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THE DISH: Developing taste for good whiskey



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I’m an amateur whisky drinker. I like a good single malt, and I like a good blend.

But I can’t tell you where to get the absolute best whiskies in Nairobi that haven’t been corrupted by people trying to make money—which I hear is an actual problem nowadays, who knew?

I can’t tell you about the citrus flavours that I smell from a glass before I drink it, or the origins of certain brands and whether or not you actually get a square foot of land in Scotland when you buy a bottle.

I can tell you about my favourite whisky though, which happens to be a Glenfiddich. I’ve never been a great fan of the 12, or the 18, but the 15 for me hits just the right spot. Goes down easy, like a nice merlot, sans the hangover that comes with getting to the end of the bottle.

And it just so happens that about a week or so ago, the Glenfiddich Global Brand Ambassador, Struan Grant Ralph, was in town to launch the 21. I don’t recall ever having tasted the 21, but my questions to him were directed more towards why many women don’t necessarily drink whisky, and why they’re choosing Kenya to launch this particular product. “Kenya has more single malt whisky drinkers than ever, and from a distilling point of view, the 12, 15 and 18 have done so well here.”

Apparently whisky enthusiasts in Kenya are drinking more, older, better whiskies, so this move makes sense. “In terms of flavour, it’s a Caribbean rum cask finish, looking to elevate the sweetness and complexity, mostly – the 15 you like is a complex three-cask marriage, and this one is a finish.” He was talking about how the Kenyan palate likes a sweeter taste typically, which I can attest to. Like I said, no one likes being choked by their alcohol, and you have no obligation to finish drinks that taste bad.

That being said, Struan’s job seems pretty great. I’m ready to be paid to fly around the world to drink whisky and get other people to drink it with me. So how does that happen, exactly? “There’s a whisky school in Scotland, actually, and you can do a degree in Brewing and Distilling. I didn’t go there, but I do have a diploma. You don’t have to start as an expert, because you can learn. In terms of ambassadorship, we’re taking people who are passionate about whisky. You can’t teach passion.” Good news for the rest of us without those diplomas.

Struan, as it happens, used to run a whisky bar in Melbourne, Australia. His first job was as a bartender – after getting his Masters in Biochemistry. “I’m glad I studied it then, when I was clever!”

They called him to come work for them, which worked well with his inherent curiosity about how things are made, getting to see the world and meet all kinds of people, and immersing himself in a practically infinite well of whisky information – because there’s always more to learn and more to see. “Some people who’ve been working at Glenfiddich have been working since the 1960s and 70s, almost 50 years. They’re great people to learn from.”

Ok so I retract my previous statement, I actually can’t do this job and I’m not ready to, as I don’t have a whisky bar or a Masters.

Struan then disabused me of the notion that women don’t drink as much whisky. “That’s changing. Brands used to promote certain things to certain genders, but the great thing about this generation is that that doesn’t exist anymore. What I’m seeing now in the women and whisky movement – there is no gender to good taste. Any brand that segments this in such a way is destined to fail.”

So basically, if you’re looking for something that isn’t going to damage you beyond repair this festive season, then a bottle of whisky is the way to go…

I’ll be over here in the corner, sticking to my career choice…

Wondering where to get the 411 on what’s happening in and around Nairobi’s foodie scene? There’s a lot of places you could go, but here’s where we want you to be – getting the dish on the dish. Get it? We knew you would.