Whisky Q&A | James Fairlie

What’s your favourite whisky and why?

I don’t have a favourite whisky as everyday for me is different. If I went by what I find myself going back to, I would say Springbank 15 year old. It is the everyday umami whisky for me.

Have you ever met a whisky you didn’t like?

I know every whisky produced will have somebody out there that will like it. I always take that into consideration and if the whisky isn’t for me I still like to find in it what somebody else would like.

If you could visit any distillery in the world where would you go?

I have been lucky enough to travel and visit a lot of the distilleries I have always wanted to visit. One of the distilleries near the top of my wish list is High Coast Distillery in Sweden (formally known as Box Distillery). They have a festival there (usually towards the end of June) that I would love to attend.

What is the most exciting thing happening in whisky right now?

New distilleries. Some are using modern techniques and stepping away from tradition. For example, Kavalan Distillery in Taiwan produced its first bottling in 2008. Kavalan has a faster maturation rate due to the heat and humidity throughout the year. Wolfburn in Thurso, Scotland, has reopened after closing in the 1850s. They released their first whisky in 2016 and are using quarter casks that previously held peated whisky from Islay. Over the next few years we will see even more distilleries opening and using different methods that could change whisky history.

What’s the biggest misconception about whisky?

There are a few out there. One of the main ones for me is being told you have to drink whisky a certain way because that is best. Typically we are told whisky must be enjoyed 'neat'. Yes, it’s fantastic like that, however, it should be drunk how you like it. If you're drinking whisky, in anyway, that is fine by me! As I write this, it’s a 37C day in Melbourne and a great drink for that is a whisky highball. The tough decision now though is which whisky…? Keep it traditional with a Suntory whisky or change it up for something different like Shelter Point Single Malt from Canada?

I want to introduce a friend to whisky - what’s the best way to dip a toe in ‘the water of life’?

Definitely you can start with an introduction to whisky class that most whisky bars and bottle shops now host. Usually a lighter ex-bourbon cask or a balanced and slightly sweeter ex-sherry cask is the way to go. Just keep an eye on the percentage of alcohol, between 40% and 46% is good and you can always add a bit of water to soften it and to also open up the flavours in the whisky. It’s probably best to leave peated whisky to the end as it’s not for everyone.

Why should I come on The Whisky Trip?

The best way I’ve learnt about whisky is going to the source. It makes so much sense when you see it in the flesh and can ask questions of the people who make it. Every distillery has their own story and it’s great when the people behind it share them with you, along with a wee dram straight from the cask. The Whisky Trip is designed around how we would like to visit distilleries, getting lost in the whisky bubble, meeting new like minded friends and going on an exciting adventure.