The Whisky Tasting Club

Book Tour part 3: fish balls and quarter cask

I have to admit I was a bit nervous about the tasting at Eddie Gershon’s house, partly because it was the first proper book event, partly because Eddie made it clear that his guest know whisky, and partly because I know little of Jewish culture.

I shouldn’t have worried. From the moment his ebullient, larger than life, and totally in control wife welcomed me over the threshold of her home and treated me like she had known me all her life,  I received nothing but goodwill, kindness and respect. There’s no getting round it,though, it was very Jewish and very different. Bright, educated and wealthy, my guests asked some of the best questions I’ve had at a tasting. They enjoyed their whisky and clearly knew what they were doing. It could have been a formal corporate event with besuited businessman.

But it wasn’t and that’s because they were Jewish – and they acted Jewish. I know how that sounds, but the reason I know they were acting Jewish was because they kept telling me so. They referred to their Jewishness a lot.

Eddies tells me that the evening was typical of a Jewish soiree, starting with the food: a great table full of it, much of it fish balls and rollmop herrings as Eddie had promised. So, I ask, will we have a break halfway through the tasting to eat?

“Take a break?” Eddie said, incredulously. “These are Jews. They don’t stop eating. They will eat all the way through.”

And they do. Unfortunately, it means that The Macallan and to some extent The Glenrothes don’t have a chance, battered in to submission by the fishy aromas floating round the kitchen we’re in. Eddie gets a text.

“What are you going to do?” he says. “I put on a top whisky writer, he brings along some of his best whiskies. And all my friend wants to know is is there going to be any food. Jews!”

Their ability to laugh at themselves seems to be limitless. When we talk about nosing, the guests make the sort of jokes about their potential talents in this area that no gentile would dare to make.

The event is not like most tastings. I am standing by the food table and guest wander in and out at will, so the evening feels more like a party, and it soon takes on a momentum of it’s own. By the time we reach Highland Park, the whole occasion’s flying, the unpredictable and testing nature of the questions making it an exhilarating experience for me. As the Masterchef folks might say, tasting doesn’t get tougher than this.

If the first whiskies struggled, the last three hit the spot brilliantly, the triple whammy of Highland Park 12,  Ardmore and Laphroaig Quarter Cask going effortlessly up the gears, and complimenting the fish brilliantly, the last two in particular providing perfect dance partners for the food.

The evening is a resounding success, Eddie’s charity is £1000 better off, and my time spent with such a warm and close- knit group of friends has been a revelation. I even leave with a couple of new band recommendations from one guy who had the same love of alternative country as I do.

Week one ends on a definite high.

Maxxium is home to Ardmore, Glenrothes, Highland Park, the Macallan, Laphroaig and Teacher’s

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