Photograph: Magnus

Interview with Filip Ling

This is the first interview in a serie of interviews with people who love whisky. If you would like to be part of the serie or know someone else who would, please let me know.

First out is Filip, a whisky samurai who loves whisky, especially interested in the Japanese market. If you have a question about Japanese whisky, this is the guy to talk to. Filip is also a great content contributor to Give it up for, Filip!

1. Tell me a little about yourself?

Filip LingHello! My name is Filip, 22 years old Vintage 1987 right now living in Sweden. I started this road some years ago and with help from very good friends managed to learn more then I ever expected. Still learning of course! I have gone down pretty deep in this world and I love it. There is so many fantastic people you meet all the time who shares the same interest. Often they are all very generous and helpful. It is easy to get samples and finding bottles with their help. Just stick your head out and you’ll find them!

I am collecting bottles from Japan and trying to get samples of them in the same time for reviewing! Since I’m young I’m stocking up a good collection for the future. Love Scotland though! But at some point you have to have a plan and don’t drift around getting lost at the huge amount of distillers and bottles. I try to help Jens here get a good cover of the Japanese section of Chwisgi but its a lot of work left! Do you know of any rare bottles or news contact me directly and ill make sure it hits the site!

2. How did it all started, what’s your first experience of whisky?

My journey started pretty bad to be honest haha.. I emptied a bottle of Famous Grouse, sitting there feeling sorry for myself (stupid.. ) I told myself, never again! Im going to stop this and start respecting the alcohol instead. From there on my journey started. Thinking back it feels like a good choice, wouldn’t you agree?

3. What’s your favourite and worst whisky and why?

Lets start with my favourite! Its an old Miltonduff 1966 bottled for Antica Casa Marchesi Spinola, Indie bottlings rule! Really dark heavy sherry with a hot peppery taste and some smoke. A friend got me a very small sample of this but it was enough to make me fall.. I don’t remember the exact tastes but I know that nothing, absolutely nothing has come close to the same experience this one gave me. Impossible to find today sadly..

Okey, the worst one! The first Swedish distillery Mackmyra was exciting news! The opinions were divided but I had to try it! Your own countries first distillery had to be tasted right? So I ran of and got a bottle: “Mackmyra Första Utgåvan“. Unfortunately it was a chock, really bad one. My notes say: Urine, Lemon and disinfection alcohol. Horrible.. Luckily it has gotten much better these days! Love your private bottlings Mackmyra!

4. What’s your opinion on today’s whisky rating systems (1-10, 1-100, stars etc.)?

First of all I think people tend to look a little bit to much at certain scores and trying to hunt down these whiskies that suddenly got a 95p+ score from a famous journalist without even knowing what it tastes like! Always remember you might not like what others like and vice verse. On the other side, if it is for personal use I would say its great! I can only speak for myself but I need some kind of system looking back for comparison or if a friend wants to know what I think about a special bottle. I use the 1-100 score broken up in 4 parts; Nose 25p, Taste 25p, Finish 25p, Complexity 25p. Doing so you can judge each whisky on its own breaking down its weak and strong parts.

Often your judgement will depend on that single moment when your tasting and how you feel at the time. Another time you might think it tastes completely different and give it a lower score. Then it is also very important to write down small notes. Like what it tastes, smells and feels like. Try to taste them “blindly”! Have a friend pour up your drinks without your knowledge and see what happens! To brake it down, yes I like to have scores.

5. How do you taste whisky? Do you use water, and when?

Ahh.. The ever long battle. If I taste blindly I always take a little sip of water in my mouth and then taste the whisky so they mix together. If not knowing what strength the whisky is I don’t want to burn away my taste for that day. If I know what I do have in the glass and know its not a killing strength at 60% or higher I usually drink it directly to get the pure taste. Then I might put some water in it, if not to water it down to a more satisfying strength but to unlock more of the flavours! Water releases flavours you would not be able to find else and sometimes makes a whisky you maybe thought was terrible quite drinkable!

Theres a whole science about water and what it does, young, old, how much.. You try it yourself and see what happens! The golden rule is, don’t use ice! Ice numbs your taste buds and takes away lots of the flavours, ice is bad! Damn you ice!

6. How is the whisky ‘climate’ in your country?

Well ice bears walk the streets don’t they? We have really cold winters, warm summers with high air density, pure fresh water, fir forest and salty coasts. Perfect, wouldn’t you say?

7. What’s your opinion on different cask-finish expression?

My direct thoughts on this is to give young whiskies lots of flavour, character to get it quickly on the market. Sometimes it works very well and sometimes it tastes like, well.. Don’t know if we should go there. I think it works well when used with wine for example and px-sherry, uhm then we have wood finishes also. When the wine, rum, other whisky etc. gives it a completely new taste that probably will hide its true self laid down in a new cask with special wood I think it enhances the flavor and keep letting it develop with its original taste. We have some truly horrifying examples when Ichiro Akuto broke almost every cask of Hanyu and laid them down in new casks with different finishes and woods. Now again its all personal! I don’t really like those Hanyus that have been re-cracked into new casks, I think they taste like old dishwater whilst the ones been laying easy and quiet in their original casks taste rather superb! I don’t like my whiskies being re-cracked. I like them laying there for a long time and developing magic on their own like it always have been!

8.  What is your opinion on the whisky snobbery that some are talking and writing about?

I think its sad that those with the wallet get to taste the good stuff but aren’t we seeing that in all spirit markets? Wine, Rum, Cognac, Calvados etc. Everybody wants to make money, hell I do to.. More often we see these luxury cases from heavy wood with small silver emblems and diamonds shining. Who doesn’t love a good quality feeling heavy wooden box with silver and diamonds? I do! Im sure you deep inside have some sort of fetish for it, just don’t want admit it?

But when they start to pack young whiskies in these cases from my opinion don’t taste even closely to the price it becomes sad. Right now there is some “Manager” who is putting “Choice” whisky in these not so breathtaking cases but still charge a hefty three times regular price. Its not worth whats in the bottle even if its tastes ok! Rather have a look at the Scotch Single Malt Whisky Society, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask or Bladnoch who keeps the prices down on superb malts so it almost feels like a robbery when buying.. Go on now! Have a look what they are offering..

9. Where in the world would you like to go to try whisky? Why, do you have a favourite place, distillery or country?

My first choice would be Japan to visit my favourite distillery Nikka or Yamazaki, Karuizawa.. Well the list can be made long. I love the culture, the food, their sake and lots more. Take me there now! I also love Scotland! Edinburgh is a fantastic city to get lost in.. The feel, the taste and the people makes it rather boring sitting home here. Im going back and thats for sure.

10. What whisky trends are you seeing, how does the future look like?

Older with bigger cases… Nah lets drop that. I think the world is growing! Japan is bigger then ever. India is taking us by storm! England is up and running again, Ireland going steadily. France, Finland, Germany, Taiwan, Sweden.. Every country wants a piece of the cake! Good! Lets face it, the Scottish has gotten a bit dull lately and the old casks are no more.. They need to start new and fresh. Some are doing that.. Some are dragging in the dust. The fun thing is its getting more accepted and steadily growing, keep it up!

The future looks bright!

Did you enjoy the inter view? If you would like to be part of the serie or know some one else who would, please let me know.

  1. Inter view with Filip Ling
  2. Inter view with Gal Granov
  3. Inter view with Jörg Bechtold
  4. Inter view with Mark Gillespie
  5. Inter view with Thomas Maufer