From a chance encounter with a Society bottling, Kevin Meronuk has gone the extra mile from his home in British Columbia to experience monthly Outturn tastings in Vancouver as well as trips to every one of our Members’ Rooms in the UK
Growing up, my parents always had a few good bottles of Scotch amongst the rest of their alcohol, but I hadn’t developed a taste for it – I would occasionally have a wee taste of something like a Lagavulin or Laphroaig, which I had zero appreciation for at that point. In my 20s, I drank whisky, but in the form of a rye and ginger ale. At some point in my early 30s, my wife said that I was drinking an awful lot of sugar, so I cut out the mixer, which of course meant I needed to step up to a better quality whisky. I still didn’t really know much about whisky yet, but started buying some bottles that I liked the look of.
One fateful evening one of the guys asked me if I liked whisky, and when I said yes, he said he was having a small group over for a whisky dinner if I’d like to come and join them. I ended up bringing my bottle of Bruichladdich 16, which was the most expensive whisky I’d purchased, and got to try a number of new whiskies. The biggest thing from that evening though was the feature bottle, which was the first time I’d heard of or tried a single cask, cask strength whisky, and it happened to be SMWS Cask No. 4.190: Big boys smoking in the sauna. My mind, along with my taste buds, exploded – ‘this is what whisky could be?’ It wasn’t long before I became a member of the Society and bought my first bottle, Cask No. 35.138: Miss American Pie.
With my newfound love of Scotch, my wife and I went to Scotland for my 40th birthday. During our time in Edinburgh, we had an SMWS day with lunch at The Vaults, followed by dinner at Queen Street. We both still think about our dinner there – the five-course tasting dinner paired with whiskies for me, and wines for her, was the best meal we had on our trip.
However, after my first trip I was thirsty for more. I signed up for the Edinburgh Whisky Academy’s Diploma in Single Malt Whisky and Art of Tasting Whisky classes and headed back to Scotland in September of 2019.
While staying in Edinburgh for the courses I rented a flat in Leith and spent my evenings ‘studying’ over drams at The Vaults. A few of my classmates were curious about the Society, so I’d bring them along for drams as well. After my exams, my brother-in-law arrived and we departed on a trip through the Highlands and Speyside, but not before heading to Queen Street to indulge in another tasting dinner.
always try to get to the monthly Outturns at my local SMWS retailer as often as I can, but it can be a challenge. I live on the Sunshine Coast, and while it’s on the mainland of British Columbia, just north of Vancouver, it’s only accessible by ferry or plane. It’s two and a half hours each way, and timings of the bus and ferry schedules don’t always work out.
I have definitely found it worth the hassle though, as beyond getting to try the spirits, I’ve made some really great friends at the Outturns over the past six years. For a period of time, we were fortunate to have Anthony Delcros leading our Outturns in Vancouver, before he was lured back to Scotland to help open the new Glasgow venue on Bath Street.
Last year I was fortunate to head back to Scotland yet again, this time with my very good friends Steve Gye (who invited me to that fateful whisky dinner), and Frank Hudson (who brought the 4.190). We started our trip in Glasgow, where we of course headed into the Bath Street Members’ Room. My first dram was a taste of the very first bottling from the first Canadian distillery to be released by the Society – Cask No. 152.1: Vibrant and vigorous. It was nice to catch up with Anthony again before we headed out on a fairly epic tour of Scotland that included visiting 30 distilleries and independent bottlers over 24 days and finishing at the Whisky Show in London. Our full trip saw us stop in at Glasgow, Arran, Campbeltown, Mull, Skye, Harris and Lewis, the Orkney Islands, Inverness, Edinburgh and London.
Towards the end of our trip, we returned to Glasgow for one night and headed back to Bath Street for a private tasting with Kris Grimes. The next morning, we were on the train to Edinburgh and had the tasting dinner that evening at Queen Street, which of course was once again the best dinner I had in Scotland. The next day was our last in Scotland and we made our way to The Vaults for lunch and drams. The following afternoon saw us flying to London, where we had no option but to head to Greville Street to cap off the four SMWS Members’ Rooms in four days.
Because of that one question I was asked back in 2016 about whether I liked whisky, I’ve had the incredible fortune to have tried some truly astounding whiskies, visited and travelled all over Scotland three times. I’ve had some fantastic experiences, but most of all it’s the people that I’ve met along the way that have really stood out. Perhaps I’ve been lucky in who I’ve met, but I really do find the whisky community to be so friendly, welcoming and generous. I just love sitting down and sharing a dram with another whisky lover.
KEVIN'S WHISKY CV
- First ever SMWS tasted: Cask No. 4.190: Big boys smoking in the sauna
- Joined SMWS December 18, 2016
- First SMWS bottle purchased: Cask No. 35.138: Miss American Pie
- SMWS Member’s Room visits:
- June 2017, The Vaults and Queen Street
- March 2018, Greville Street
- September 2019, The Vaults and Queen Street
- September 2022, Bath Street, Queen Street, The Vaults, Greville Street
- Diploma in Single Malt Whisky – Edinburgh Whisky Academy
- Diploma in The Art of Tasting Whisky – Edinburgh Whisky Academy
- Volunteer for Victoria Whisky Festival
- Volunteer for Victoria Highland Games Whisky School
- @infectious_spirits on Instagram