17 May 2016 | 4 mins

I feel like all of my writing could quite easily start off describing the view outside. It’s usually how I begin; staring off into the deep blue Scottish sky. I prefer to write with a clear head, disconnected from the outside world, where I can think and type in peace.

This evening, like many evenings before, I’m sitting in my favourite spot at home with a small tumbler of deep amber liquid. Charlie is sleeping with his head on my lap, content with the world. It’s a relaxing place to be, but I appreciate that the whisky I’m drinking will soon remove the ‘clear head’ I prefer to write with; hopefully I can get my thoughts out within one glass.

This particular glass is my favourite. I acquired it on my 21st birthday, from a bar that no longer exists in Edinburgh. Possibly because people kept taking all their good glasses. The thick, pentagonal base makes a satisfying thud on the thin wood of my coffee table between drinks; you can feel the weight behind it, something I’ve always felt most glencairns lack, despite their superiority for nosing. I drink whisky to feel it, for the experience it provides. The receptacle you choose is part of that experience.

Like most people, I imagine, I was never a big fan of dark spirits during the first few years exploring alcohol. Cider was my first introduction to alcohol in my early to mid teens, followed by cheap beer shortly after. Spirits barely featured, and when they did it would be in the form of vodka with some cheap, sweet mixer hiding the taste. After I turned 18 and could legally be served alcohol, I tried a wide variety of drinks, mainly during the first couple of years at university. The Adios MF, a bomb shot comprised of Wray and Nephew White Overproof rum and Bacardi 151, served at The Empress in Newcastle is a particular highlight (lowlight?) of my exploration. It has put me off rum for life.

The one spirit I never really cared to try though, was whisky. Whisky is an old mans drink. Cheap vodka with off-brand lemonade, sure, give me three. Jack and Coke? Don’t mind if I do. Single-malt, neat? Nah. But I’ll shot some Sourz with you if you like.

It wasn’t until I moved to Scotland when I was twenty that I really gave whisky a chance. I made the conscious decision to try it, as opposed to all other drinks I’d tried previously, which were mainly the result of chance and happenstance. And yes, to be honest, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like smelling before I drank. I didn’t like having to sip slowly, rather than downing-in-one and ordering another. This was a completely different way to drink, and an unfamiliar one at that.

Whisky is, absolutely without doubt, an acquired taste. Nobody is born liking straight whisky. You need to learn to drink it. Learn to experience it. It takes work. Like with coffee, I had to go through the stages until I started to appreciate the nuances, until I began to understand why people choose to drink whisky. Single-malt Scotch is a complex, deep, multi-layered beast. It is an endless journey you take through your senses without moving an inch. It transports you places you would never have imagined possible from such a small quantity of liquid.

I still know relatively little about whisky, despite the army of different bottles lined up in my drinks cupboard. I know I am young; too young to fully appreciate the artform of whisky right now. I have though, learned the reason whisky is an old man’s drink; you need the lifetime of experiences to draw on. You can’t recognise memories in the aromas that you haven’t experienced yet. Truly understanding whisky must be earned, like climbing a mountain. You can’t skip straight to the top; you need to live through the climb to appreciate the view.

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Pipette 09 Mar 2017

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