It took me a while to develop my love for single malt whisky. In the beginning it was a bit of love-hate relationship. I loved the idea of drinking this world famous spirit associated with money, fine taste and sophistication, but my palate would have none of it. I enjoyed the aromas: sometimes smoky or fruity, sometimes nutty or caramel, but I couldn’t stand the taste. It was harsh and it burned my mouth. I couldn’t understand the whole fuss about this liquid fire.
But as my old teacher use to say, “wait, give it time, eventually we all grow up to like most things, even blue cheese.” And I did too, I grew up to love this fiery, amber liquor.
I took my training in small steps, starting with lush and slightly sweet American Bourbons, a bit easier to take than Scotch, than slowly approached the softer and smoother single malts such as Dalwhinnie or Singleton Dufftown until I was ready for the serious stuff. I went from Lowlands to Highlands, from fruity and mild to smoky and medicinal, from caramel sweetness to salty sea-infused whiskies.
Though time I developed my own taste. To be honest I think I like them all, but my preference is for the peaty and sometimes faintly salty Islay single malts, and my absolute favourite of all is LAPHROAIG 10 Year Old. I think I like it so much because it reminds me of home.
To me the Laphroaig 10 year old smells like Poland in late autumn/early winter. It smells of crisp evening air, cooled down with the first frost and spiced with smoke from bonfires lit by farmers to burn debris from the fields, and of the wooden house where my grandparents lived. There are some aromas of autumn lingering underneath; a touch of dry leaves, a whiff of turned earth from the fields, a nuance of decaying vegetation… but there is the promise of winter in there too, of the ozone and iodine in the clean and frosty air, the first snow which will fall any day, and of a warm home with a fire, and my grandma’s ginger cake baked for Christmas – it needed to sit in the pantry for over a month to be ready, tempting us every time we wandered in there.
Every time I pour myself a dream of Laphroaig and take a sip I’m taken home to my childhood in the Polish countryside, back to my Gran’s cottage – long gone now – to that time of perfect carefree happiness one can only experience when very young.