Say hello to Tom Vernon. Born in Kingston Upon Thames and currently residing in London, Tom looks after Woodford Reserve’s diverse portfolio of whiskies with training, seminar’s and talks all over the world.Tom has formerly been a part of the Bacardi Brown Forman Training team, Portobello Star London, Socio Rehab Manchester, and Smokestack Leeds. We caught up with Tom and asked him a few things about whisky and here’s what he had to say.
What is your favourite Whisky/Whiskey and why?
Woodford Reserve distiller’s select. Rich, complex and balanced. A high rye content for a bourbon as well at 18% gives it a spicy finish which I look for in a bourbon. It also provides a great base for classic American cocktails such as the Old Fashioned and Mint Julep.
If you were to make your own Whisky, what are the qualities of 5 whisky brands that you admire and would be inspired by?
I would always look for a combination of innovation and heritage. Doing things in a classic style but also releasing whiskies that push the envelope a bit. Some brands that I really admire are: Lagavulin, Blanton’s, Compass Box, Nikka, Old Forester.
What is your take on age statements and the current ambiguity and industry changes?
Consistency is such a big thing in whiskey production. Age statements can be inconsistent with seasonal changes and extreme climate change from year to year. So batching whiskey to create a consistent brand identity and flavor makes sense. However whiskey laws are becoming more and more ambiguous with the rapid rise in craft distilleries and ‘law bending’ going on in Kentucky.
How seriously do you take reviews and tasting notes in books and media – do your opinions ever vary wildly based on what you read?
Everybody’s palate is different and flavor perception is always different in whiskies. But then again we are lucky to have so many lovely styles and flavours to try in this modern day and age so people can really taste and experiment until they find a style that suits them. I tend not to try and influence whilst giving a tasting, more guide so people can come to their own conclusions but know what to be looking for.
Would you seek to convert someone who staunchly believes they do not enjoy Whisky and if so, how?
Flavoured whiskies can be a nice introduction to the category if people don’t immediately go for neat spirit. But then again lighter styles, floral and fruit characteristics serve as a nice flavor profile to get people looking at whiskey differently. Double mellowed Tennessee whiskey or Japanese whiskies are a good example of this. I’d like to see the highball coming back and giving people a chance to enjoy whiskey in a long style of drink. Mixing is a great way to create new flavor combinations to get people into the category.
What advice would you give to people wishing to get into professional spirit tasting, writing and connoisseur-ship as a hobby or career?
Don’t take yourself to seriously and just enjoy what you do. Drinking, tasting and educating about whiskey should be fun and insightful. Allowing people to navigate the category with more confidence and explore the many different avenues.
What is the most memorable highlight of your career in the beverage industry thus far?
I have had the opportunity to travel the world and meet some amazing people along the way. As well as work with some really inspirational figures, So I am just grateful for that.
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