I have only been in the hotseat for around a month with the Birmingham Whisky Club now, but I am loving meeting the whisky movers and shakers of the City. In particular, I have been blown away by some of the amazing ladies we have championing the good stuff right here on our doorstep. I wanted to share with you their whisky firsts, loves and hotspots so that you might learn something new too!
Next up… The dram fine lady Katie!
Who are you and where are you from?
I started working in pubs in Birmingham when I was 18, this being the year I gave college another shot. As you can imagine, bar work was way too exciting for an 18 year old and it became my main focus. I got into the spirit category when I was working in The Bulls Head in Moseley (which was a live music venue where I had many fun years but without the cocktail aspect), I decided to take a Shakers bar course to get myself into the cocktail scene. This took me to The Victoria on John Bright Street, previously a whisky emporium and cocktail bar ran by Julian Rose-Gibbs. My mind was blown by the variety of spirits on offer so I made it my mission to learn about as many categories as possible and improve on my own whisk(e)y knowledge. I’ve managed bars for nearly 9 years now and 6 of those being spirit or cocktail led, spirits are a huge passion of mine and I try to learn more in every step of my development
Can you recall what got you into whisky, or which dram was your first?
My first dram! Like a lot of whisk(e)y drinkers I began my love for the category with Bourbon, I am a very fond rum lover so I started on the sweeter style to develop my palate, my first dram technically was an oversized, and quite impressive, swig of JD black label in the park with my friends…but that’s another story entirely. The bourbon that first sparked my interest would be Blanton’s Original (which is a bourbon matured in white oak at the Buffalo Trace distillery), it’s a really great single barrel with a lighter flavour than most and doesn’t over power with sweetness, looking back this is quite a great introductory Bourbon and created by the master distiller that is Elmer T. Lee.
Can you share a couple favourite distilleries or particular whiskies (Scotch, bourbon, rye, what-have-you)?
My personal favourite whisky is Ardbeg Uigeadail and has been for the past 4 years, I went to a ‘Peat Freaks’ night with Birmingham Whisky Club, hosted by Amy Seton from The Whisky Birmingham and Craig Mills from The Whisky Shop. This night indeed turned me into a peat freak and I still can’t end a night unless I’ve had my peat fix. Uigeadail is one of the most balanced whisky I have ever had the pleasure of tasting with it’s well known hit of peat and smoke with this unexpected and satisfying sweet finish on the palate. Being a cocktail lover, I do enjoy the classics and if I were to drink a whisky classic it would be a Sazerac each and every time with a good Rye (although originally made with Cognac)
Where would be your go-to venue for Whisky (bar or shop) that you would recommend to our readers?
We are blessed in Birmingham with specialised spirit stores and if you want to find your perfect dram then don’t look any further than ‘Hard to find Whisky’ in the jewellery quarter or ‘The Whisky Shop’ in Great Western Arcade. I appreciate a lot of bars in Birmingham but if I was to go on a search for good whisky then you’d most likely find me in The Wellington and for my favourite Sazerac cocktail then you must try out The Church Inn or The Botanist who can’t be faulted on their classics.
Lastly… Do you have a favoured way for your dram to be served or maybe a cocktail?
I have previously raved my love for a Sazerac cocktail. If you were to explore whisky in cocktails more then you have so many options, the classics being the Old Fashioned mixing Bourbon with Orange zests, bitters and sugar or the Manhattan which mixes sweet and/or dry vermouth with Bourbon. Both great classics to explore as they can be mad with so many different styles of whisk(e)y. Going into the winter winds, do not forget about the Hot Toddy which is a great excuse to drink more Scotch, this is a hot cup of joy containing Scotch Whisky, lemon, cloves and sugar (traditionally honey).