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Issue 6 - My dark mistress (Ralph Steadman)

Whisky Magazine Issue 6
October 1999


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My dark mistress (Ralph Steadman)

The artist and former wild man Ralph Steadman enjoyed a 30 year old love affair with whisky. It was brilliant fun, and so good that it had to stop, he told Jane Slade

Like the best affairs, Steadman's relationship with whisky has been turbulent, immensely pleasurable but dangerously addictive. So much so that two years ago, he turned his back on the seductive charms of the single malts that had come to rule his life.

"I am now saving my old age to drink whisky again," he smiles, eyes twinkling in the full certainty that such a love is never lost forever.

We are sitting in his artist's studio, down the bottom of his glorious garden, next to his vineyard in an idyllic corner of southern England. He looks extremely youthful. This, despite 63 years and a nightmarish vision of humanity that he pours out through the safety valve of his drawings and writing. I had expected someone altogether different; a haggard chap with a hardened drinker's nose. A cartoon character perhaps, rather like the grotesques that inhabit his drawings.

But no. Ralph is almost disappointingly friendly – a balding, cheery grandfather whose devilish depictions have made him the leading illustrator of our times.

"It was Hunter who introduced me to whisky," he proclaims, rolling a cigarette and settling himself on one of those small wooden artist's stools.

Hunter is of course the journalist Hunter S.Thompson, whose walks on the wild side launched Steadman on the Bourbon trail when they met in Kentucky nearly 30 years ago.

"He used to drink it in a quart size glass," he added eyes wide at the memory. "Wild Turkey it was. We drank gallons of the stuff."

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