“ They must be mental.”

  • Lee “Connas” Connor c.2011

Let’s be clear, I don’t revel in promoting or adhering to any kind of stereotype. I, like any of us, am but a product of my own experience. And one observation I’ve made over my time as a Whisky Lounge customer and now Helping Hand is that, in the same way that the male of the species supposedly has a hardwired aversion to asking for directions, some of them seem to have a similar issue with not admitting to knowing nothing about whisky.

Back in 2011, the latter was most definitely applicable to me. So, when a friend approached me with the idea of attending something called a “Whisky Lounge Whisky Festival”, explaining the concept loosely as, “You turn up, get a glass and a bottle of water. Then there’s four hours of whisky sampling with experts pouring”,  I gave him a look as if to suggest he may have taken a blow to the head recently.

I mean, really: someone, somewhere has found a way for me to sample a plethora of the world’s finest available whiskies? AND, all in my birth town of Newcastle Upon Tyne?  What else could my response be but “Get me a ticket. They’re either geniuses, or they must be mental.”?

Little was I aware that in attending this event all of my assumed and, frankly, downright biased views on the subject were about to be exposed…

And I f*****g loved it!

Seriously, it was as if I’d gone all in with the biggest bluff I’d ever had the cojones to bet on, and The Whisky Lounge had called me out, royally! Just wonderful!

“Wait, what? Blended whisky can be as good/even better than single malt?!”

“World whiskies can be just as good as some Scotch?!”

“Age doesn’t guarantee quality?!”

“PRICE, doesn’t guarantee enjoyment?!”

I can genuinely say that The Whisky Lounge’s welcoming, calm, relaxed, inclusive and informative nature that day was a huge turning point in the direction my life has taken. Meeting and getting to know Eddie, Amanda and all the staff, old and new, permanent and occasional – the extended Whisky Lounge Family – has enabled me not only to inform myself about whisky but to experience it in a fashion which until then I literally wouldn’t have imagined.

It could be drinking whiskies dating from before WW2 at the last blitz site in London, or drinking Port Ellen AT PORT ELLEN. Or just being able to drink whisky I’ve never had before with the people responsible for making it. I’ve been spoiled rotten with the whiskies I’ve been able to try and the company in which I’ve been able to try them with.

Since The Whisky Lounge Newcastle Whisky Festival 2011, I have met people with whom I’ve shared drams, views, karaoke, pez, cars, philosophies, jokes and all kinds of joy. These are some of the most informed, knowledgeable and passionate people in the world of whisky. And, putting it simply, the reason I’ve been able to do this, is that The Whisky Lounge want to turn EVERYONE on to whisky.

Even to the point where an (until recently) biased, Geordie can now be referred to as an ‘Expert’ on their website. If I’m being honest, I’d say ‘Whisky Nerd in Training’ was a closer description. Although I have been able to provide the occasional ‘Eureka’ moment for a customer or two.

I am continually impressed at the way in which the Whisky Lounge reinvents and invigorates the idea of everyone enjoying whisky. And I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

Happy 10th Birthday TWL!

Here’s to many more!

Connas.