RSS Conference 2009 

Royal Statistical SocietyThe Flavour of Whisky
Illustrated Talk and Tasting

Dr David Wishart, author of Whisky Classified: Choosing Single Malts by FlavourRoyal Statistical Society
175th Anniversary Conference

Appleton Tower
University of Edinburgh

Thursday September 10th, 2009 at 5.00pm


Discover the flavours of Scotch malt whiskies at this talk and tasting by Dr. David Wishart, Fellow of Management at the University of St Andrews, and author of Whisky Classified: Choosing Single Malts by Flavour.  Dubbed the "Carl LinnŠus" of whisky by whisky writer Charles MacLean, David Wishart was the first to categorise single malts by flavour.  His classification of single malt whiskies by their flavour is fully endorsed by the Scotch Whisky Industry, which honoured him by designating him a "Keeper of the Quaich" in 2006.

David will guide you through the history and romance of Scotch whisky, from the aqua vitae of the early monasteries, the alchemist's art of turning barley into medicine, and the hedonistic uisge beatha of remote Scottish crofts, to the taverns of Edinburgh's Royal Mile and hot toddies in the New Town. The surgeon barbers' monopoly in licensing whisky in 16th century Edinburgh spawned illicit stills in Highland glens, battles with excisemen, and smuggling into the Royal Mile.

The Royal romance with "Scotch" started with George IV in 1822, blossomed under Queen Victoria at Balmoral, and continues with the Prince of Wales today.  Whisky is evoked in the poetry of Burns, in the travelogues of Stevenson, and in the art of Landseer and Wilkie. 

London may have toasted with brandy in the Regency period, but when a tiny beetle devastated Cognac in 1863, the upper classes turned to whisky and the famous Scotch brands were born.  David Lloyd George tried his best to kill it off in the cause of temperance, but he couldn't prevent the "Real McCoy" reaching the speak-easies of New York and Chicago during US Prohibition in the 1930s.

Today, the flavoWhisky Classified - Choosing Single Malts by Flavourur of malt whisky is more diverse than ever, due to the influence of variable peating, cask preparation, extended maturation, and special finishing.  David describes his unique statistical classification by flavour based on sensory analysis, with two dozen of Scotland's finest malts to taste.

He has chosen some well-known favourite malts for his tutored tasting, plus a few that are harder to find.  They span the "flavour spectrum", the range of flavours of single malt whiskies as described in David's book Whisky Classified.

David's tasting is sponsored by the distillers of Aberlour, Ardmore, Balvenie, Ben Nevis, Benromach, Bunnahabhain, Deanston, Edradour, Glencadam, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Glengoyne, Glenlivet, Highland Park, Laphroaig, Ledaig, Macallan, Scapa, Smokehead, Strathisla, Tobermory, Tomatin, Tomintoul and Tullibardine single malt whiskies.


Wishart D (2002, 2006), Whisky Classified: Choosing Single Malts by Flavour, Pavilion, London.
Wishart D (2009), The flavour of whisky, Significance, 6 , 20-26.

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