We’re not in Phase 3 yet. But step outside and somehow the mood feels like it already is; surely this is the oddest holiday season in years. Then there’s an editorial pitch from Diageo about responsibility. A good time as any to talk about both.

“Please drink responsibly.”

Not the kind of pitch from Diageo I would expect in conjunction with a whisky bundle of three bottles, though, talk about mixed messages. I kid, of course, but at the same time, I won’t lie: Writing about responsible drinking can feel horribly contrived at best, and incredibly naggy, at worst. It took me two drafts to realise that I could only do contrived and naggy. So I shelved the piece and thought that introspection would be the better part of valour.

As it turned out, procrastination proved to be the more useful ally, and with the holiday fortnight at hand and social distancing regulations gradually easing, those words start to carry weight.

I can see it now.

You spot your friends at the bar, and you instinctively decide to head over to greet them. A faint recollection of the rules in your head starts to kick in, and your left foot takes a half step as your right stands firm. Your body twitches ever so slightly in an uncontrollable act of overcompensation, and you hope no one notices. But of course, they do, and it’s all incredibly awkward.

But it’s OK; it’s probably the only time you can get away with this.

You correct your posture and exchange greetings and realise you’re a foot short of ideal distance for a brofist. You stretch a little for a reassuring fist bump, and with every contact, life starts to feel more normal, albeit in a weird, meeting at high school for a first time kind of way. The punters waiting patiently to get to their seats aren’t amused. The overworked waitress beside them is furious. Meanwhile, the manager in the background is sick of trying to herd cats and is patting his back pockets looking for a lighter, so he doesn’t have to deal with this.

It’s weird; the numbers for local transmissions have been zero for a while, but still, we have to be wary. Ultimately, it’s not about us; it’s about those who don’t know they are particularly vulnerable to this oddly-shaped homotrimeric pathogen. If we flout the rules, we get a slap on the wrist – but the owners of the establishment have to close. It’s not about us; it’s about those around us. If we get drunk, then drive and get into an accident – we had it coming, and thankfully no drunkard (that I know of, at least) who gets into an accident ever wakes up sober and starts blaming others for it. But anyone who gets caught up in your accident that they had nothing to do with, they have to suffer for it.

“Please drink responsibly.”  – a public service message from our friends at Diageo this festive season

Responsibility doesn’t have to be a high minded act – just a little bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way.

So as merry time approaches, please remember that all it takes is one douche to ruin everybody’s time. Don’t be that douche ex machina that magically sends us back a couple of months. Practice responsible distancing, make things easier for everyone around you, and there will be plenty more outings to come.

And to a lesser extent, we might do well to watch what we do – and more importantly – what we drink; and how much we drink. It’s easy to get carried away, what with all the pent up frustration of not being able to do the things we typically do – and that’s what festivities do to us. We’re swept up by the occasion. Yet, we owe it to ourselves to be better than that; maybe just for this one year.

So let’s try something a little different and have more fun while doing it:

Limit yourself – but not your budget.

Our tastebuds will tire after a few drinks – and you can already tell with tastings, which tend not to go beyond five or six drams. Four to five is more on point. So why waste the whisky after that? Save it for tomorrow or for when your tastebuds are in better shape. Splash the extra cash on a pricier whisky and treat yourself to a heck of an experience (disclaimer: more expensive doesn’t mean better, so please don’t buy blindly as well).

Bonus tip: in any tasting flight, you need not save the best whisky for last. And especially if it is a delicate one. In which case you might want to serve it first or earlier, depending on how ‘heavy’ the rest of the line up is.

Pick the best time to drink the best whisky.

Any drink that is complex demands all your attention – so you give it your best. The best whiskies will surprise you with their finesse in the face of absolute power. We know that even your nose has good and bad days, so keep that in mind whenever you have something exquisite. Develop a control, like perhaps a tasting kit that can act as a constant – if your sense of smell seems dulled, then save that special one for another day. Roll your budget so that you can buy something even more epic.

Want to last the night? Experiment with pairings.

Successful food pairing gives the whisky experience an added dimension, one that forces you to look at your choices differently. By nature of its alcoholic strength, whisky is usually not an ideal spirit for food pairings. But it is possible, and the fun is in the journey itself. But I’d imagine that you wouldn’t want to subject any prized, vintage whiskies to your experiments.

So this Smoky Trio package of Oban, Talisker and Lagavulin might be quite fun for these things. Let’s get real, these are everyday whiskies, so if you’ve been around the block, you will not be impressed. But at the same time, if you’ve been around the block, you’d know that these everyday examples of esteemed distilleries are perfect for daily drinks.

So if you’re putting a small get-together, you can think about picking up a set of whiskies ($348) from your local supermarket (Cold Storage, Marketplace and Giant Hypermarket) as well as a couple of snacks to pair (we’re partial to cheese and chocolates though).

And remember, always hydrate between drams. How else are you going to finish all that beer? (Just kidding)

Oban 14

Oban 14 A touch of smoke, a touch of maritime notes, a hint of hay and citrus on a base of sweetness – Oban lends itself to salty cheddar, flat oysters and dark chocolate (I liked milk chocolate though but maybe something more distinct like Old Pultney might be a tad better). Go for subtle with this one.

Talisker 10 We’re approaching seafood territory here, so go crazy with this one – prawns and oysters are natural bedfellows. Otherwise, you could play it safe with a vanilla-based dessert or ice cream. I’m a sucker for cheese, so Stilton it is for me. But if you’re feeling adventurous, sushi is the way to go.

Lagavulin 16 Best paired with Ron Swanson. The end. But, failing that, a Partagas sounds pretty good as well. As always, dark chocolate is sublime, as does salted butter caramel. You can’t go wrong with blue cheese too. If you have a case of the munchies then bring back some roasted pork belly for a real treat.


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