8 November 2010

Whisky Insiders Interview - Sam Simmons

The Balvenie

Global Ambassador


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
I have been involved in whisky evangelism since 2002, but on the payroll in one way or another with OddBins, The Whisky Exchange, Douglas Laing, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and since 2008 with William Grant & Sons as the Balvenie Ambassador in the US and now as The Balvenie Global Ambassador.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Being invited to be a judge for the IWSC, getting to the point where I can call whisky makers I have admired for years “colleagues” and “friends,” and being invited by the descendants of William Grant to represent The Balvenie on a Global level are all truly humbling honours.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
I am certain I drank Scotch whisky out of a fancy bottle on my Grandfather’s shelf when I was very young, and I am certain I drank whisky without appreciating it in my early 20s. I can remember my first dram in Scotland, it was a Laphroaig 10yo and initially I hated it, but by the end of the glass I warmed up to it. I was interested in whisky as a curiosity at the time and did wonder why would someone make something that tasted like this… and why would people drink it?

What does whisky mean to you?
I would not have met my wife if not for whisky, and I would have a very different life if not for whisky, so I am deeply indebted to it. But the sentiment of David Daiches’ words from 1969’s Scotch Whisky have always resonated with me and I could not say it half as eloquently: “The proper drinking of Scotch whisky is more than indulgence: it is a toast to civilization, a tribute to the continuity of culture, a manifesto of man’s determination to use the resources of nature to refresh mind and body and enjoy to the full the senses with which he has been endowed.”

Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
On the couch with my kids watching Saturday Morning Kitchen eating pancakes I prepared topped with Canadian maple syrup and Norwegian geitost.

What was your last dram?
Monkey Shoulder. It’s unavailable in the US so I haven’t had it in a few years. Being back in the UK, I tried it when I saw it on the back bar at the pub last night. I had to, and I had two.

Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
Cheese and oatcakes. Salty, fatty foods go brilliantly with whisky, and you really cannot beat a sherried malt with some funky Stilton.

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
In the warehouses in which it has been matured when you have just escaped the rain.

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
On the business side: more consolidation. On the consumer side: more enthusiasts and democratic community growth. Behind the scenes, exposure of an industry practice that I believe should be quietly outlawed before it becomes news.

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
Because it was my gateway whisky, my first love, and my go-to malt for years… and because it pays the bills, Balvenie 12yo DoubleWood. But I am certain that, as honest as that answer is, it is unsatisfactory to anyone reading this. So, Talisker 10 because if it isn’t on the bar, my wife may call another house home.

Many thanks to Sam Simmons aka Dr Whisky. Who will be the next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!