Posted by: Chris C aka The Geriatric Newbie, with a foreword by Nick
We waffle boys like to consider ourselves experts in the field of whisky simply because we drink a fair bit of the stuff. In truth we are merely charlatans in matching shirts. However, across several years and countless drams we do seem to have picked up a fact or two about the water of life, which is brilliant when like minded whisky fans write to us with a question or two. We recently received a piece of such correspondence from a Western Australian by the name of Chris that we found so brilliantly entertaining and so… waffle-like – that we had to share it with the wider whisky community. After all, a fair few fellow-bloggers check out our little site so the more answers we can compile the better. So without further ado, may I introduce our latest guest writer: Chris, the first time Waffler.
Not that sort of waffles. Though the shirt thing is spot on…
I hope you’ll forgive me for firing a few newbie questions at you. I am in need of guidance, as a whisky drinking veteran of some 6 days standing. Well, mostly standing. Having been a virtual teetotaller for quite some years (sadly, most drinks give me a headache after just one glass) I recently decided to give whisky a chance as, miraculously, it doesn’t seem to upset the remaining brain cells.
A little over a week ago I passed one of those age milestones that makes you realise that your use-by date is fast approaching. Even if I haven’t completely lost my marbles, I have to admit that I do seem to misplace them fairly regularly now. A new, fresh and invigorating hobby and interest was called for. Something that didn’t require me to lie under machinery getting hot, cross and oily or involve painting, repairing, cleaning, or fixing things up. Anything involving rules, teams or vigorous physical exertion was also out. So putting aside my historical aversion to whisky and giving it another chance seemed a reasonable punt. And there was a modest pile of ‘birthday money’ that I clearly had a moral duty to use to help stimulate the flagging local retail sector.
So six days ago I ventured into Mundaring (a small town in the hills outside Perth in West Australia) and bought a bottle of Chivas Regal Extra (which a friend who claims to know about these things assured me was at the better end of blended whisky) and a bottle of Glenfiddich 12yr old (on the basis that everybody has heard of it and my younger brother used to drink it many years ago). So far so good. I also bought a bottle of dry ginger to use in an emergency (i.e. if I couldn’t hack the whisky on its own).
That night my wife (who fortuitously already owned three Glencairn glasses, which she uses for drinking white wine. Don’t ask.) and I cracked open the bottles. Hey, not bad! No headache, no embarrassing collapses. No major cries of pain. We successfully worked out what a 30mil nip looked like but had no idea how to drink it – other than the basic understanding that you stick it in your mouth and swallow. My ‘palate’ must be fairly robust because I could instantly detect the taste of firewater with notes of rocket fuel and hints of paint stripper. The Chivas was particularly bold in that department.
Some swift Googling soon provided the handy tip to give a glass from a brand new bottle a minute or two to breathe, then to add a wee splash of water and to start with small sips, hold on the tongue for a while, etc. This gave much better results. The resident expert in alcohol related matters declared herself a more or less instant fan of the Glenfiddich.
The plan was to spend the next few weeks or months slowly developing our whisky drinking skills using the contents of those two bottles. But a curious thing happened.
The next day I awoke not only feeling particularly cheerful, but also feeling an entirely unexpected urge to add to “The Collection”. After owning a mere two bottles for less than 24hrs, they had mysteriously, and without warning, morphed into the basis for a “Collection”. Odd. Is that normal?
Later that day I added a bottle of Dalwhinnie 15yr and one of Auchentoshan 3 wood – neither of which I had previously heard of – purely on the basis that some guy on the internet had recommended them as fairly smooth and easy for a novice to tackle without getting too put off. He was right.
Two days later it somehow seemed essential to broaden “The Collection” by adding a Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban and a Lagavulin 16yr (friends had started offering ‘helpful’ suggestions by this point). These have, temporarily, been left unopened. And yesterday the compulsion to add “just two more, and then that’s it…” led to the addition of an Aberlour A’bunadh and an intriguing sounding Welsh malt called Penderyn Myth. Birthday money now all gone… starting to eye off the savings account… Will this strange compulsion ease off any time soon?
Sir Henry Wood conducting the orchestra in a spirited rendition of ‘Symphony for Throat and Nostrils’ by Pete Hintz (with apologies to Ted’s resident wooden figure)
So far we’ve only opened the first 4 bottles and have been trying to stick to the Dalwhinnie and the Chivas – for now. But last night I decided it was time for the Auchentoshan. I waited until after 4.00pm (new self imposed rule – although I’ve never needed to time alcohol intake before…) and then poured a generous nip, added a small dash of water and stuck my nose in the glass.
Now, I have a fairly decent sized hooter, one that makes quite a comfortable stopper for a Gencairn glass and once plugged in there seemed absolutely no hurry to remove it. Beautiful aromas rose up, reminiscent of the wonderfully rich fruit cakes that my wife has been making this week. Marvellous. Marvellous turning into Magnificent with each fresh inhalation.
Now, nobody had said anything about how long this ‘nosing’ business should take, so surely a few minutes was called for in this case. Keep inhaling – it must surely be good practice? As I breathed slowly and rhythmically, the small amount of air that was able to squeeze past the nose began making a sound very much like Darth Vader. Clearly, The Force was with me now….
Was there a hint of smoke amongst the fruitcake or was it just that the sound reminded me very much of times spent wearing Breathing Apparatus in our local Volunteer Bushfire Brigade? Ah, the nostalgia…drifting gently along on a swirl of memories… the steady pulse of breath going in and out was mesmerising. Hypnotic even. I may have started purring.
I finally dragged the glass away, intending to fire a finely worded and informative eulogy in my wife’s direction, but quickly realised that that there was now a serious risk that I would just giggle. Or perhaps start watering the whisky down with a few emotional tears. Is this sort of behaviour common among whisky drinkers??? I can hardly claim to have discovered the Elixir of Youth but, at age 70, it certainly feels like I may have stumbled upon the Elixir of old Age….
How do you pace your enthusiasm? It feels like I’ve gone from being a virtual teetotaller to a budding dipsomaniac in less than a week! How many helpings per week seem reasonably sustainable?
And will this new-found desire to waffle on at some length about my new interest to anybody who’ll listen start to fade in a while?