Kai Ivalo

SMWS Spirits Director

First whisky memory

I can’t honestly say it is a memory, but I do have a picture of myself as a toddler in Bangalore, India in the late 1960s. I was sitting inside a wooden packing case (that had been made into a trolley) with Johnnie Walker Red branding on the side. Otherwise, it would have been the waft of the whisky & sodas that my parents drank in the 1970s. I especially enjoyed watching them use the soda syphons that were fashionable then. It all looked very grown up and glamorous.

Favourite whisky-drinking music

Depends on the mood and the company, but it’s either the Blues or some old school rock. Something like Buddy Guy or maybe the Rolling Stones from the late ‘60s or early 1970s usually hits the spot.

Best box set

I’ve just finished watching all of Narcos so it’s either that or Breaking Bad if those aren’t too obvious choices to go for.

Fantasy whisky tasting companions

I think we’ve had a few tasting note titles that might suggest answers to this – 33.70: Keith Richards meets Socrates comes to mind. My answer to this one changes daily, if not more frequently than that. As I am halfway through watching The Beatles: Get Back mega-documentary series I would have to say that it would be fascinating to have a dram or two with The Beatles and a few of the other main characters in early 1969.

Most memorable dram Sipping 19th Century armagnacs in a warehouse in Gascony is certainly memorable if not technically a ‘dram’. One whisky sharing moment that stays in the mind was with the Unfiltered crew, Euan Campbell and Alasdair Day from Raasay distillery. We were on Raasay in March 2020 (just before the first lockdown) and Alasdair encouraged us outside to view the night sky with dram in hand. All views on Raasay are spectacular but that was a special moment. Otherwise, it would have to be my first SMWS dram, which was from distillery 28.

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Guilty pleasure

Cocktails or watching Strictly Come Dancing. Better still … both at the same time.

Dream destination

I can’t choose between either Bhutan or New Zealand.

Strangest food

Tripe in milk with onions is an unpleasant memory from a 1970s childhood.

Favourite bar If it can’t be one of our own SMWS venues then it’s maybe the Highlander Inn, Craigellachie.

If you were a flavour profile, what would you be, and why?

Spicy & Dry appeals (or applies) to my sense of humour.