‘Non-Alcoholic! That’s it. Interview over’ – a conversation with Torrie from Whisky.Tee.
When it’s someone as lightning fast as Instagram’s Whisky.Tee, then it’s good to get the facts right about here she’s from. Torrie is Lancastrian, NOT Mancunian. Our feeble defence is that she was born in York, so mixing our accents is an easy mistake to make. But she puts us right with equal parts laser-guided sharpness and charm. Which is pretty much how Whisky.Tee, her Instagram page, works too. Funny, opinionated and full of enthusiasm, Torri is part of a wave of on-line influencers that have blown through the world of whisky like a force 9 across the hills of Speyside. Her interest in whisky was initially a by-product of her love of the outdoors. We will skip over the Lyme’s Disease picked up on Helvellyn, because it was on a camping trip around Aberdeenshire that took her into the aromatic world of the distillery – Glendronach to be precise.
‘That was it.’ She says. ‘I tried a dram from a hand-poured bottle. I was hooked. It was all so tactile!’ Days touring the Speyside Trail and evenings in the holy sanctum of the Mash Tun bar in Aberdour completed the process. Her fascination with the subtle complexities needs little prompting:‘I love the different cask finishes – the way that a single distillery can provide so many different tastes. We get so hung up on the age statements – but four whiskies from different casks in the same distillery can give such amazing range. It’s not all about age.’
Torrie is unduly modest about her knowledge. She sees herself as an enthusiast rather than an expert. We’d take issue with half of that statement – she is most definitely on the case. Torrie is a very well-informed enthusiast with brilliant insights and a nose and palate that has led her to some fascinating favourites: ‘Here’s my top four.’ She shows us a Fettercairn Warehouse No2, Ben Nevis 1996, Longmore 23year old and, with a bit of a flourish, Macallan Edition No 6. ‘I’ve given Macallan a bit of stick. I’ve sampled the 6-year-old, the 12-year-old, the 18-year-old, all the options. I thought – yeah, yeah. And then they brought out this. Wow. Different territory all together. Toffee, raisins, all the best elements of a sherry-dram. I bought two bottles. One an investment. The other to drink. It’s my go-to treat dram.’
Torrie has a rare genius for knowing exactly what she likes and being totally open minded about what that might be. ‘You’ve got to be open minded. You can’t say “Oh that distillery is not for me” because the output of each one can be so different. Her whole vibe is a no-nonsense, fun approach. She’s just a bit sceptical of the ‘terroir’ concept of distilling. ‘I’m not sure that most people could pick up the very subtle differences of which farm the barley was grown on, what the weather is like. The barrel will make much more of a difference anyway. Just keep your mind open to all taste experiences!’
Except her tolerance and embrace of diversity takes a sudden reversal when we take a step to far: ‘Non-Alcoholic! That’s it. Interview over.’ Luckily, she forgives us for a second time. Torrie loves all aspects of the whisky business and is as interested in the marketing as the tasting notes. ‘The whole experience, not just the taste and smell, but the bottle, label, packaging, are what makes each whisky unique. Before you get to the taste you respond to the look of the whisky. Often the purchase is made on the basis of the packaging and bottle. So, it’s got to have had as much thought put into it as the product itself.’
She’s less enthusiastic about the lingering sexism that still lurks around the whisky business like an unpleasant aftertaste. ‘I work in engineering – there’s probably more sexism there than in the word of whisky. But I’ve had some comments – “do you even drink whisky?” But its changing. Not just with women on-line but at the distilleries too. Women are taking the business forward.’ One of the ways in which the old guard can make whisky drinking seem like an exclusive club with rules drawn up in 1898, is the perennial issue of pronunciation.
‘Orangie isn’t it? Glenmorangie?’
Torrie embodies a new and exciting approach to whisky. Who cares how you pronounce it as long as you enjoy it? If whisky is less about citric nose and seaweed finish and more about people, about sharing and starting conversations, then the mix of knowledge, passion and fun that Torrie brings to the party will be what takes this entire industry into the future.