My earliest memory of drinking whisky was when I must have been somewhere around 12 years old. My parents used to run a Spar shop so they would often not be home until quite late and my dad always had a bottle of cheap blended whisky in the house (usually Bells or Spar's own blend) and I remember having some on numerous occasions, at first I just knocked it back in one as I thought that was the cool way to drink whisky but I found that too quick and easy so I used to just hold it my mouth as long as could. I can’t say at that time I was an instant fan but I didn’t dislike it either. I think my first bottle of whisky, or rather whiskey, was a bottle of Jack Daniels that I got as a present for my 18th birthday.
It wasn’t until 2009 when I was 25 that I really started drinking whisky. One day I just thought it would be interesting to try the 5 major cheap blended whiskies (Bells, Grouse, Teachers, Grants and Whyte & Mackay) to compare them and see which I thought was the best. My conclusion was (and still is) I thought Teachers was the best. I then tried the Tesco own blends, I wasn't that impressed with the cheaper Special Reserve and I thought the slightly more expensive Finest Reserve 12 was nice but it wasn’t at all what I thought higher quality whisky should taste like, I remember thinking it’s just like liquid fruit cake and I thought whisky should taste and smell more sort of dusty, musky, woody and a perhaps a bit smoky (I now though think it is a very good blend). So then there was only one place to move onto from there and that was the single malts, I’m fairly certain my first one was the typical starting point, Glenfiddich 12. I remember being quite amazed how different the flavour was with a much more distinct, cleaner character and even to a novice it was clearly better quality. I then tried other malts like Glenmorangie 10 and Glenlivet 12 which I liked equally as much but then I tried Balvenie 12 Double Wood and that was probably the moment when I truly got hooked to whisky, I can remember trying it for the first time and just saying to myself “wow!” and thinking I have found something very special, not just the whisky itself but also whisky as a hobby.
I then explored the diversity of single malt whisky such as heavily peated whiskies like Talisker 10 and Laphroaig 10, some of the older expressions of Glenfiddich and Glenlivet and some of the other great entry level malts like Highland Park 12 and Old Pulteney 12 and just as I was building a base knowledge of whisky and starting my journey into malts it had to stop as I became unemployed and I didn’t get any work for at least a year. Therefore I had to go back to the cheap blends, I wasn’t too distraught, it was always a struggle to have enough money for any bottle of whisky so I was grateful with whatever I had. After a while living on next to nothing I even got to a point where I remember thinking “God all that money I pissed away on those malts”. But eventually I managed to find a bit of work valeting cars which became quite a lot of steady work and gradually got back on my feet. Then one day doing some shopping in Tesco I saw a malt I had heard about and was very interested in trying so I had to buy it. It was Bruichladdich The Laddie 10 and after having nothing but cheap blends for more than a year the moment I tried it, it immediately reignited my passion for quality whisky and I haven’t looked back since.
I currently have 290 bottles (not including minitures/samples) which I have worked out if I don’t buy any whisky in the meantime that would easily last me at least 8 years, even so I have a never ending desire to keep buying more. It was never really by design to build a collection of hundreds of bottles of whisky, I suppose the main reason is prices are without doubt constantly going up and you could say the quality is generally speaking going down so it does make sense to buy sooner rather than later. Most of my collection is made up of single malts from Scotland and although that is what I favour I will buy whisky produced in any country and I’m not one of these people that will only buy malts, I particularly like buying blends at auction bottled in the 80’s, 70’s or earlier as you can still get them at reasonable prices and they can be absolutely stunning whiskies. I also have an ever growing collection and fondness for American whiskey probably mostly because I love whiskies that are cask forward but also because it has flavour profile you generally don't find in other whiskies. I always keep my collection on Whisky Base up to date deleting bottles when they are finished rather than marking them as empty, as it’s great way to quickly see exactly what I’ve got stashed away.