Photograph: Magnus

Interview with Marc Pendlebury

This is the 12th inter­view in a serie of inter­views with peo­ple who love whisky. This interview is with Marc. Marc has a great whisky review site, He writes;

“If the word addict didn’t have negative connotations I would use it to describe my approach to whisky, but the truth is it is an interest that I pursue with zest and it consumes much of my free time.”

I first found Marc aka @whiskybrother on Twit­ter where he of course tweets about whisky. Please raise your hands for Marc!

1. Tell me a little about yourself?

Marc PendleburyI’m a proud South African, currently working as a manager for a Financial Services Provider. Whisky is strictly a hobby, although one that I take fairly seriously. Taking something seriously by the way, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it.

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

I started drinking whisky in my teens. My mother usually had a bottle of J&B in the cupboard, and on weekends when my friends were over we had have a sip. Even back then I really didn’t mind the taste. I progressed on to Johnnie Walker, and then several years ago I got a bottle of Glenlivet as a gift. When I tasted it I realised what I had been drinking didn’t compare, and started my single malt whisky journey.

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

I don’t have one particular favourite yet. In general it’s the evening’s I’ve spent in the company of friends with good conversation over good whiskies. A highlight was a trip to a local whisky bar last year for my birthday. The bar has such an unbelievable selection and I tasted some rarer whiskies and really took my time to appreciate and savour them. Worst experience? The occasional whisky hangover is never fun, but apart from that no really bad whisky experiences.

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

I’m very much in favour of rating whiskies. Yes, of course scoring a whisky is subjective and very much dependent on previous experiences, mood, environment, etc. but these factors will affect your tasting notes as well. You have to take the time to understand an individual’s rating system so you can calibrate it to your own and interpret it correctly. What I don’t like about rating whiskies is that some people don’t seem to apply any restraint and just give high marks for any average/good whisky. I will never understand this. They in essence negate their rating system and render it null and void. If you give 90% of your whisky scores more than 90/100 then you’re doing it wrong and should rather stop rating.

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

I always use a copita nosing glass and never used water no matter how high the alcohol content. Only in the last few months have I started adding a drop or two of water to some ‘shyer’ whiskies, and some exclusively heavily sherried ones; it helps to explore the intricacies.

6. How is the whisky ‘climate’ (bars, clubs, events & magazines etc.) in your country?

South Africa is surprisingly on the map when it comes to whisky. We are the 5th largest importers of Scotch by volume, and 8th by value. We have a fantastic annual Whisky Live Festival that lasts a total of 6 days in two different cities (3 days per city), and attracts over 18,000 people. Thankfully the producers, writers and brand ambassadors also make the long trip and as such there are superb masterclasses available to attend and interesting people to meet.
We also have the Wild About Whisky bar I referred to earlier that is under 2 hours drive from Johannesburg. It stocks over 700 different whiskies and is one of my favourite places ever. The owners are very friendly and ultra knowledgeable. It’s a great escape from the city over a weekend.
Other than that there are several whisky clubs that you can join, a distillery or two to tour, several local whiskies to try, other bars with a decent section, and a new whisky magazine that will be coming out early in 2011. So yes, quite a lot going on in the SA whisky scene… there could always be more though!

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

I don’t feel very strongly about cask-finishes, neither good nor bad. You get some amazing finishes, and you then you get many lackluster ones. At one stage it was a bit overboard with too many distilleries finishing whisky in any uncommonly used cask they could get their hands on, but today it is not as bad. The experimentation boom is over, it’s now time to use the knowledge gained to carefully select what spirit will benefit from what finish – assuming the distiller has the skill to do it.

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

I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t been to Scotland yet… but I’m planning my virgin trip in 2011. So I eagerly anticipate drinking a peated single malt on a cold day on Islay, or in a dunnage warehouse. In SA my favourite places to drink whisky are at my place, my good friend’s place who is also a whisky enthusiast, and Wild About Whisky.

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

At the moment, I think the future is very bright for whisky worldwide. Most distilleries are struggling to keep up with demand and thus the increase of No Age Statement (nas) whiskies, which we can continue to expect more of. With this high demand and limited supply we should unfortunately expect prices to continue to increase.
I also think more and more distilleries will begin to release expressions that do not fit with their more tradition house style. I.e.: typically ex-sherry using distilleries will start releasing more ex-bourbon. The same goes for peat as we’ve started to see with several Highland and Speyside distilleries.

Did you enjoy the inter­view? If you would like to be part of the serie or know some­one else who would, please let me know.

  1. Filip Ling
  2. Gal Gra­nov
  3. Jörg Bech­told
  4. Mark Gille­spie
  5. Thomas Maufer
  6. Stef fen Bräuner
  7. Dan Hvit­man
  8. Mark Con­nelly
  9. Jason Johnstone-Yellin
  10. Scott Harris
  11. Ruben
  12. Marc Pendlebury

December 21st, 2010

Interview with Marc Pendlebury |…

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