Bruce Anderson

Whisky galore | 20 October 2016

I can see that Jack Daniel’s has its uses: it helps keep down the price of Scottish single malts

Whisky galore | 20 October 2016
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A long-standing friend of mine is a lucky fellow. He has spent his career doing exactly what he was born to do: befriending the human race. An inspired philanthropist, he has done more to help mankind than most aid agencies and NGOs put together. His name is Andrew Smith and he has devoted his career to selling whisky. Whisky and freedom gang the gither: whisky and all good things go together.

Andrew spent many years working for Brown-Forman, an admirably well-run American family company. Family members who wish to join the firm have to possess two degrees and to have proved themselves working for another outfit. Brown-Forman is probably best known for Jack Daniel’s, a Tennessee whisky which sells very well, all across the world.

That is helpful. The danger is that as a result of Andrew’s and other similar characters’ efforts, an increasing proportion of the globe will develop a taste for true whisky, from the Scottish highlands. But there are only so many streams and glens: only so much peat. Already, the pressure on resources has led to a steady increase in prices, which can only get worse.

This is where Jack Daniel’s is so useful. To be fair, that famous brand works well in mint juleps or a Tom Collins. It could no doubt be used to make toddy. On its own, however, it requires ice to be palatable. That is a giveaway. Any whisky which needs ice is not a proper one. Equally, anyone who puts ice in real whisky is an ecological vandal; almost as bad as adding Coca-Cola. But Jack Daniel’s is a perfect dram for women, children and Americans. The more they drink of it, the less the danger that they will find their way to the glories of malt. So we should all raise a toast to Jack Daniel’s. Lang may its lum reek.

As one might expect from his philanthropic endeavours, Andrew is a Scotsman. But he has one characteristic often associated with the south British. The English love forming clubs. This does not only apply to the palaces of Pall Mall or the town-houses of St James’s. It is equally true of northern working-men’s clubs, or of many an old-fashioned pub which has become a de facto club. Andrew decided that he would start a club of his own, which he would call the Boys’ Night Out: colloquially, the pink ticket. It is not quite the Pickwick Club. No one is volunteering for the role of Mr Jingle. But there is a Pickwickian blend of levity and bonhomie, farce and humanity.

Like the Savage or the Fly-fishers, Andrew’s is peripatetic. It has met in various clubs, in Wilton’s or in similar postmodern venues. We seem to have settled on Buck’s, which is appropriate. During the first world war, bunkered in a shell-hole, some young officers decided that if they survived until peacetime, they would deserve a good dinner and would find a jolly place to eat it. Thus Buck’s, named after Captain Herbert Buckmaster, which features in Wodehouse: Bertie Wooster might have been a member.

The other evening, some of us found ourselves at the same table. That might have been an opportunity to discuss an agenda for future gatherings, and probably was, except that none of us can remember what we decided. But the names of the bottles rise above befuddlement. We started with a Pomino ’14, a Frescobaldi wine. A light and playful blend of chardonnay and pinot blanc, it is an ideal summer apéritif. If you were feeling Lucullan, you might drink it before progressing to a biscuity champagne. We moved on to a Pomerol and a Burgundy. The claret was a Blazon de l’Evangile 2011: the Burgundy, a Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru, les Perrières 2007. From Chauvenet, a grower whose reputation is continually enhanced, it won the evening’s award and was savoured in the spirit of evenings to come.