Married to Single Malt


My name is John Morgan and I spend WAY too much on single malt whisky.

I most definitely come from “around the savannah”. Not “the West”. Not Maraval.

I have three siblings, a small family when I was growing up – some friends’ families had nine kids! I feel I have got it right with three kids of my own: small enough to control; big enough to be chaotic. My wife Crista and my kids, Tristan, Tessa and Thomas are air-guitar and pot-spoon microphone specialists.

I spent childhood, adolescence and adulthood around the Savannah. I was born at Park’s Nursing Nome and still live less than a mile away.

I went to Holy Family Private School on Frederick Street – I was in class the day they hanged Michael Abdul Malik. Then Maria Regina, then Saints. The teachers’ strike meant school at CIC was a cup of chips from Aleong’s at 7.15 and then back home for the rest of the day. Even I, as a teenager, knew this was not right. So I went to a very pucker English boarding school called Haileybury. I still have a handful of friends from each institution in my daily life!

I read Philosophy at King’s University London. But I don’t think that predisposed me to single malt scotch over Carib.

John Morgan says he most definitely comes from "around the savannah." PHOTO BY MARK LYNDERSAY

After ten years in the UK, my plan was to come to Trinidad for six months and then sprint back to London. I woke up that first morning. The sun streamed in. The pink Pouis were in full bloom outside. Nah, that was it for London.

I walk the Savannah as regularly as I can but there’s way too much carbon monoxide now so I head for Lady Chancellor Road. People who walk Chancellor are definitely friendlier than people on the Savannah. Maybe it’s because you engage with them for longer, because you can see them coming downhill while you’re walking up. ishing you could exchange places with them right away.

My youngest child, Thomas, accidentally activated our [Amazon] Alexa to play Judas Priest’s Breaking the Law. And I thought, “These children are growing up so well!”

I was brought up Roman Catholic and my continuing faith (with a common eff) is not blind but more spiritual. Yes bad things happen to good people – but so do good things! Better to look at this life in a positive way because it will be over before you know it!

I was a big reader and then stopped and have started again. I’m now reading any book about fish. Just finished Jaws and just started Moby Dick and next will be a re-read of George Orwell’s Inside the Whale.

T1 – my 15-year-old son, Tristan – is really into music and plays the bass guitar. One day, while blasting Black Sabbath, he told me he wanted to learn how to make mustard. I think my work as a father is done.

I am too lazy to get up and exercise. I’m just not gonna waste any time
watching sport.

I have so planned my last day menu: cow heel soup – hold the soup and everything else in the bowl. Black pudding by the pound heavily sautéed in butter. Lobster tails – hold all them complicated legs and claws. Salt-fish with pepper sauce. Aloo pie with channa and everything lurking in those plastic buckets. Julie mangoes – not starch to get stuck up in your teeth or Graham or Lady’s Nose that only make you wish you had a Julie. To drink: funnily, no alcohol. A Cokes or a grape Solo, with ice. Okay, maybe a Bunnahabhain or Clynleish malt whisky. But, above all, a gallon of fresh, full cream milk. After all, it’s my death day: shouldn’t my last drink be my first drink?

I taught myself what I know about single malt from listening to podcasts or watching videos or tastings with my pseudo expert friends, Jevan and Alfredo. I’m not a professional taster but I know at thing or two. Spend a few hours with me to get the gist…Then go spend a lifetime enjoying the stuff.

John Morgan taught himself what he knows about single malt. PHOTO BY MARK LYNDERSAY

The excitement and passion for single malt whiskey can translate across many subjects: rum; chocolate; fine dining; cigars. To experience anything fully, you have to learn the language it speaks and develop the tools needed to recognise nuance. Otherwise the whole thing is lost on you. Single malt is a foreign drink to the Caribbean and the language used to describe it sounds so foreign: damson fruit; oak; wheat; malt; peat; these aren’t things we’re used to. So I try to apply coconut to single malt because we know so many varieties of it: desiccated coconut; shredded coconut; the coconut you stole from your mother’s kitchen counter when she was making Sunday callaloo; Chinee coconut from the vendor’s van ‘round the Savannah; coconut husk left out in the sun for a day compared to coconut husk that’s been on a beach for a month. All these give off different smells and we know their nuances and all can be applied to describe single malts.

If someone asks for, say, a [peaty, smoky single malt] Talisker-and-Coke, it’s a waste of the spirits. The probability is the person never tasted the Talisker it on its own. Now drinking is for drinking and there’s no right way or wrong way – but there is an inappropriate way. If you appreciate what Talisker is and you consciously decide it will go better with Coke, that’s fine. I know some single malt connoisseurs in India who drink their single malts with tea and don’t miss a tasting note because they find the tea helps bring out the single malt taste for them. But, mostly, Talisker-and-Coke is just wasting the Talisker.

The best thing about spending way too much on single malt whiskey is that it’s cheaper than an outside woman. The worst is that it’s cheaper than an outside woman.

A Trini can see situations develop before anyone else and then influence the outcome for sport! Don’t play all-fours with a Trini unless you are prepared to get more than your Jack hung!

I am not really a nationalist and I don’t feel mushy inside when I hear the anthem. But this little rock is my home and it’s the place I know and understand. Yes, there are lots of reasons to exit and lots to stay but, darn, I still love looking out the window when I land at Piarco!

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"Married to Single Malt"

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