Our Fellow, Dr. Heinz Weinberger from Whisky-Connaisseur, has written this guest blog for us, providing an insight into how he discovered his love for Scotch Whisky, deepened it and wanted to develop it into a new career...
I discovered my true passion for Scottish single Malt Whisky during my doctoral thesis in Frankfurt, Germany in 1993, when a fellow student opened an original bottle of Oban 14 Years Old to prepare for the weekend. I was immediately blown away by the Malty, fruity sweetness with a hint of salt, and by the abundance of different flavours of this golden-coloured Whisky from the Western Highlands.
Since then, this enthusiasm has grown steadily. At first, I followed up the standard bottlings in order to get to know the distillery character of the individual distilleries. In the beginning, these were the six bottlings of the Classic Malts of Scotland series introduced by Diageo in 1987. Later on, Whiskies in cask strength and especially bottlings of the numerous independent bottlers enriched my knowledge and taste spectrum enormously.
From 2006 onwards I bought more and more bottles, so that my shelves were always too small and not enough, and I had to constantly expand. In 2008 I visited Scotland for the first time and went to the Hebrides Island of Islay. One year later I started my own private homepage and published my travel stories, which described in detail my impressions of this beautiful country, Scotland, with its hospitable and cordial inhabitants. At the time I created my homepage, the English term Whisky-Connoisseur was already used for a German homepage. So I decided to choose the French spelling Whisky-Connaisseur. As I wanted to pass on these impressions, my enthusiasm for the country, people and Whisky and my newly acquired knowledge about the production of single Malt, I started to do tastings.
The great radical change followed in 2015. After 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry I was forced to look for something new. And I thought to myself: why not combine my hobby with my profession? In August 2015 I started with a blog on Facebook where I published tasting notes of mainly Scottish Whiskies in English. My intention was to be able to get into contact with Scottish distilleries and independent bottlers in this way. Since I have written and published oncological therapy books in English in my old profession, writing was not difficult for me. Only the topic was much more pleasant now. As a chemist, one becomes aware of the enormous number of chemical compounds that contribute to the smell and taste, appearance and body of this wonderful spirit and I was interested in where they came from. I examined every step of Whisky production and maturation. Based on "Water of Life" I started a new category on my homepage titled "Chemistry of Life". It is growing steadily and enjoys enormous popularity.
As early as the beginning of 2016, I became a member of the Ambassador Club of Gruppo Campari and belong to a circle of appointed Whisky connoisseurs and experts from all over Germany who have dedicated themselves to Scottish Whisky. The Ambassador Club was founded in 2007 by Helmut Knöpfle, Brand Ambassador Specialities at Campari Germany and now has more than 100 active members. At about the same time, I was also named "Douglas Laing's Fellow", that is, honorary ambassador for Douglas Laing & Co. Here, I describe single Malts, single grains, limited and very new bottlings of this independent bottler based in Glasgow, Scotland and, from time to time, guest blog on their homepage DouglasLaing.com. Until then, Douglas Laing was known to me, but I hadn't had the pleasure of tasting their range of Whiskies. This should change abruptly. The amazing team around Fred Laing and his daughter Cara not only produces excellent single cask bottlings – Single Malts and Single Grains of the Old Particular and XOP series – but also remarkable and especially tasty blended Malts from their Remarkable Regional Malts series, from which Fellows are sent samples for tasting and describing at regular intervals. The cooperation with these enormously friendly and cordial people from Glasgow is very fruitful and I am overly proud to be a part of this family.
Until then, I was only familiar with Big Peat. But at least since I had tasted the different bottlings of Timorous Beastie, Scallywag, Rock Oyster, The Epicurean or The Gauldrons, it had occurred to me: I've become a true fan of blended Malts and engage in education work at trade fairs and tastings on this Whisky category, which has been totally unjustly neglected and often labelled as blends. In mid-2016 I was appointed as Star Fellow of the month for my work in promoting Douglas Laing. I had the great honour to have my name and my own tasting notes featured on an upcoming Provenance Caol Ila 6 years bottling which will be released later this year.
Since 2017 I have been a freelance author for the renowned German Whisky magazine "Der Whisky-Botschafter". As a chemist, I am focussed on the scientific background and chemical processes surrounding Whisky and I now have my own section "Whisky Knowledge" there. As an independent Whisky-Connaisseur, I run various tastings and exhibit at national Whisky fairs. With the beginning of 2018 I officially started my own business as a Whisky-Connaisseur and I am very curious to see where the journey will take me.
My personal attention is currently focused on single cask bottlings, mainly of independent bottlers – such as Douglas Laing – which offers an enormous range of flavours and makes it incredibly fun to work out similarities and differences with other bottlings of the same distillery. I am by no means ignoring the standards. If I come back to the standard bottlings after a longer "abstinence", it can happen that I rediscover some of them. That's what makes it so fascinating for me.
Scotch Whisky offers an enormous variety of flavours and holds many secrets to elicit. There is still so much to discover for me and I am looking forward to the results of my ever-increasing inquiring urge.
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