Selection of cocktails with garnish.

Discovering Whisky

Discovering Whisky with Kelsey Blacksmith, NSW and ACT Reserve Brand Ambassador.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

My name is Kelsey Blacksmith, I’m a proud First Nations woman, the NSW/ACT Brand Ambassador for Diageo, whisky nerd, bartender, ex-ballerina and Spice Girls tragic. I’m also very proud to be the founder of Womxn’s Whisky Night in the UK.

Why did you choose Whisky over other categories?

"The people. When I was transitioning from ballet to bars, I found cocktail bartenders wanted me to know everything already and weren’t often patient enough to teach me or even point me in the direction of how to learn. Then I came across the team at Milroys of Soho and The Vault in 2017 and they were just so excited to teach me about whisky, lend me their books, help me find what I liked and, importantly, learn why I liked it. I really have them to credit for my love of whisky."

As a long-time whisky fan and turned Brand Ambassador, what trends do you see in whisky?

"The trends seem to be cyclical!!
People want sherry bombs, then funky cask finishes, then they want peat monsters, then a stripped-back showcase of delicate distillery characteristics, then cask strength and the cycle repeats.

I think it’s indicative of the waves of people getting into whisky and exploring what they like. Simple serves are also having a moment of late, classic highballs or Old Fashioned’s that highlight distillery character and lengthen drinking time."

Which trends would you like to end?

"I think we can be done with the “boys club” mentality of whisky. Whisky is for everyone, and we should be encouraging people of all (legal) ages and genders to get involved.

When I began Womxns Whisky Night in London the response was immediate and overwhelming from young women who wanted to learn and engage but had felt excluded from the category and spaces that served and celebrated it. Even bartending in some of the most recognised whisky bars in the world, I’ve been questioned on if I “even like whisky”.

It’s absolutely baffling as to why anyone would think someone's gender identity should dictate what spirits they enjoy.

Neat whisky and pink drinks for all!"

What's your favourite way to try a new whisky?

"Neat first always! Then another sip after it’s sat and breathed for a couple of minutes, then with a few drops of room temperature water if I fancy it."

What's your go-to serve for a sunny afternoon?

"I’m a sucker for a Paper Plane! I’m usually a Scotch drinker but this cocktail is my preferred summer serve for a bourbon.

Created by the inimitable Sam Ross, I was lucky enough to be served one by the man himself at a recent takeover that Attaboy did at Double Deuce Lounge.

I find a high rye bourbon like Bulleit works well in this if you’re someone who prefers a dryer summer serve. Alternatively, a classic highball made with aggressively bubbly sparkling water."

Paper Plane

The Paper Plane, created by Sam Ross, a dry summer serve made with Bulleit Bourbon and Aperol.

Whisky Highball

The Whisky Highball is simple but often complicated by ritual. It has a long history in Japan and can be drunk as an aperitif or with food.

What’s your go-to Serve for a cold, wintery day?

"A classic Old Fashioned on a BIG whisky. Something like Talisker Port Ruighe (pronounced “Port Ree”) that’s got plenty of body and complexity."

Talisker Port Ruighe Old Fashioned

Talisker Port Ruighe is stirred over Ice in the style of an Old-Fashioned to release it's delicious sea spray notes.

What's your favourite Whisky/ food pairing?

"I’m not a chocolate lover at all but a peaty whisky with dark chocolate and fresh raspberries is my preferred late-night snack. I flip-flop on my favourite pairing all the time but I come back to Lagavulin, Lindt dark chocolate and raspberries time and time again."

Is there anything new on the horizon for Whisky in Australia this year, that we should look out for?

"I think Australia is having more fun with whisky serves! We’re moving away from being so serious and bars are leaning into fun, colour and flavour.

Keep an eye on our National Finalists for World Class! They’ll be putting up some whisky serves and being the best in the country, I’m sure they’ll be something to pay attention to."

Quickfire questions:

Q. Blend or Single Malt?

A. Single Malt.

Q. Neat, on the rock’s or mixed?

A. Despite my Instagram handle suggesting otherwise, I prefer my whisky neat.

Q. What’s your favourite whisky at the moment?

A. Right now, as the weather is in between seasons in Sydney, I’m reaching for Coal Ila Moch. The perfect balance of light and smoky, zesty and rich.

Q. Speaking of Insta, where’s the best place to follow you or ask any questions we might have?

A. You can find me @kelsey_ontherocks, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions!