It has often surprised — and saddened — me to hear so many people, including countless Scots, say they don’t like whisky and would never drink it.
I accept that strong-flavoured spirits are an acquired taste and hence may not tickle everyone’s palate. However, to dislike whisky and totally shun it is to blank out a huge rainbow of taste experiences. To me it like saying one would never eat French, Chinese or Indian food — a narrowing of one’s horizons, a denial of one of life’s great pleasures.
To be fair, I know a few people whose dislike of whisky stems from bad experience — a dissolute, whisky-sodden father or imbibing too much whisky at an adolescent party and being very ill afterwards. And some people have genuine aversions to certain types of food or drink — my mother, for one, couldn’t thole garlic. However, I wonder if some people’s aversion to whisky is that they have only known poor blends (in the days when some were indeed dire) or perceive whisky as a downmarket, hard man’s drink, whereas whisky today is anything but.
I realise that few or no whisky shunners read this column, so the following paragraphs may be me crying in the wilderness. But on the off chance that it may help convert one or two sceptics, may I suggest, firstly, try a whisky liqueur or a Bailey’s or one of its innumerable clones. If Drambuie or Glayva seem too strong, try Stag’s Breath. At just under 20% alcohol, it is mild, very pleasant and available in half-bottles and miniatures so one can sample it without having to buy a whole bottle.
Or try a Scotch or Irish coffee — sweet black coffee with a jot of whisky in it, then thick cream floated on top down the back of a spoon. At first add just a spoonful of whisky to the coffee and, if it pleases, add two spoonfuls next time, a good jigger the time thereafter.
My favourite late-evening drink is coffee with a shot of Scotch or bourbon in it. Get the balance right and it is, to me, the perfect partnership.