Meet Nairobi’s ‘Gentlemen of Whisky’. These men represent their respective brands and aim to educate and excite Nairobians about whisky culture.
The Yummy Team sat down with four gentlemen of whisky in the exclusive whisky lounge at Caramel Restaurant and Lounge. Caramel was the perfect setting to sit back, pour a few whiskies and have a chat.
Tell us a little about yourself!
It was fate to be honest, being a former banker that specialised in forex trading I was always a marketer and a lover of fine premium things life has to offer and whiskey was one of them. I fell in love with the triple distilled whiskey that is Jameson and the rest is history.
I got my first bar job in Ireland when I was 13 and always loved the industry. As I grew older (and more legal) I attained a real love for mixology. Now I get to incorporate my passions for travelling and meeting new people too.
I’ve worked in the industry all my adult life. When I was studying at University I got my first bar job and never left the industry. I ran high end cocktail bars before joining Red Bull then Diageo 6 years ago.
I secured a scholarship to pursue further studies in Scotland after high school. I have over 10 years experience within the Scotch whisky industry having worked in Scotland and then relocated back home in 2013 to represent Edrington single malts and blended whisky brands: the Famous Grouse, Cutty Sark, The Macallan and Highland Park.
Your first time drinking whisky
The first time. Let’s see… Can I even remember? It was probably in campus when I was celebrating passing my exams I drank a local whisky and vowed never to drink again.
I am fortunate enough to be from the home of Jameson thus Jameson was my first whiskey drink.
I probably drank some Bells whisky from my Dad’s drinks Cabinet when I was too young to appreciate it or legally drink it.
It was most likely at a house party, but I can’t remember when exactly, since I started drinking vodka and beer when I was in Uni before falling in love with whisky.
Blended or single malt whisky?
I would definitely pick a blend but an Irish blend such as Jameson Select Reserve which is still triple distilled for extra smoothness.
None of the above surprisingly, I have grown a true fondness for Single Pot Still whiskies – the quintessentially Irish whiskey. Products such as Green Spot, Yellow Spot, and Redbreast 12, are amongst my top picks.
I don’t discriminate against any whisky!
These are two different styles of whiskies and not fair to compare, the blended whisky is as good as the single malts used to blend it. At the same time you have single malt matured in poor quality casks and it will taste like piss.
One thing about whisky most people wouldn’t know?
The difference in spelling between ‘whisky’ and ‘whiskey’. The former is mostly used by Scottish distillers and the latter by American and Irish distillers.
How important wood is to the whiskey making process. Firstly we can only use select types of wood to age certain whiskies and secondly the impact wood has on the whiskey: it gives 100% of the colour and about 50% of the flavour.
Age doesn’t mean quality it means different flavour and character. For every year you leave whisky ageing in an oak cask you lose 2% of the volume to evaporation; it’s called the Angels Share. Therefore, the longer you leave a whisky maturing in the barrel the less you have at the end which will drive the price up. This is where people get confused because older whisky costs more. The type of barrel (European or American) that the liquid is aged in affects the flavour and character.
The term “whisky” derives originally from the Gaelic word “Uisge beatha” which means “Water of life”
How do you deal with a hangover?
I barely get hangovers, the trick is in spacing your drinks with water in between. In the rare occasion that I do get a hangover, I just wake up and groan as loud as I can, drink a glass (or jug) of water and I’m back to normal.
What whisky drink would you buy a girl at a bar?
For me, the most beautiful girl at the bar deserves a glass of the most beautiful whiskey behind the bar. I would order a glass of Redbreast 12 on the rocks with a splash of water (just a splash!). It’s bound to make me look better than when I first walked in!
You’re hosting a cocktail party for friends who’ve never drank whisky, what cocktail will you serve?
Great question! Cocktails are a great way to get people to enjoy any spirit. I would serve Bulleit Bourbon Mint Juleps and an Apple Cooler which is tall and refreshing made with Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve.
If you could have any whisky drink with anyone in the world, what would it be and with whom?
The Macallan 65 year old single malt in a Lalique Decanter, which retails at $35K, with someone really special to me, my wife (but she might not appreciate it), so maybe a good pal who appreciates a fine single malt.
What’s the best aspect of being a brand ambassador?
The best part has to be meeting and interacting with different people and collaborating on projects. Jameson whiskey is well balanced, triple distilled and smooth which makes it a bartender’s number one choice for a whiskey cocktail. Like Jameson, I need to blend and mix perfectly with what the Kenyan market has to offer to create something refreshing.
Which whisky region of the world would you travel to and why?
As I’ve not yet had the chance I would have to say Japan – there are some really high quality single malts coming out of the Land of the Rising Sun that have caught my eye (and made their way into my collection).
What whisky stereotype/myth would you like to quash?
There are so many whisky myths it’s painful! I’ve already touched on age statements so the next myth is that you have to drink whisky in a certain way. Whisky is such a great spirit that is made all over the world and you can enjoy different whiskies any way you like. That’s part of the fun, discovering how you like to enjoy it. Never let anyone tell you are drinking it incorrectly, it’s your palate and your wallet!
Where do you see the whisky scene in Kenya going in the next few years?
The Kenyan whisky market is doing well and we are experiencing double digit growth in the premium and super premium categories, the trend is likely to continue in the next few years.
Photos: Vi’enle Photography