The following blog is the first one bereft of my mentor Kenny and like my life, is all the poorer for it. I guess this is as good a time as any to do what I should've done earlier and dedicate this to Kenny, who sadly passed away last year. If you didn't know the man then you've missed out and if you did well, that which I write here will have significance to you. I hope that the next time you raise a Glencairn; be it filled with a malt, blend or Bourbon, that you'll say a toast to him. Thank you.
Picture it. A Friday evening around 5pm and I'm at the end of the bar drunk and waxing lyrical about my day. My cousin, taking pity on me, hands me a glass of water. How did I end up like this you ask? Well, it was because I'd just been to my first tasting.
Attending a tasting, that singular convention that seems so perfectly partnered with Whisky, is something I'd only ever done unofficially with Kenny or my cousin Gem at my side. Now I was being thrust into the bigger wider world of whisky, the world beyond the Pot.
It was a rather official affair, run by a certain company that happens to be more famous for a certain Irish product than it does for the distilleries it owns, of which I was to find out (surprisingly to me) there were quite a few.
Joining a group of other bar people we ambled into the room and took our places.
The tasting began with a fun 'nosing' exercise that involved us learning to differentiate and recognise between different smells. Which it was safe to say I sucked at. Nosing, though vastly enjoyable, for me has never yet become a strong point.
The ante was upped, however, as I soon realised that there were prizes to be won. I tried my hardest even with my lack of nasal skills, finding alas it was to no avail and the bottle of Johnny Walker Gold was awarded to someone more deserving.
I took to the next challenge of the actual tasting itself with relish. Arrayed before us were no less than four whiskies, each chosen to represent the four major flavours and regions of whisky. First was the floral smoothness of the Lowland Glenkinchie; a perfect little starter. Then the hidden smokiness of the Highland (which I found out was a perfect whisky to reinforce the hidden qualities released by a drop of water), followed by the briney taste of the islands in Talisker and finally the smokey richness of an Islay, the Lagavulin; truly an embarrassment of riches.
The only sour point for me came during the discussion following the tasting, where contrary to everything I had previously learned, we were informed that (in the company's opinion) where the whisky was stored did not matter and that their new central Highland storage facility would service all of their distilleries, storing the whisky away from it's traditional distillery stores.
Now, as I'm a bit of a traditionalist in terms of whisky, this seemed like inescapable heresy. Fuelled by the whisky I had imbibed I argued the point that perhaps they were killing the romance of malts and also altering the flavour.
Of course the rep was quick in his rebuttal and rather than continue the argument against this man who had done nothing other than give me free (and high quality) whisky, I remained silent. Drunk and slightly disappointed I toddled back to the Pot to take my aforementioned perch upon the end of the bar.
Now, there are two lessons to be learned in all of this.
One, you should never be greedy with Whisky even being delicious as it is. It's still alcohol and the more you drink the more you are likely to end up drunk. Drunk and stuck at the end of a bar, taking umbrage to the man who had given you all that nice whisky, who in your case would be me.
As my mother has always said, 'do everything in moderation.' Smart woman, my mother.
And two? You should always tip your barman.
What? It was worth a try.
• Sean Murphy is a whisky barman at the Pot Still in Glasgow