Meet Rusty Cerven. Winner of many accolades in the beverage world including being the Slovak representative on the Finals of the 10th Global Finlandia Vodka Cup in Finland in 2008, being the UK representative on the Global Final of Bombay Sapphire Competition in Morroco in 2012, and World Champion for Bols Around The World Competition in Amsterdam in 2013.
With several years experience under his belt, tending at The Connaught Bar and The Gibson in London, Rusty now serves as a freelancer assisting with bar development and consultancy.
A highly skilled, well traveled bartender with great passion and interest in hospitality, the bar industry, and the hotel business, Rusty understands this job as a craft and in his opinion the key objective is not to meet customer expectations, but to exceed them. We asked Rusty what he thinks about whisky, age statements and more. Here’s what he had to say.
What is your favourite Whisky/Whiskey and why?
I love the whisky category in general, it inspires me mainly for its craft and uniqueness. Compared to other spirits, it is more sensitive to location or climate where it is produced. If I should choose my preference, I go for whisky from Islay. It has very specific character with strong peaty flavours, which are unique only to whiskies from this island.
If you were to make your own Whisky, what are the qualities of 5 whisky brands that you admire and would be inspired by?
Unique and recognisable taste of Laphroaig
Balance and purity of Dalmore
Heritage of Macallan
Attention to detail of Maker’s Mark
Craftsmanship of Willet’s
What is your take on age statements and the current ambiguity and industry changes?
Well, there are two sides of the coin. I like more mature whiskies but understand that it is hard to produce older whiskies with growing demand. On other hand, the time when higher age meant higher quality is over. I like to see more experimental combinations and choice of whiskies by their character and not age statements.
How seriously do you take reviews and tasting notes in books and media – do your opinions ever vary wildly based on what you read?
It all depends on the author of the review, if I know that person is highly skilled and well experienced in whisky industry, I take it into consideration. However, it is still just a personal opinion and every person can have a different favourite whisky.
Would you seek to convert someone who staunchly believes they do not enjoy Whisky and if so, how?
I remember the time I didn’t like the whisky, until I had the personal experience of spending some time with experts and started to understand how to enjoy it. My wife too wouldn’t have a glass of whisky but after I took her for a week to Scotland, to explore its core, see few distilleries and to hear some stories from master distillers; whisky became one of her favourite spirits 🙂
What advice would you give to people wishing to get into professional spirit tasting, writing and connoisseur-ship as a hobby or career?
If you want to understand final product, you need to understand its roots, where it came from, how it was made and what the distiller wanted to achieve with it. See its production and try every ingredient separately. Go to cut the peat in Islay, make a corn mash in Kentucky, smell the angel’s share in a warehouse in Scotland’s Speyside or watch the distillation in Japan. Every experience will bring you closer to understanding.
What is the most memorable highlight of your career in the beverage industry thus far?
Probably all above 🙂
We hoped you enjoyed reading Rusty’s take on whisky. Come back for more next week.