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Drink whisky

like a pro

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SPW Contributors

Sanlam Private Wealth

Know your quaich from your sgian-dubh? Your single malt Scotch from your rye? In Part 1 of our bespoke whisky masterclass, South Africa’s very own ‘Mr Whisky’, Pierre Meintjes, demystifies this rarefied drink … and reveals how it helped shape the new South Africa.

It’s drunk by world leaders and royalty, can fetch eye-wateringly high prices, and the best of the amber liquid is aged for decades in oak barrels. There is such a mystique surrounding whisky drinking that can it can seem daunting. But as any aficionado will tell you, the effort of learning to love the uisge beatha (water of life) is well worth every sublime drop.


Pierre Meintjes, one of only 159 Masters of the Quaich (pronounced quake) in the world – a title bestowed only on those recognised for their outstanding commitment to the Scotch whisky industry – offers some easy facts to remember when learning to appreciate whisky:

  • Whiskey is made by distilling a fermented mash of grain – most commonly corn, rye, wheat or barley – and then aged in oak barrels to give it flavour and colour.
  • Whisky with a ‘y’ is made in the Scotch tradition, while whiskey with ‘ey’ can be an Irish, Canadian, American or Tennessee whiskey.
  • Water opens up the whisky and releases the full flavour. This process is known as releasing the serpent.
  • Single cask whisky is bottled entirely from a single cask. This is typically only found from smaller distilleries or as novelty/high-end lines from some of the major ones.


  • A single malt whisky is the product of one malt whisky distillery and can only be produced using malted barley, water and yeast.
  • A blended malt whisky is the result of combining different single malt whiskies, from many different malt distilleries together, into one product.
  • A single grain whisky is the product of one grain whisky distillery, using any cereal product.
  • A blended grain whisky is the result of more than one grain whisky being combined together with other grain whiskies into one product.
  • A blended whisky is a combination of single malt and grain whiskies being combined into one product.The diversity of whisky certainly invites you to explore and indulge in it. As Mark Twain put it, ‘Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whisky is barely enough.

Video shot on location at Bascule Bar, Cape Grace Hotel.

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