Interview with The Whisky Lounges' Eddie Ludlow
Eddie Ludlow is founder of Whisky Events company, The Whisky Lounge. As Whisky 'Evangelist', Eddie sees his role to turn those onto whisky who would otherwise be lost souls, whilst providing a regular 'home' for those already converted - all over the UK.
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For those who don't know you - tell us about yourself in two sentences.
A lover of whisky from a non-whisky background. I enjoy bringing people and whisky together!
[editors note: Eddie says he's not from a whisky background but read this Dr Bill Lumsden quote and make your own mind up: "There are many people out there who profess to know a lot about whisky, and have clearly chosen this subject as their 'flavour of the month'. And then there are people who genuinely, passionately live, breathe, eat and sleep whisky, and these are the people who are truly worth listening to, and who will genuinely teach you something about this fantastic subject that you didn't already know. Eddie Ludlow is undoubtedly in this latter category."]
There are a lot of whisky tasting events nowadays - what makes the Whisky Lounge different?
Are there? In the parts of the UK that I focus on there are very few and this is part of the reason for instigating them here. One of the Whisky Lounge’s mantra is ‘bringing whisky tasting events to parts of the UK others cannot reach’. Our tastings are also less ‘host-led’, meaning that I try to engage and get those attending the tastings to engage in order to create an informal and more interesting event. Too many events are about feeding the ego of the presenter and/or brand-worship – I prefer to be the ‘facilitator’ who brings ideas and whiskies to the show, but lets everyone make up their own mind about both…
I believe you held six festivals last year - what are your plans this year?
Depends who you talk to! We are planning on most of the same cities for our festivals with possibly a couple of additions. We are constantly looking at new areas and pushing into new territories but at the same time we need to make sure everything we do is good quality. If we start spreading ourselves too thin then this may not be possible...
You’ve decided to make your own blended whisky - Dram 101 - that’s a bit bonkers isn’t it?
Yes, but then you’ve met me haven’t you Pierre?! I like all things whisky and I have also a genuine interest in blending. I think blending is an art. I know people have said that in the past, but until you try it you really can’t understand that fact. People like Richard Paterson, Bill Lumsden, John Ramsay and so on are heroes to me because of their abilities and palates, not their personalities (although that helps too!) The 101 refers to the number of 20cl bottles that make up each ‘batch’ – it really is a tiny production!
OK, so what’s it like?
This is the first batch that I ‘created’ in December last year. It is a blended malt with a floral, sweet highlander as its base. Orbiting around and mingling within are over 50 different malts from all over Scotland as well as Ireland, India and Japan. My aim was to create something easy-going but with enough intrigue and complexity to keep most whisky-drinkers happy. It is a little stronger than the ‘norm’ at 42.3% and definitely has a slight peaty and spicy edge. The aim is for each batch to be slightly different and to be interesting enough to justify it’s existence.
And you can buy it on your website?
If you are in the UK you can order it through the website, otherwise people can email me to see if we can get it to you. There is only a small amount left of the first batch, so there may be a short wait before batch 2 comes online.
Can we have some to review?
Yes. You already did. You can’t have anymore though!
Whisky with water?
If it’s ‘casual’ drinking at home and/or with friends then it depends on the whisky and the mood. At best it can make some whiskies sing, at worst it can literally cause older whiskies to fall apart. My mantra is to always try it first and then decide. If you like it as it is then why mess around with it – on the other hand, if you find it too alcoholic, out of balance or you simply don’t like it then you have nothing to lose by trying.
Whisky with ice?
Not under normal circumstances but during the summer I have been known to take some ice with a strongly peated malt whisky or bourbon. For me ice is the destroyer of delicate flavours and completely negates the reasoning behind drinking something as complex and divine as Scotch Whisky.
Cask strength or 40%?
My generic preference would be for 46%+ with all bells and whistles included (or excluded in some cases). For me the experience created at this level of alcohol and with all the benefits therein is that bit more ethereal and glorious. That said, a poor whisky bottled at cask strength is still a poor whisky. I don’t think distillers should be ostracised for bottling at 40%, but I do think they can be gently cajoled into bottling at least a portion of their make in this fashion for the likes of us. There are a few companies I would love to see do this – they know who they are in the main – but I am not going to stop drinking their fine product by way of protest!
Music to drink whisky by?
Got to be blues. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, B.B. King, Buddy Guy all make great whisky/music bed-fellows. I could go on but probably best not to.
Any advice on life, whisky or the universe?
I honestly don’t hold myself up as an example to anyone and I know I have many imperfections (just ask my wife!) and I am still learning all the time. I guess, though, when it comes to whisky I would say to those who have a thirst for facts, figures and technicalities – chill out. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the taste and feel of the dram in your mouth. Too many people over-analyse whisky and I just worry that sometimes they are missing the point – the stuff is created for your enjoyment by people who also enjoy it. Of course it doesn’t hurt to learn about what you’re drinking, and that is what I am about, but now and again just enjoy it for what it is.
Tasting notes: Dram 101
Nose: Lot's of fruit, and a hint of smoke - not peaty, more of a dry smoke - and… bubble-gum! This is pretty complex, a lot going on here. Later the fruit develops in a more tropical direction.
Palate: Fruit and dry smoke - or is it dried smoked fruit? Tropical, grapefruity notes building to a drier mid-palate. Medium bodied with a good alcohol level and some oiliness. A pre-dinner whisky for me - very drinkable. Not a beginner's dram either despite the 101 moniker.
Finish: Dries out nicely with a tannin kick - like a well executed wine or madeira finish - pushing through to some bitter, and very enjoyable, tar notes.
Comments: I'm not sure what Eddie Ludlow had in mind, from a commercial perspective, when he created this whisky. It's a tiny batch of small bottles - clearly he's not going to make a fortune selling it. I enjoyed drinking it, probably, almost as much as he enjoyed making it. With most bottles that I enjoy I know I can buy another. With this one that's unlikely and, not only is it improbable I'll get hold of another, the bottle is very small. I'd like to drink this again - instead I'm going to look forward to Dram 101 Batch 2.
Notes by Pierre Thiébaut