My usual shopping list will include 40p meatballs, 29p pasta and toilet roll that doesn’t deserve the name. I buy the same cheap crap week in week out, and the staff at my local Tesco refer to me as a ‘regular’. What’s my point? I’m cheap and everyone knows it. It’s the way most students are – our lives are lacking in the luxury such fine surroundings imply. I may take my lectures in a beautiful building from 1870, but I’m still going home to live in a flat where one of the walls is falling down. But every time I decide to treat myself, my bank balance screams a little louder. What is a student to do?
About a year ago, I found what I was looking for: The QMU Whisky Club. Every month (roughly) I sit down to six beautiful half-drams of one of the finest beverages known to man. I don’t mean bad whisky – I’m not talking about Jack Daniels – I mean the good stuff; the Balvenie Doublewood 12 year old (matured in two distinct casks: one Whisky Oak, one Sherry Oak), or perhaps the Caol Ila 18 Year Old 1994 Sassicaia Wood Finish. Distinct, flavourful whisky of the highest quality with smoked applewood cheese and crackers to go with it. This absolute luxury is not something I allow myself through gritted teeth and leaves me scrambling in my sofa for the lost pennies – £6 is a luxury I can afford.
Starting from humble beginnings, not unlike my dilapidated flat, a group of skint friends decided to buy a nice bottle of whisky together and drinking it periodically. The idea grew to be one of the most available fineries on our campus. Each event opens its doors to 100 people. Connoisseurs and whisky virgins alike are guided through the whiskies in a fun and unpretentious way. Shorts and t-shirts will do just fine here (in fact that’s become a uniform for one particular regular), and trust me – that guy in the suit will be yelling that he’s getting cherries on the nose just as loudly as you once we’re five drinks down.
You might be thinking that you know nothing about whisky, that you don’t even like whisky. But I put it to you that whisky is a diverse and complex drink – the whisky for you might be out there lurking behind the bar or at some booze festival you’ll get dragged to. People call death the leveller, but I think whisky is too. I attended the most recent Whisky Club (their fortieth meeting) and sat with connoisseurs, newbies and Whisky Club’s executive, and I find that each dram is an adventure, often something new for everyone in the room. The nose, the palate, the finish – all echo the years of work, the years of variable, individual and fascinating work that have gone into the whisky. While they’ll help you work out the recommended guidelines for traversing this alcoholic quest for differentiation at the club, no one at the table’s word is the be all and end all.
When I began to review the experience on a whisky by whisky basis I realised I would be in part missing the point. This is not a run through of good whisky, a handshake, and a goodbye – it’s the manifestation of the idea that nothing is too good to be shared. Besides, it’s the only luxury I can afford.