Singleton is a whisky that has been around for some time and is wildly popular in Kenya. Its smooth finish and sweet, fruity notes make it so easy to drink that it claims the top spot as Kenya Breweries best-selling whisky.
Tom Jones is known to many for his unwavering passion and knowledge for fine spirits. With over 20 years of experience in the Hospitality Industry, followed by 17 years in the world of spirits, he is a devoted ambassador and longtime Keeper of the Quaich, for the exceptional craftsmanship of Scotch whisky all over the world. A passionate advocate for Scotch, Tom is a hugely knowledgeable and credible Scotch Whisky expert and is a highly engaging voice for our whiskies and our unrivalled heritage.
Having previously held senior management positions in the hospitality industry, Tom has worked for Diageo since 2003 and travels the world hosting events to share his unrivalled knowledge of our whiskies to sales staff, distributors, customers, consumers, journalists, VIPs and whisky connoisseurs.
With Tom Jones in town, I had to sit down, talk and find out more about this award-winning golden drink.
I must confess that I am not a frequent whisky drinker. It has always seemed like this grand drink.
There’s loads of things that people say about how to drink whisky and there are so many different drinks, if you only ever had to drink whisky neat I wouldn’t be drinking it. I think the best thing to do is enjoy it how you see fit, try different things, there’s no reason why you can’t try and make it into a milkshake if you like milk. There are so man mixers some people use cola, ginger beer and they work pretty well.
So how do you drink your whiskey?
Well, I’ll add a little bit of water to it and swirl it around then nose it or you can add some soda to it because that’s going to lift out the flavours a lot more. Before you have a sip of whisky, always have a sip of water. Your mouth is always drier than you think it is so if you drink neat spirits straight with a dry mouth obviously your mouth is going to complain. So you take a sip of water and make sure your mouth is moist, almost too moist to speak then take a sip of whisky, That should make a big difference.
The first whiskey we’re tasting is the Singleton 15, could you tell me more about how to enjoy it.
Well, the thing with whisky that is older is that it’s more expensive. Why? Because we’ve got less of that whisky and there is a big demand for it but that doesn’t mean that you still can’t use that how you want. Just use any mixer you like or you can even use it to make a really great cocktail like the old fashioned which is a very common cocktail where all you’re doing is adding a little bit of sweetness and lengthening the drink so that its not just straight-up alcohol. There are lots of different ways maybe use a little bit of honey, or maybe have it with a little bit of chocolate so you let the chocolate melt in your mouth first then you let the whisky float over the top of it. So like in the 15 you’ve got a hint of pair some nutty flavours as well and some sweetness paired with almond and pear chocolate.
So why is it the colour it is?
The liquid was clear when it went into wooden casks which were then placed on their side for the relevant amount of years. During that time the liquid soaks into the wood that the cask is made out of. Sometimes we burn the inside of the casks which brings sweetness to the surface which the whisky takes in that’s where it gets that beautiful golden colour. We leave that in for 15 or 18 years which then relates to how it tastes.
Well, the 18 has a more honeyed sweetness. You might call it a spicy whisky but its actually that softer taste of vanilla then a hint of gentler spices such as cinnamon that blend nicely into toffee and caramel flavours with some fruity notes. Which is why I thought it would go well with Berries and Biscuit flavoured chocolate. You don’t have to have it with chocolate. Some people like whisky and cheese but you can’t have it with feta, that’s too salty. You’re better off trying it with cheeses that have a creamier texture. Cheese can be a bit heavy to have with whiskey so what’s a bit better is nuts. A mixture of peanuts, hazelnuts and walnuts in some foil with salt crystals and rosemary in the oven on low heat served up just when your guests arrive with a glass of Singleton is the ideal Christmas pairing. You could also have it with sweetened or smoked almonds.
What was your first whisky experience like?
I can’t remember my first one but my first memorable one was in a distillery in Scotland. I had tried whisky when I was younger and I didn’t really know much about it, it was just another drink really you know just a whisky and coke. The first time in this distillery is when I realised that people made it. You know people make cars but you never really think about the guy who did it, so I saw the people and realised that it was a part of the village; its a part of the culture.
Do the heritage and culture then add on to the experience of drinking Singleton?
Well yes it does but the most important question to ask yourself is, does it actually taste good because if it doesn’t then it doesn’t matter where it comes from. Singleton tastes great; it’s a light, sweet, smooth whiskey with lots of different flavours that you would expect to find in whisky. They all just work together to create a lovely balanced smooth flavour.
Most people associate whiskey with a more mature palate but how would you advise younger drinkers or people who want to get into it?
People have always said that however, anyone can drink it because it’s got a great flavour. So you can experiment and try mixing it with flavours you like, don’t feel constrained. Even with the time of day, I’m not saying get up in the morning and pour yourself a whisky. You can use whisky in so many ways. For Singleton that’s sweet and fruity, you can use it in a salad dressing. You could use it to cure fish as well which gives it an astringent flavour which works well for creamier fish like salmon. So it’s not just about looking at it as a drink. Opening your eyes to when and how you can use it whether it’s a nice long refreshing drink or a shorter cocktail just adding a little bit of sweetness if that’s needed.
Let’s end this interview with a note about Singleton.
What more can I say! Besides what I have already mentioned I could add that the Singleton of Dufftown has a very please-all quality that makes it great for all palates. Now that the 15 and 18-year-old are available here in Kenya I hope more people try it.