This week’s Dram Dialogues is the final one before Christmas. And what better way to end the year, then with Ben Bowers who is at the end of a very noble charity effort to try a different dram a day for a whole year. More details about the campaign later, but if you want to support Ben in his quest to raise money for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund then you will be doing a very good thing.
When did you first get into whisky?
When I was about 12 or 13 my Dad decided he wanted to collect something. I think he was a bit bored and looking to fill some time. Out of the blue he decided it would be whisky – a bit of an odd choice seeing as he doesn’t really drink, but at least it was a bit cheaper than gold watches or cars. So as a result every Christmas and birthday my Mum and I would go shopping for a bottle that he didn’t have already. Over time I began to realise just how many brands there were out there, and that some of the things stated on the label were clever ways of making you think it was more impressive than it actually was, so I began to wise up and do more research myself. When I started working at Oddbins in Newcastle after graduating University, the whisky selection they had was top notch and the interest I previously had went into overdrive.
What was the first dram you remember enjoying?
Difficult to say with any clarity, but the one dram that truly stands out for me was the first time I tried Ardbeg 1977. It was a tasting bottle in Oddbins (my god how lucky we were!) and I can still remember to this day trying it. It absolutely blew my mind, and was a genuine epiphany. It opened my eyes to just how much depth, complexity and sheer amount of flavours could be contained within one small amount of liquid. The finish went on for hours, and I knew then that whisky could offer something unlike pretty much any other alcoholic drink or spirits out there.
What’s your opinion on the best glass for tasting, and why?
I personally use a Glencairn Glass – I’ve been a big fan of it since first coming across it working at The Whisky Shop. I love the shape, size and weight and given the choice I will always go back to it. However I realised recently that I was becoming pretty snobby about glass shape and size. You know what? I think the differences glasses make are pretty inconsequential and, for the average drinker, it really doesn’t matter what you drink it out of.
What has been your biggest whisky related surprise?
The sheer kindness and generosity of the whisky community, who have been supportive of my challenge and donated some frankly incredible drams to enable me to complete a full 366 days. That, and Famous Grouse wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be!
If you had a tap in your house with a bottomless supply of one dram, which would it be?
My heart says the Ardbeg 1977, but my head says it would have to be something a little easier to drink on a daily basis, so I’d probably go for something a little smoother like Angel’s Envy Bourbon, which is FAR too easy to drink regularly!
If you weren’t drinking whisky, what would be in your glass?
Beer – but more on the side of lighter ales and craft lagers than full on beardy-man bitters. Whisky can’t beat a refreshing frosted glass of beer on a hot summer day I’m afraid!
A very, very good friend has got hold of a bottle of Springbank 50 year old 1919. He offers to open the bottle for you to try. Do you accept the offer, or urge him not to devalue his investment?
Damn straight I accept the offer – I would hope he or she hasn’t bought it as an investment anyway! So much work, energy and time goes into making whisky that to leave it on a shelf to gather dust is a huge waste. Whisky is made to be drunk and enjoyed – ideally with friends, so why wouldn’t you open the bottle?
What are you most looking forward to, whisky-wise, over the next few months?
Taking a little break from uploading a review video every day! I’m seriously considering seeing if I can reach 500 unique distilleries/brands to continue raising money for charity, but I’m not necessarily going to upload on a daily basis – more like 3 times a week. It’ll be nice to have a few evenings spare to chill out for a bit – although sadly they’ll probably be taken up with ironing and other domestic delights. Rock and roll!
If you could drink whisky with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you drink?
When I was a kid I was blown away by an obscure film called ‘The Wizard Of Speed And Time’, about a special effects film director trying to make it big in Hollywood. The director/star was a guy named Mike Jittlov, who did practically everything in the film himself and who seems to have unlimited passion and enthusiasm for filmmaking and special effects. Sadly he never made it big in the industry and I’d love to sit down with him and a glass of whisky and find out just what he went through to get such a magical and sorely unappreciated movie made and what happened to him since then. As for what we’d drink? I’d probably go for a nice Bourbon again, not too full on though as I’d want to concentrate on what he was saying. Basil Hayden maybe?
What is A Dram A Day, and what is the reason for it?
A Dram A Day is an attempt to film a short history and review of 366 whiskies from 366 unique distilleries/brands over the course of 366 days. Every day I upload a 10-15 minute video which a brief history of the whisky in question along with a tasting of ideally the ‘core’ release. I’m doing it to raise £5000 (or more!) for The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, a Yorkshire based charity who support babies and children (and their families) suffering from congenital heart issues. The best friend of my 6 year old daughter has suffered with heart problems since before birth so all the money I can raise will help him and children like him who are affected for life.
Please see below for details on how you can support Ben.