Whisky drinking boys are probably the coolest people in the world
Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks please squire
I have a theory and it goes like this: boys who drink whisky might just be – no fuck it – boys who drink whisky are the coolest people in the world.
The tasteful auburn colour, the chunky ice cubes, first clinking as the barmen drops them in the tumbler, then glittering in the yellowish half-light of some expensive city bar.
Whisky means Edward Hopper paintings, noir and neon bleeding in the heavy rain, it means you might pull someone who looks like Joan from Mad Men, it means you’re serious and want to be taken seriously.
I drink whisky because Christopher Hitchens did and because I like sharing it with guys who don’t drink it, before watching them turn green when they try to keep up with me.
I drank a bottle of it when I thought I got someone pregnant (it helped a lot); I drink it when things go badly, I drink it when things go well.
Who else is drinking it? Why are they drinking it? How does it make them feel?
Ben is a second year at UCL. He first drank whisky a year ago and now he has this in his flat:
He told me how he went from his first painful sip to full blown Don Draper crystal decanter in the room: “My first whisky was at the Hawksmoor last year. My Grandad loved the stuff but he passed away when I was young so I’d never really had it before. I was with my mate Will and we were having a blowout meal, fat steaks with mac and cheese on the side.
“As the meal wound down Will, who drinks a lot of whisky decided to order Macallan Gold. I honestly didn’t enjoy the first glass of it but I persevered and once I’d had another three or four I realised I was really enjoying it. I haven’t looked back since.
“You don’t pre on whisky. It’s best after a night out – that’s why we have a decanter in the flat. You come in, pour out a nice little tumbler and chill out. Your shoes are off, you’ve unbuttoned your shirt and you’re sat in your favourite armchair. It’s one of the best ways to end an evening.
“Over the summer I went with my family to the highlands and we did the whisky trail. We had Glenfiddich, Macallan and a few others. We were taken round by a 20-year-old woman who went to Glasgow uni. She told us sche drank scotch every single day and judging from the grey hair and the way she looked about 20 years older you could tell.
“When I broke up with my girlfriend last year, Will came over with the scotch and he said something that stayed with me. “The feeling of this going down your throat will remove all your emotions.” He was right – it’s a cathartic drink. If you’re pensive or you want to reflect it’s a great drink.”
Dan is a third year at Trent and he likes a drink. We spoke about whisky means to him: “It has an air of class about it. I’d never drink it in the pub or anything. My family has had a booze cupboard for as long as I can remember. I used to see my Dad getting drinks from it and I though it looked good.
“The feeling of sitting down, wearing a suit, swilling a tumbler of whiskey is fantastic. You can pretend you’ve made it. It’s quite James Bond. I went on a cruise a few years back, I was sat at the bar drinking whisky and women were falling over themselves to talk to me.
“Glenfiddich 12 is my go to. It has a strong taste with a nice edge. It tickles the back of your throat. Compare it to something like vodka, which is little more than paint stripper. You might drink it to get steaming but you drink whisky because you actually enjoy it. It’s more than a drink, it’s an accessory.
“When you bring a bottle of scotch to pres it’s unusual. People get opinionated and it always starts a conversation. In some ways it is a test of strength because a lot of guys can’t hack drinking it.”
Robin goes to Edinburgh and his family is Scottish. His bond with whisky is deep and emotional. He keeps this in his room at all times:
He said: “I had my first whisky when I was 16. It was at my Dad’s house, can’t remember the name on the bottle but it was definitely a 25 year. I’d been curious about drinking it for years. It was bearable.
“Half my family is Scottish and they used to be involved in the whisky business. It’s part of our history and my gran drank it like nothing else.
“It’s hard to go to a Scottish uni and not become a whisky drinker. People give each other bottles for birthdays and crack it open at special occasion. If you’re at a dinner party there’s usually a decent £30 floating about and everyone can have a few drams of it. It’s the equivalent of champagne in England.
“I used to work in a very traditional Scottish bar and it was a good place to observe people’s drinking habits. You’d see guys come in after work or dinner, people would have a pint and a dram on the go at the same time.
“I’ve got a bottle of Glendronach 12 in my room, it’s a highland single malt. It’s rich, oaky, with a bit of cherry. It’s quite a firm whisky, it doesn’t fuck around. When I drink it I feel lordly, it’s a cultivated drink for cultivated people.
“If you’re not culturally brought up with it it becomes a drink you have to learn to like. It’s not like bear where you drink it in almost any situation. There’s a sophistication to it. The barrier of entry to getting into it is higher, like with red wine.
“The first word that comes into my head when I think of whisky is “family” – it’s not a simple thing, like family it has its ups and downs. Whisky is an emotional drink. You have it when you’re sad or when you’re celebrating – no one has it casually, it’s reflective, or you’re dealing with shit, or you’re really happy.
Chris is at Lancaster and he likes a whisky.
He said: “The first whisky I ever drank was JD when I was 16 years old. I absolutely hated the first taste but I was only on it to get bladdered.
“My cousin works at a whisky shop in Manchester. For his 21st a couple of years ago he did his own whisky tasting. He was handing out glasses of the good stuff, a Glenfiddich 21-year-old grand reserve, a beautiful Japanese Yamazaki. That night I realised there was a lot more to whisky than JD.
“I’ve got about 18 bottles in my flat now. The highlight of the collection is the 21-year-old Balvenie. I save it for special occasions like birthdays. It’s extremely sweet but it’s also dry. If you’ve ever had port it’s as dry as that. Sitting there for 21 years also makes it pretty syrupy.
“You need to drink whiskey neat, no water, no ice. It really is sacrilegious to do anything else. When it comes to taste I look for the strongest possible.
“My flatmates have followed my lead. They’re all building little collections of their own. I think they realised: here’s something I can actually drink.