I wish someone had told me about a good whisky with friends

I wish someone had told me about a good whisky with friends

“There’s nothing more satisfying than a good whisky after a long, hard working day. Actually, there’s nothing more satisfying than a good whisky, full stop.” – Elbert Chen

Elbert Chen, whisky collector and enthusiast

I couldn’t have said it better myself. My appreciation for whisky was instilled by my good friend, Elbert Chen. A whisky collector and informed enthusiast. Elbert is also the Supply Chain Manager of Bearings 2000 (a CN&CO client), and is a hard working and extremely smart character.

I blame him (in the best way possible) for introducing me to whisky a few years back. An introduction I haven’t looked back on and started my own collection since. It’s a fun and interesting passion because;

  1. The ability to appreciate the before, during and after taste of a malt
  2. The wide selection and diversity of whiskies available
  3. The fun of collecting, enjoying it and
  4. most importantly, when enjoyed in good company and the conversations that follow.

So, in the spirit of a good whisky, I decided to interview Elbert about his passion for collecting and learning about the drink. After all, it’s a passion he inspired in me and number of our friends that has led us to numerous and insightful conversations, ideas and moments.

What inspired your passion for whisky?

My passion began around three to four years ago. I’ll be honest that it wasn’t one that started with a big bang! It grew on me, slowly maturing like a fine whisky.

I am lucky enough to have friends that are long-time collectors. Their passion meant that they enjoyed teaching me about whisky and allowing me to taste different ones from their collection around the world.

So with a couple of tastings, learning more about how the whisky making process works, and having friends vested in whisky with me, my passion and collection started.

Why do you enjoy it?

There are several reasons why I enjoy a good whisky. The main one is there is nothing better than sitting down and having a whisky with a mate or two.

It’s in those moments where you aren’t drinking for the sake of, but appreciating the taste, conversing and appreciating life. Friendships and memories forged over multiple blends and topics.

What does it take to start a whisky collection and do you have any advise for others considering it?

Elbert’s ‘Peat city’ collection

It’s really easy to start a collection. If are able to allocate R500 – R1000 a month, you can treat yourself to a couple of good bottles.

The secret to collecting is to know where to buy and shop around for the best prices. In South Africa there are a number of stores that specialise in whisky such asWhisky Brothers, Bottega and Wild About Whisky to name a few.

Obviously, it’s a lot easier if you have friends that can advise you on what and where to buy. Like with any passion, it helps to be as informed as you possibly can.

My best tip, if you are keen to collect and start learning about whisky is to: Save up and make one big purchase of around ten bottles. It is hard to build a collection if you constantly only buy 1 or 2 bottles but consume them monthly.

If you purchase in bulk and go for a variety of different types, you are able to try each and compare, and enjoy them over a period. The point is to not get drunk but enjoy a shot or two in your downtime.

Tell us a bit about the different types of whisky. What is your favourite?

The interesting thing about whisky is that there is so many different types. Diversity and stories with a rich history.

The variety ranges from whiskies that come from different countries or even just different areas in that country, to types, non chill filtered, age statements, taste, type of casks and more. That is what makes it so fascinating and enjoyable.

I don’t specifically have a favourite type of whisky as my taste and enjoyment of different whiskies is influenced by many factors like my mood, the weather, stress levels, and occasion.

An example would be that I really enjoy my peaty (the smoky flavour achieved by the compounds which are released by the peat fires used to dry malted barley) whiskies during winter but not so much in the summer months.

Currently my favourite type of whisky is anything that has ex sherry casks like a Glenmorangie La Santa.

Elbert’s Compass Box collection including The Spaniard

How long have you been collecting whisky for?

I have been collecting whisky now for about two years. I have 76 different whiskies currently. My goal is to to break the 100 mark by the end of the year.

If you had to travel to taste whisky, where in the world would you go and why?

Obviously my first choice would be Scotland. It is the home of whisky. I would love to do a tour of Islay,  as I enjoy peaty whiskies and the island is characteristically known for their peaty single malts.

I would also love to go to the Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky too, a good bourbon goes a long way.

When is your favourite time to enjoy a whisky?

It can be a quiet Tuesday night after a productive day at work, or enjoyed with a couple of mates on a Friday evening.

Elbert’s current whisky collection.

Anytime is a good time, as long as you have a glass of whisky in hand coupled with good company and conversations to go with it.