He is a member of the Tasting Panel at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, where he is responsible for analysing, reviewing and selecting casks to be bottled and sold by the society. More recently, Chris founded, and was general manager of, the award-winning Usquabae Whisky Bar in Edinburgh. Currently, he is the auctioneer at Royal Mile Whisky Auctions, an ethical, online whisky auction platform.
15 Years Old
This whisky is almost the sole reason I ended up pursuing a career in the whisky industry in the first place. As a student in Edinburgh in the mid-noughties, I’d tried a few whiskies but didn’t really ‘get’ whisky until I tasted this dram. Glenfiddich, despite being a giant in terms of name and production, is still owned by the descendants its founder, William Grant. Using a unique solera-style vatting system first dreamt up by then-malt master David Stewart MBE, this 15 Year Old is full of stewed fruits and light baking spices. Gorgeous.
Balblair is somewhat of a hidden gem in my opinion, often overshadowed by its Inverhouse Distillers stablemate, Old Pulteney. This north Highland distillery employs a vintage strategy when bottling its malts, rather than traditional age statements, and for me, the new make works extremely well in ex-Bourbon casks. The 2003 vintage bursts with zesty orchard fruits and tropical notes along with some lovely floral tones. I’d need something to keep me cool and refreshed in the desert island sun, and popping this dram into a Highball serve will do just that.
21 Years Old Parliament
As the sun slips slowly over the horizon, something rich, dark and sherried is just what’s required as I gather my driftwood and get my beach campfire going. Glendronach’s long history is intertwined with its use of sherry casks, and the 21 Years Old Parliament is a shining example of what bold, weighty distillate can do when left for a couple of decades in high quality sherry casks.
It may have closed in 1998 to eventually be replaced with the distilling behemoth that is Dalmunach, but whisky from Imperial is starting to gather a bit of a cult following. The vast majority of single malt from this distillery went into blended whiskies, apart from small parcels of stock which were snaffled up by independent bottlers, such as Gordon & MacPhail. This is becoming ever more scarce, it’s one not for sharing, so being marooned on a desert island is the perfect time to enjoy it!
When the wind and rain from a tropical storm is battering my makeshift hut and I’m in need of a big old hug, it’d be this iconic Ardbeg I’d turn to. Ardbeg distilled in the early-mid 1970s has produced some legendary bottling. The pick of the bunch, for me, is the first edition of the 1974 Provenance. Tropical fruits, earthy spices, herbal tones and medicinal notes are all wrapped up in a comforting blanket of sweet peat smoke. A whisky at its peak, and what better time to enjoy it than when there’s some wintery Islay-esque weather outside.
A brief luxury
Drinking whisky can be hard work, so I’d be all for a palate cleanser. What’s better than a good old, traditional half n’ hauf (half pint of beer and a whisky)? It might not be a luxury to some, but nothing beats an ice cold beer to quench a thirst on a baking hot day. Pretty much anything from Fierce Beer would definitely do the trick.