People often ask me, ‘how did you become a whisky girl?’ Mostly, I imagine they expect it was my father or an ex-boyfriend, perhaps a favourite university professor who shared a dram with me and set me on the path. But they’re wrong to imagine that. Sure, I’ve shared plenty of whisky with my dad and step-dad, the odd professor and mentor but they weren’t the ones that led me on the path.
At a push, I’d say it was Chase, dear friend and bartender who gave me permission to explore and accompanied me on a journey through the top shelf at my old local, but even then, it’s not entirely true.
It was Curiosity that did it. The kind that Albert Einstein talked about when he said to never lose a holy curiosity. I have had that quote written on my wall and almost every journal I’ve ever owned.
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity. – Albert Einstein
The truth is while I was on the way to becoming a whisky girl, I was learning a lot about life and so here it is, the lessons so far. Apply them liberally to whisky, love and friends. You won’t regret it.
For more lessons and a personal introduction, join me at The Jefferson on Wednesday 31 August for the first Women & Whisky tasting. Tickets at $80 and include a cocktail and 5 whiskies influenced and shaped by women. It’s an ideal way to explore a range of whiskies, hear some great stories and learn more about your own palate and preferences. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book or message me for details.
How To Become A Whisky Girl
Rule #1: Stay curious. Enjoy discovery more than knowledge. There are some people for whom the pleasure is in knowing. But once you know something or how you think the story ends, you stop paying such close attention. Stay curious and let your pleasure be in discovery.
Rule #2: If you will let discovery be your pleasure, listen more than you talk. Listen to the stories you hear from the people around you. Listen to the makers and the bartenders, to the lovers of single malt and the fans of Japanese whisky. Listen to the stories of brand ambassadors and people who once drank with someone who worked with a guy who visited a distillery one time. Listen – because the language of whisky is story.
Rule #3: Ask more questions. Ask more questions of the people behind the bar and beside you. Ask questions about what happened before they got to the bar and afterwards. It’s always better to enjoy a good drink with good conversation and questions are the way to get there. Practice asking questions more than you practice ordering.
Rule #4: Learn how to taste by paying attention to the details. Learning to taste is less about learning to spit or swish or swallow than it is about paying attention to the detail. Give your attention to something for long enough and the detail will emerge. What once tasted like hot, peppery alcohol will become curried apricots or butterscotch and oats if you just pay attention to the details for a moment or two. Learning to taste properly will help you to appreciate that which you may not love but can at least see the artistry in. This one is also particularly good to apply to people.
Rule #5: It’s never too soon to share what you know. There’s no real joy in holding onto knowledge without sharing it with someone else. Everything I learn is usually helpful or entertaining for someone else and it’s how we keep our stories alive, retelling them over and over.
Rule #6: A good story in good company can make the dullest edge shine. And that my friends, is self-explanatory.
It turns out that a whisky girl is happy to sit at the bar alone or make conversation with whoever turns up alongside her. She’s picky about her drinking buddies when she has something to say, but she can turn her attention to someone who needs a friend in a matter of seconds – because she listens and pays attention to the details. She asks a good question, so she’ll get to know your soul as well as she knows the whisky in her glass. She’ll not judge you for drinking Johnnie or Jack and she may only have one favourite drink. But a drink with her will open your eyes to something new and leave you coming back for more. Because a whisky girl knows that whisky lessons are good for life too, and she lives it well. Lives it large. Lives it small.
There are lots of romantic ideas about whisky girls around these days and I hold more than three of them to be true in my own life. This whisky girl is romantic, passionate, always learning, relentlessly curious. More than anything else though, this whisky girl became so by learning how to walk in the confidence of knowing who she was, who she is and who she’ll be and becoming braver and braver to ask for what she wants, what she likes and what she needs. That’s who the Whisky Girl is… vulnerable and brave enough to tell you, she’s not done yet figuring it out or learning what she wants – but you’re invited along for the ride. And that is everything you need to know.
See you at the J for a wonderful night.