Whisky is much more than just a drink. It is a way of living life: by small sips to enjoy every flavour and aroma it may offer. Surprisingly, even the bitterest notes harmonising with the sweetest ones can lead to wonderful experiences. It is precisely about her experience that Noortje talks about on her blog and Instagram, sharing her passion for whisky.
As already seen, whisky’s perception has drastically shifted in recent years: not only the general consumers’ demographic has changed by gender, but also by age. If you would ask a random stranger just a few years back “What’s the first thing that comes up into your mind when you think about whisky?” the most common answer would have been “A quite oldish man drinking by the fireplace while contemplating his inner world in silence. However, ask now the same question to a millennial, and you would find out that whisky has turned to be a trendy spirit to drink with friends. Moreover, the values that define the good quality of a whisky have also been reshaped. They now also refer not only to the technical quality of the product per se but also to the story and tradition that the brand wants to narrate.
A new perspective on Whisky
Undeniably, social media have played a major role in this transformation. Thanks to these tools, people have been able to share their personal way of experiencing whisky. Thus, the world of whisky opened up to new perspectives and, most importantly, drew a wider public. Noortje is precisely one of those content creators participating in this revolution in the world of whisky.
Through her unique point of view, Noortje on her blog – whiskylifestyle.com – recounts her “adventures in the world of whisky”. Indeed, she travels through Scotland (and beyond!) regularly to explore what are the latest news from the whisky industry and report only the best to her community.
Thanks to her activity online, Noortje thus contributes to the spread of whisky culture, reaching out not only to experts in the field like her who want to discuss their experiences but also to all those who have recently approached whisky and are looking for guidance and insight.
You can also find our bottling among the many whiskies reviewed on her blog! In fact, Noortje has created her own personal tasting notes of our Mortlach dedicated to Giorgio D’Ambrosio in the capsule collection “The Faces of Whisky“.
Given her role in the industry, as the ambassador of the whisky culture online, MNIW wanted to interview her to find out more about her work and learn from a woman voice how the world of whisky is changing.
A chat with Noortje
On your social media and website, you talk about whisky as a ‘lifestyle’. Can you give us your own definition of it?
Lifestyle may not be the right word for it. But of course, I had to come up with a name a few years ago when I started with WhiskyLifestyle. I’m not good at coming up with a name for something, but this was the first thing that popped into mind. 🙂 The name actually came about because whiskey is much more than just a drink to me. Not only is it my passion, which I share on my blog and Instagram account. But I also work as a freelancer and most of my work is whisky related.
In addition, I prefer to travel several times a year to visit distilleries and/or whisky festivals (Scotland mostly). And then there is the social aspect of whisky. I have met so many new people because of it, some have even become friends for life. So quite a big part of my life revolves around whisky and I still love it every single day.
Do you think you can only talk about whisky from a certain perspective, or does everyone experience it differently?
There are many different ways to enjoy whisky, drinking from different types of glassware, with or without ice. Also the different type of whisky drinkers, that varies from the occasional whisky drinker to the connoisseur. And then you also have the collectors and the investors. I think everyone experiences it in their own way. And that’s just fine. I think it is healthy for the industry and I believe everyone should be open to different opinions and views on our favourite drink.
How did your journey through the world of whisky start?
That actually started a long time ago, I think 2001? My parents were on holiday in Italy and just before they travelled back to the Netherlands, my father wanted to use up his last Italian lire, because the euro was introduced and the lire was no longer usable after that. He then bought a bottle of Laphroaig 10. Once at home he tasted it. He liked it so much that he immediately called me because he thought I should taste it! I was very surprised by the unique flavours, which I have never tasted before. I loved it and that’s how it started.
Pretty soon after, my husband started drinking whisky too and so the love for whisky grew over the years. But it was especially after the first trip to Scotland that things started to get more serious. I started my blog and Instagram account, many other trips followed, I gave up my job to become a freelancer and now we are here.
According to a common prejudice – which is slowly being eradicated – whisky is considered a man’s drink. When you first became interested in the world of whisky, did you find it difficult to voice your opinions because of this prejudice? Or do you find that things have changed?
I did indeed find it difficult to express my opinion. However, perhaps not so much because of that stigma, but more because of my own inexperience and insecurity. Indeed, I didn’t know what to expect, and the idea made me feel more insecure than it was a so-called man’s drink. I would also have that at other events I’ve never been to before. Fortunately, that feeling disappeared rather quickly, as a lot of people have been very supportive in my whisky journey, not looking at me being a female or not.
On your website, you talk about your travels and your ‘encounters’ with new whiskies to discover. Which of these experiences is dearest to you?
Travelling is absolutely the best thing there is. It’s great to visit distilleries and great whisky festivals. But the best part about it is to meet both old and new whisky friends during these trips and share a nice dram together. But I guess travelling to Taiwan and being able to experience whisky in a completely different culture and still see the same enthusiasm and love for whisky amazed me the most. Meeting up with friends I meet over the past years and getting to meet new people and share a dram is very dear to me. The past 1,5 years have been difficult, as I believe whisky is a social drink. It is nice to drink quality whisky, but it tastes so much better when you are in company with like-minded people who share the same passion for whisky.
Your online work brings you in contact with different distilleries and labels. As a female consumer, do you feel represented by the communication of the brands, or do you find that they continue to speak to a predominantly male target group?
As a female consumer, I feel no less represented by the distilleries and bottlers I follow online. These are mainly the whisky brands that I like to drink and they just come across as neutral if you ask me. Of course, some labels don’t appeal to me, although I think that has more to do with personal taste. But otherwise, I try not to be led very quickly by a label on the bottle or the brand appeal, because in the end, it is all about the whisky and how it tastes. Flavour will always prevail over packaging.
In interviews, some women working in the whisky industry commented that while the work environment is now increasingly open to diversity – where it used to be a predominantly male environment – they have often had unpleasant experiences with the general public, having their knowledge belittled as women. Since you are active in sharing whisky culture online, what is your experience in this regard?
Fortunately, I’ve never had that online, but offline yes. For example, when I walk into a liquor shop with a man to buy whisky, the seller automatically turns to that other person, assuming he is the whisky drinker and not me. I find that difficult and sometimes it makes me feel like I have to prove myself. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen now and then. My experience is that this occurs less in whisky shops though, but more at liquor stores that also sell whisky. There is still a world to win, although I think that we should not go extreme on events just for women, if we want to be inclusive we should not separate. I hope I play a small role by writing my tasting notes and sharing my experiences.
Credits: The cover photo of this article that features The Balvenie Distillery and the “Giorgio D’Ambrosio” bottle photo, were taken by Noortje, @whiskylifestyle.