into a room full of people (mostly male) rubbing elbows and sipping whisky. If this event was any indication, whisky was definitely getting popular. With men, anyway.
Then I met the head of brand marketing for Bowmore. She and I had a quick discussion about women and whisky, which she said is also an emerging trend. Apparently “Women and Whisky” events are taking place in cities like New York in an effort to make the drink less intimidating and more approachable to what is a new market for the whisky industry.
While we talked, I sipped a glass of single malt with ice and a thin slice of orange peel. At first I was convinced that there was some sort of mixer involved. I had never tasted whisky that didn’t burn its way down my throat. But this was just whisky, and I actually liked it.
After the first drink, we moved into another room for a more serious tasting. First we tried the Bowmore 12 Years Old, which, according to our host, had notes of lemon, honey, and chocolate in addition to the peaty smokiness that is characteristic of whisky. My uninitiated palette couldn’t distinguish the flavors in the whisky, but it did appreciate the delicious Maldon Bowmore smoked salmon on rye bread that went with it.
From there the tasting progressed to the 15 Years Old, the 18 Years Old, and the star of the evening, the Bowmore 25 Years Old. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay until the end, but the goody bag I went home with had samples that I could taste at my leisure.
Did the event make a whisky drinker out of me? Not quite yet. Like any spirit, the key to developing a knowledge of whisky is to drink (a lot of) it. But given that I’ve tried some that I liked—and that it’s the spirit of the moment—I may find myself ordering an Old Fashioned next time I’m out. And the time after that. And the time after that…