29 January 2011

Whisky Insiders Interview - Colin Dunn


Whisky Ambassador


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
Well back into last century come to think of it. I discovered Whisky through working at Fullers Wine Shop in Richmond back in 82 when we got in Gordon & Mcphails whiskies, and discovered Brora 72 Ardbeg 74 and many other gems.

After that it was working for Suntory and helping to introduce Japanese Whisky to the UK in 2001 as well as promoting Bowmore, Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch. The early bottles of Yamazaki and Hibiki as well as Auchentoshan '65 and the Bowmore 64's tasted straight from the cask in the cellars on Islay were ethereal. Now working with Diageo and their range of whiskies, which are pure heaven. So time wise around 28 years, seems like only yesterday.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Meeting with Michael Jackson at his house in Hammersmith. Late one night I drove him home from a whisky event because he didn’t drive and he showed me his cellar, which was like Howard Carter discovering the tomb of Tutankhamen! We sipped and talked whisky into the wee, wee hours and his stories and palate opened my eyes nose and mouth to the unbelievable flavours of aqua vitae.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
My father gave me a dram of whisky when I was very young and I thought I was going to die. I can’t remember the brand but it was a blend, and put me off whisky for a few years.

What does whisky mean to you?
Whisky to me is all about meeting the people at the Distilleries, getting their stories and passing them on. Also the best feeling in the world when I do tastings, is when somebody "gets it". It makes my job really worthwhile and I appreciate how lucky I am to be in my position.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
Doing what I do now but in a higher definition.

What was your last dram?
At this very moment I am tasting Lagavulin 12 with some Roquefort on the side, terrific combination.

Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
Islay Oysters with Talisker 57 North. I did an event with some stall holders at Borough Market near London Bridge and we tasted various Taliskers with Scallops, Cheese, Chocolate and in a Cocktail showing off the diversity of Talisker. We used an atomiser to spray the whisky over the oyster and it was like tasting the Atlantic Ocean mixed with the lava of the Cuillins.

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
In the company of my whisky friends down in Cornwall when I go back home to see my father. I switch off and listen to Cornish descriptives of fine whisky from my friends and enjoy the company. Round about 8.00 on a summers evening in Newlyn, when the sun is going down and the fishing boats are coming home, looking out at St. Michaels Mount and experiencing true tranquillity with glass in hand

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
I think blends will be having a bigger say. There are so many interesting casks that if blended can produce interesting new flavour profiles. The Whisky industry is on a high at the moment, media wise there are some superb whisky websites that are advocating taste and flavour, these bloggers are getting fans all over the world reading writing and tasting whisky. The young generation are looking in and they are liking what they see. More Ambassadors are talking about whisky to consumers, putting in the time, and miles, to spread the word. A good time to be in the industry.

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
As a complete all-rounder, Talisker ticks all the boxes from 10 up to 30 years of age. Push me further and I would choose the 10 year old, it's a fantastic Malt, from the burnt bonfire nose and the intensity of the red hot chilli pepper kick on the back palate. In fact I think I will pour one now.

Many thanks to Colin Dunn. Who will be the next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!