Whisky (Or whiskey, a debate that could justify a lengthy essay and may well be the feature of another blog) is one of the few truly egalitarian drinks. A bottle can invariably be found in the home of the famous musician, the farmer, the city banker or the brick layer. While its bouquet and price may change, the form and frequency of its ingestion vary wildly, even the best method of consumption a point of great contention, one thing remains true; the love for that golden ‘aqua vitae’.
Below are three famous whisky drinkers from a mix of generations and very different walks of life. I have focused on their preferred ‘daily’ whiskies, which just so happen to be accessible and delicious, as all good things in life should be.
Who are these people?
Conformists and Non-Conformists, Establishment and Anti-Establishment; Heroes and Heretics. Whisky drinkers are not from one ilk, as the three (apologies, white) men below will demonstrate. Geographical location, profession and the bothersome nature of human mortality keeps these three famous whisky drinkers from ever meeting, but what binds them and millions of people around the world is a love for that distinctive and unrivalled beverage.
Famous for many things, it is a well established fact that Churchill drank whisky regularly. Readers may be interested to know that this habit began during his time in India with the 4th Hussars. “The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky. By diligent effort, I learnt to like it.” A sentiment many amateur whisky drinkers such as myself will be glad to hear.
Later in life, when he spent less time in the campaign tent and more time in one of the thirty bars to be found in the Palace of Westminster, he would drink Johnny Walker Red Label with soda water. Somewhat surprisingly he did not take his whiskies, which would be drunk several times throughout the day, strong, preferring it to be weak, and never neat. A good account of his daily routine can be found in Richard Langworth’s Winston Churchill, Myth and Reality, which gives an impressive approximation of his daily intake. He would usually have three, occasionally four whiskies per day, never more than an ounce of whisky (roughly a single measure in the pub), and topped liberally with soda water.
A large man by this stage in his life, when combined with his other drinks it is still an impressive amount of alcohol to be regularly consuming, and one can only assume that this may be one of the contributing factors to his prolific and award winning writing.
The question I often ask when considering Hunter S Thompson is this: is it Mr Thompson the troubled journalist, or is it Raoul Duke, the fictional anti-hero of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? He is certainly what is sometimes referred to as an author surrogate, and had the peculiar ability to reach back off the page and influence Mr Thompson’s life. Many of his close friends felt that he often felt pressured by publicity to play the part of the semi autobiographical Duke, no doubt an intensified version of himself.
Regardless, amongst the acid and the cocaine was, at several points in the day, Chivas Regal. A famous whisky drinker, Thompson would have it served over crushed ice and slowly topped up so the glass was never completely empty of either; it is one of the more unorthodox ways to drink whisky, born out a habit of continuous intoxication throughout his waking day. From 15:05, not long after rising, and then several more times before finally falling asleep at 08:20, the ice cold beverage would be on hand. It is curious that, like Churchill, Thompson would write with whisky (amongst a cornucopia of other substances) in his blood. Next time you are on the veranda of a Las Vegas hotel bar, have a Chivas 12 Year over crushed ice and muse a little on the life of this unorthodox and fascinating whisky drinker.
We have seen two types of famous whisky drinkers; Churchill, the old guard and decidedly of the establishment, and Thompson, scribe of the hippie counter culture. While not yet as established in popular culture as my first two subjects, Mr Browne is surely to become one of the great personalities of his day. This is not the only reason I have decided to include him in this exclusive list. It is my firm belief that Mr Browne, or Freddie, as I have always known him, lies not too far from either man. He is as ready to glide around the dance floors of exclusive balls as he is to spend three months wearing shorts in the less visited corners of the Casamance River, attempting to surf river waves and sampling the local, and slightly suspicious, ‘Castle Whisky’.
His natural charm and ability to find a connection with anyone is remarkable. His acting work on TV and time spent organising parties across the country for friends and clients, as well more conventional work with Heroes & Heretics means his status as a social butterfly is never in danger.
When not indulging in whatever the local tipple is, Freddie was, in earlier years, known to take Laphroaig 10 Year when drinking neat, and Bushmills with Ginger before dinner, a nod to his Ulster-Scots heritage. More recently he has been working through a bottle of 48, a 10 year blended malt Scotch whisky. Typical of the varieties sourced by Heroes & Heretics, only 880 bottles were produced, and having been aged in sherry casks (barrels to those just starting out), it brings with it a subtle sweet notes that hint of the summer to come; you don’t need to be a famous whisky drinker to enjoy this one.
By William Prior