“The bonhomie of whisky seems boundless. And its growing presence is almost like the spreading of the gospel!” – Alice Parsons
Alice Parsons is the author of new whisky book, The Lore of Whisky, which has recently hit shelves around the world.
In this Whisky Women interview, she speaks about her experiences researching for the book, explains why she’s become an ‘avid’ fan of the drink and gives her thoughts on the future of the industry.
How did you first get interested in whisky?
Whisky was always the drink I turned to when I was looking for some clear earthy freshness. When I was a teenager I had a friend working at J&B and was willingly guided in that direction.
When you started researching for the book, were you already an avid fan?
Brilliant to use the word ‘avid’, for that is surely what I became. Having started from a point of relative ignorance, I was curious, then curioser, then riveted, then avidly addicted!
What was one of the most interesting tales you came across when doing your research?
While English, I have been living in Australia for 30 years, and I have to say that for me the tale of the evolution of whisky in Australia is one of the most interesting.
Bill Lark [a chartered surveyor by profession] is now recognised across the globe as a master distiller. In fact he is known as ‘the Godfather of Australian whisky’. In 1992 he succeeded in overturning a ban on distilling that went back to 1839, when the Governor of Tasmania, Sir John Franklin, banned “sly grogging stills” because he saw the restless young trapped in a cycle of alcohol-induced chaos. This achieved, Bill built his own 75-litre still and has never looked back. Now world famous Lark Distillery matures its malt whiskies in small ‘quarter’ casks and receives accolades everywhere including from Jim Murray.
What’s been the most exciting part of delving into the world of whisky for your book?
The most exciting part has been my involvement in a massive ever-widening group of enthusiastic appreciators of whisky. I keep reiterating the point that everyone has a whisky ‘story’, and those who have information too seem always willing and eager to share it. The bonhomie of whisky seems boundless. And its growing presence is almost like the spreading of the gospel! I joined whisky clubs online, listened to whisky podcasts, wrote to whisky bloggers, and never once received anything other than a warm supportive response.
Do you now try to get other people you know into whisky?
I certainly chat about it a lot! All my family drink it. We have four adult children and we all do plenty of cross-referencing. I give encouragement to friends to give it a try if they have not already surrendered to its charm but I also aim not to be a whisky tragic!
The global whisky market is continuously expanding: do you think this is a short-term trend or here to stay?
I believe whisky is here absolutely for the long run. As Jim Murray has said, “Antarctica is the only continent on which the spirit [whisky] is not distilled.”
However drinkers beware; not all whiskies produced in these places conform to even the loosest of definitions of whisky: “Any of several distilled liquors made from a fermented mash of cereal grains” the latter from the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia.
Why would you recommend someone to try whisky?
Simply for the pleasure of those clean, fresh and invigorating flavours; for the leap into a realm of exciting tastes and adventurous tales; for the unexpected variety and for the camaraderie to be enjoyed by entering the whisky appreciators’ club.
You’re one of a few women whisky writers – do you think more women should be involved?
Certainly. In fact through Twitter it has become clear that there are a lot of women out there who enjoy whisky and who have a great deal to say about it. There are lady distillers such as Kristy Lark [Tasmania] whose brewing and particularly peating expertise is being sought by distillers in Scotland.
What is one of your favourite memories of whisky drinking?
My husband and I are lucky enough to have a hilltop retreat in the Hunter Valley. For us to sit on our verandah watching the sun in her descent with a glass of whisky to hand is truly about as good as it gets. Our two dachshunds enjoy our stillness and we enjoy it all the more if other of our family members are with us.