As we approach the perfect season to appreciate the warming glow from your Society dram, we asked our SMWS ambassadors about their perfect winter dram, and how they enjoy it.
JOHN MCCHEYNE, Master brand ambassador
As Scottish comedian Billy Connolly once said: “Scotland only has two seasons – winter and June” – so we Scots know all about how to make the most out of our long, dark nights.
A Heavily Peated island whisky with a sherry influence will have me basking in the glow of a warm fireside evening as winter howls outside. And it isn’t a moment for swirling and sipping – I’ll get a heavy crystal tumbler and let the flavours wash over my palate. But remember one thing about winter – there’s too much ice around already! A little touch of water dependent on the whisky’s strength may let the flavours gather and present themselves.
Sitting in Argyll looking out over the loch, I’ll have a history or whisky book on my lap. perhaps with some music from Dylan or Joan Baez in the background, or even my friend Robin Laing with his songs of Scotland and whisky.
From hunkering down on a wet and windy evening with a Heavily Peated dram to striding out across the Argyll hills on a bright and frosty day with a hip flask full of Oily & Coastal flavours, perhaps from the foot of the Kintyre peninsula… ahhh, winter…just talking about these whiskies has me saying: “Bring it on!”
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HANS OFFRINGA, Ambassador for The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg
In the winter I always gravitate towards the rich and the peaty profiles. I find the perfect ‘warming warriors’ in these heavy flavours from the SMWS stable.
At this time of the year I love to read long historical novels, preferably from Edward Rutherfurd.
He assembles and develops the characters in his books with the same clarity as the SMWS does with its flavours.
When the days shorten and it turns dark early, I also need a good bright lamp close to my favourite reading chair and a small table to put my whisky glass on.
I confess, I’m not only a jazz, blues and Zappa addict, but also enjoy classical music. I even wrote a book about it! For instance, Mendelssohn’s Hebridean Overture or his Scottish Symphony. And when I am in the mood for surprising twists and turns I go for Mahler’s 2nd or 3rd. And of course, there’s always Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.
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HSIN-YI CHIU, Ambassador for Asia
I keep jumping around different Society flavour profiles, but at this time of year I like my drams with Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits and Spicy & Sweet flavours. I’ll enjoy them neat first and then experiment with a few drops of water.
With a bunch of friends over, I’ll bring out a board game, and have some chocolate to taste along with the whisky – especially a Peated whisky with sea salt chocolate.
If I’m by myself, I’ll settle in front of the fire with the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s book If our language was whisky. He writes that: “If our words were whisky, I wouldn’t have had to work so hard, of course. I’d hand you the glass, and you’d take it and quietly send it down your throat – that would be the end of it. Very simple, very intimate, very accurate. However, our words are words, and they can only live in the world as words. When we tell stories, we replace all things with some other more sober things and then can only live within those limits. But sometimes for a brief, fortunate moment there is an exception, and our words really do become whisky. And we – or and least I – live dreaming of those moments. Dreaming of what would happen if our words were whisky.”
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TOM SMITH, Director, United States
Give me a dram from the Oily & Coastal flavour profile – I love the marriage of maritime influence and a dash of smokiness, and these strike me as some of the most sophisticated and well-balanced drams to enjoy. A Deep, Rich & Dried Fruit expression also works beautifully in the winter, as these typically sherried whiskies are voluptuous and bone-warming. I’ll always start neat and add small measures of cold water to taste. A stinky cheese earlier in the day or dark chocolate in the evening will make for a perfect accompaniment.
To read, of course it has to be Unfiltered, or Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea always pairs well. For entertainment, I’ll start with some Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music then move to Grateful Dead live concerts if I feel like finding a rabbit hole to disappear down. However, when the holidays are near, it’s all about A Charlie Brown Christmas.
What else do I need within arm’s reach? A carafe of water with dropper, a Padron 1926 cigar and some dark chocolate – at least 70% cacao.
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And if you’re coming out of hibernation in the southern hemisphere…or at least want to feel a little warmth…
MATT BAILEY, Ambassador for Australia
It’s full-blown springtime in Sydney in October, with everything blossoming, and the weather starting to warm up, and that’s when I turn to whiskies from either the Sweet, Fruity & Mellow or Juicy, Oak & Vanilla flavour profiles. Their rich, oily and sweet notes while firing up a barbeque as daylight savings kicks in is a remarkable feeling.
I’ll pick up some non-fiction such as Who thought this was a good idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco, or a fascinating publication I found in an antique store on the history and story of a fascinating spirit with so much history and romance behind it, Armagnac, The Spirit of Gascony: The drink, the producers, and the region, by CE Page.
Other than that, sunscreen, shades, and a cold beer to complete the boilermaker combo with your dram are a must. And when it’s hot, don’t be afraid to experiment – throw the bottle in the fridge for an hour, try a single cube of ice, or mix up a Peated highball! Some Society 66s and 10s make ridiculously tasty highballs and Old Fashioneds!
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