Everybody knows I’m a ride or die gin drinker, but I’m also never one to turn down some alcohol knowledge. Birmingham Whisky Club run regular tastings in the city centre throughout the year, but for International Women’s Day they decided to do something a bit different. Whisky definitely has a reputation as being a drink ‘for men’, but it turns out that whisky actually owes a lot to some rather awesome women. Birmingham Whisky Club is actually run by two women, Vicky and Amy, so when I was invited along to their Whisky Woman night, it seemed the perfect way to discover a spirit I’ve always liked the idea of, if not the taste.
We were given six different whiskies to try, already neatly laid out when we arrived, on a numbered mat. An accompanying sheet told us which whisky was which, and the name of the woman we’d be learning about. Amy talked us through each whisky, explaining the differences in production, and a bit of the history. Amy is clearly very passionate and very knowledgeable about whisky. She was interesting to listen to, and left us all feeling like we really needed a holiday on Islay, an iconic location for Scottish whisky.
I felt the balance of information was perfect. A lot of the group were new to whisky, but we had some old hands too, but Amy walked an ideal line between helping us newbies understand what we were drinking and how best to taste it, while also providing plenty of new and interesting information for those who were more knowledgeable.
Vicky talked us through some of the amazing back stories to the whiskies we were drinking, from the brazen ladies of bourbon bootleggers who smuggled bourbon in their skirts, to the incredible story of Rita and Taketsuru. I can’t do it justice, but I recommend doing some googling to discover a beautiful love story between a Japanese whisky producer and the Scottish girl who supported his business, before being accused of spying during the second world war.
I definitely don’t know enough about whisky to intelligently review what we tried. However, I can say that I was really surprised. Having assumed I didn’t like whisky, I actually did enjoy most of what I tried, once I’d got over the initial burn of the bourbon. My favourites were Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt and Mackmyra Svensk Rok. The Taketsuru was light and almost friuty. According to the bottle, you should expect notes of espresso beans, which perhaps explains why it was my favourite. The Svensk Rok tasted very clean, and smelt slightly like good cake. Very, very drinkable.
If you’re like me, and like the idea of whisky but don’t know where to start, I highly recommend booking a tasting with Birmingham Whisky Club. They have some great events coming up, including food pairings and a taste along with the original Godzilla movie. I’ll certainly be exploring more whisky from now on.