Love whiskey? We spoke to whiskey expert and global brand ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W, John Quinn, about how to get the most out of your whiskey, some tricks of the trade, and even how to get into whiskey (if you’re the uninitiated). Here are his tips and tricks to enjoy your whiskey to the fullest.

WS: What are your tips for a first-time whiskey drinker?

JQ: “I would always advise a first-time whiskey drinker to try whiskeys from different countries and/or regions before deciding which is attractive to his/her pallet. Then start with the one you prefer – in time, you may change to a different style but you’ll always like to go back to your first preference from time to time. A bit like remembering your first boyfriend!”

WS: Any tricks for the veteran whiskey drinkers?

JQ: “No tricks (you can’t teach an old dog new tricks), but maybe be prepared to seek out whiskey styles you rejected in the past – there are many new discoveries out there now particularly with different wood finishes, which are really quite spectacular. Obviously I would encourage all whiskey drinkers to try Irish – but of course one Irish in particular.”

WS: What advice or must-haves would you consider when hosting a whiskey tasting at home? And any particular type of whiskey you’d recommend starting with?

JQ: “I always like to introduce my own favourite (Tullamore D.E.W) by way of comparisons with others – probably only 2 others. If I’m doing a ‘tasting’ (as against having a whiskey with guests) then I like to use nosing glasses, Glencairn or sherry shape – as this way the whiskey flavour profile is more obvious when nosing and tasting than by using a tumbler.”

Whiskey

WS: What is your favourite snack to enjoy along with a glass of Tullamore D.E.W? Or what food/canapes would you serve at a whiskey tasting?

JQ: “My favourite is probably dark chocolate, but I will usually pair TD Original with smoked salmon, the Malts with some cheeses, and the TD 12yo with chocolate.”

WS: What are some of the biggest innovations in the whiskey industry that have impressed you?

JQ: “I suppose the most significant innovation has been wood finishes (first done in the 70s by David Stewart in The Balvenie Distillery in Scotland). This has introduced a whole new range of whiskey tastes – yet they still retain that whiskey’s DNA. I am also a little careful about too much innovation in the sense that if people see innovation as breaking the basic rules applying to whiskey making (e.g ageing for less than 3 years), then this is a step too far.”

WS: How big is the whiskey market in South Africa?

JQ: Whisky is the largest spirits category in SA at 33%. To give you context, it is larger than vodka, cognac, rum and gin categories, combined and 1.3 times larger than the brandy category. Total whisky sales are close to 40 million litres every year (the industry term is 3.3 million 9 litre cases every year).

WS: And, for the ladies just getting started? Any advice on a delicious and unique mixer to enjoy along with a shot of Tullamore D.E.W?

JQ: “Actually you’d be amazed at the number of ladies who happily drink TD straight or with ice. For mixers, I always recommend freshly-squeezed Apple juice with a slice of red apple (coz it looks great!) or ginger ale.”

WS: What is the most popular or favourite Tullamore D.E.W whiskey among women?

JQ: “TD Original, Cider Cask Finish or TD 12yo, in that order.”

WS: What portion of Tullamore D.E.W drinkers are female?

JQ: “It’s really hard to say – obviously they are in a minority but we are finding more and more women are being converted to whiskey, particularly Irish and so many tell us that TD is one they really enjoy.”

Remember, Whisky and Spirits Live is from 8 – 10 November at the Sandton Convention Centre, and readers can see John Quinn there where he will be presenting a master class on Tullamore D.E.W.

Whiskey and spirits live

Tullamore D.E.W is available online and at all leading liquor stores.

Alcohol is not sold to those under 18 and must be enjoyed responsibly.