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Posted 3 years, 6 months ago by Gavin Ryan Thomson

A Piece of Islay, Not on Islay

Our Fellow, Gavin Ryan Thomson, shares his guest blog all about his Scotch journey that led him to build a Whisky lounge in his house...


Our Fellow, Gavin Ryan Thomson, shares his guest blog all about his Scotch journey that led him to build a Whisky lounge in his house...

How did you get into the world of Whisky?

My first real experience with Whisky was with my father, James Thomson. He quite liked a good dram, may it be Irish Whiskey or Scotch Whisky. He liked his Jameson's and introduced me to the Dalwhinnie. That's when I started to get to know whisky and experience with other drams. I then found the distillery that I love, and that is famous and one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland... Bowmore! Actually as far as I know the dummy was sometimes dipped in a dram to make me sleep! But my earliest memory would be my first ever taste of a Single Malt, and that was a Lagavulin 16 Years Old. That to me was the wrong way of introducing myself into the world of Whisky! At that time it was a bit too overpowering!

However, I continued to research the world of Whisky and found that it's not just the Whisky that tastes good, the packaging of the bottle, or a way of investment, but the people behind the Whisky. That's the key. And that's what made me fall in love with Whisky. Old traditions that have been handed down, methods that have not been taken over by machine, and a passion that lies within every person that works in the distillery.

From then on I took it more seriously and started posting through Facebook, and then later with Twitter. I presented my own private Whisky Tastings that started off with a range of different Whiskies – Bowmore, Ardbeg, the six Classic Malts, and then I continued to concentrate in the Morrison Bowmore Distillers (MBD) profile; Auchentoshan, Bowmore, and Glen Garioch. My passion of Whisky grew and it was great to see people enjoying what I do. 

After a couple of years of presenting tastings, posting on various social media platforms, that Cara Leggat (then Cara Laing, Brand Manager for MBD) noticed what I do. Cara got in contact with me to congratulate and to thank me for the work I do for Bowmore and MBD. She said that I was their "leading online voluntary Bowmore Brand Ambassador"! That to me was such an amazing feeling in being noticed for what I do. 

My idol is Master Blender Richard Paterson! I watched all of his videos, taken part in his Masterclasses, and also got to know the person behind the "showman". Of course I present my tastings in my own way, however, I did steal Richard's "Hello, How are ye..." and throwing a dram on the carpet, or throwing ice through the room... and it's loved by everyone! 

And now, although I don't exactly work in the Whisky industry, I'm proud to say that I'm a voluntary Bowmore Brand Ambassador, honoured to be one of the twelve Douglas Laing & Co.'s Fellow Honorary Ambassadors, and Ambassador for the Angels' Share Glass. All voluntary, and that's what I like to do. As soon as I see a smile on people's faces, then I know I'm doing something right! If they're happy, I'm happy!

When did you decide you wanted a Whisky lounge in your house?

Before we bought the house, I knew the cellar was big enough, not just for hanging up the washing and storing gardening tools, but also to create something that would separate my passion from one part of the house to another by presenting my Whiskies inside a special room, and not to have them where my children are playing, etc. And when we bought the house I knew exactly how it was going to look!

How long did it take to build?

It took around a year to finish. First, I had to knock down a wall to make two rooms into one. Then the process continued until I knew it was then complete. I gathered many things that you would find in the Distillery – Coopers' tools, tools of the trade, and also made sure that the look of the room is as dark, exciting, and to the detail of the real Bowmore No.1 Vaults. I want to be able to transport people to Islay, and let them forget that they're currently in Saarbrücken, Germany! If they can't get to Islay, I'll bring Islay to my guests.

Did you already own vast amounts of whisky, or did you extend the collection to fill the lounge?

I already owned a vast amount of Whiskies, and a vast spectrum of flavours. I have many from The Balvenie, also Glengoyne, which was first ever distillery visit. AuchentoshanGlen Garioch, the Dalmore, etc. And because of the vast amount, it was a good decision to have a room especially for them.

Who would be your ultimate guest to have in your lounge?

Gooooood question, a hard one, but it's got to be a few! 

First of all, Bowmore Distillery Manager David Turner and Bowmore Legend Ginger Willie, Master Blender Richard Paterson, And Douglas Laing Chairman, Fred Laing, Director of Whisky Cara Laing, and CEO Chris Leggat!

And if I could... my Dad. He got me into the world of Whisky, and I thank him for introducing me into something quite remarkable and wonderful. Unfortunately I can't enjoy a dram with him, as he passed away 9 years ago with Non Small-Cell Lung Cancer at the age of 54. I think of him with every dram. I know he's with me when I'm in any distillery, and in my Whisky Lounge... taking his Angels Share! 

Which Douglas Laing Whiskies do you have in your lounge, and which is your favourite?

I don't have as many as I would like to have. However the ones I do have are great, and also mean something to me!

I have the Douglas Laing Old Particular Bowmore 15 Years Old (2000/2015, Sherry Butt, Ref DL10794), to which I opened on the first day of moving into our new house! Only 2cl left in the bottle! Then I have the Big Peat Feis Ile 2017 "Big Peat's Pals Limited Edition" bottling, which has my face on it! Also one of only three Golden bottles of The Epicurean that I won from BarleyMania! A bottle of Douglas Laing's Premier Barrel Bowmore 9 Years Old (now empty, but love the bottle!), and a wee Douglas Laing's The VIP Private Bottling Laphroaig 10 Years Old (Refill Hogshead, Ref DL HQ VIP), which I received on my first visit to Douglas Laing HQ in August 2014! And not to forget the Remarkable Malts miniatures too!

My favourite has to be the Old Particular Bowmore 15 Years Old. A wonderful Dram... full of memories!

On this note I would like to thank Douglas Laing & Co. for their continuing support for what I do, and I love to support Douglas Laing as much as I can. To me Douglas Laing & Co. are the best independent Whisky Company out there, and I'm happy to be a part of the team. Coming up to 70 years now, I'm looking forward to celebrating their birthday in 2018! 

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