The story of how I came to be a whiskyphile is long and involved, however I will start as always at the beginning. My first taste of whisky would have been sampling a dram of my step-fathers Glenmorangie [http://www.glenmorangie.com/] at Christmas time, sometime before my 10th birthday. Offered to me partly to share the seasonal joy and more likely to elicit my whisky face*. However, I will never forget my first bottle, or even my first two bottles. My first bottle of whisky was handed to me at the arrivals lounge of Edinburgh Airport with the explanation “Welcome to Scotland” sometime around 15 years later. I hadn’t the heart to reveal I had been living in Scotland for over a decade at this point, as I was too taken with a miniature welcome home from Bowmore [http://www.bowmore.com/] of their single malt scotch whisky. My second identical miniature Bowmore was received as a wedding favour, so far obtaining whisky was turning out to be most enjoyable.
Drinking it on the other hand required a little more effort. Unfortunately I was reasonably uneducated in the ways of whisky at this time and enjoyed these offerings over ice [on the rocks]. Poetic for an Islay malt, but perhaps not the best way for truly appreciating the taste and experience. I also used a little to flavour a whisky cream sauce that I served over chicken braemar [chicken breast stuffed with black pudding] served with roasted potatoes and seasonal green vegetables, being a little bit of a gastronome I was already keen to discover how food and whisky could be combined and compliment each other in the best possible ways. Having grown up near Bury in Lancashire, England I was more than familiar with the qualities of black pudding – a delicacy for which the town is famous for [http://www.buryblackpuddings.co.uk/].
My first full-sized [70cl] bottle of whisky was purchased almost by accident. My fiancés younger brother was wanting to purchase a bottle of whisky as a gift and I had started to peruse the whisky aisle in the supermarket to familiarise myself with brands and relative prices. I harmlessly commented that the local ASDA were running an offer on 10 year old Aberlour [http://www.aberlour.com/] speyside single malt scotch whisky at under £20, £18 to be exact. Placing this bottle almost within the same price range of some of the better blended scotch and bourbons. So off we scuttled in the blink of an eye and returned home with a bottle each. To this day this remains one of my favourite bottles of whisky and distilleries but more on that later.
*A whisky face is an involuntary facial expression often accompanied by an intake of breath, a twitch or shake of the head or even a whole body shudder upon the first (or first few) samplings of whisky. Most likely a natural reaction to the intake of strong alcohol. Some people have been known to simply faint or even violently reject said dram. Thankfully some people never lose their whisky face/reaction bestowing them with a great party trick for life! True whiskyphiles will often boast that they were born unable to make a whisky face, or are never able to remember making one, but deep down everyone knows that if they have drunk whisky in their lifetime – then they must have made a whisky face at least once. The most famous reference to whisky faces was by the comedian Denis Leary in one of his stand up sketches, being the son of Irish immigrants this was more likely to be a whiskey face generated by Irish or bourbon whiskey rather than Scotch whisky.