Some people love whisky. Others are fanatical about it. Then there's Dan Woolley.
Not only does he have the word WHISKY tattooed across his knuckles, he has a collection of more than 800 bottles of the stuff in his house, and travels the globe visiting distilleries.
"I don't remember how many distilleries I've visited over the years," the 41-year-old says. "I know I've been to more than 50 in Scotland alone and tasted more than 2000 whiskies."
When Executive Style caught up with Woolley he'd just returned from a sojourn that saw him indulging his passion in Scotland, Canada, Japan, the USA and Tasmania. In total he drank his way through 24 distilleries, including Highland Park, Hiram Walker, Maker's Mark, and Jim Beam.
"It was a massive trip," he admits. "I was drinking up to 20 whiskies from the barrel every day for four weeks. I've been giving my liver a rest for the ten days since I got back."
I've been to more than 50 [distilleries] in Scotland alone and tasted more than 2000 whiskies.Dan Woolley
The first expression
Woolley had his first taste of whisky when he was a two-year-old. His father had poured a 'generous glass' of single malt at the Christmas table, before turning his back to carve the turkey. Woolley seized the opportunity and downed the lot.
"I went red in the face, ran around the kitchen for half an hour, then took all my clothes off and went to sleep. It's what I still do most Friday and Saturday nights."
By the time he'd turned 10, Woolley's father was letting him nose his best whiskies. "I really didn't like them," he admits.
It wasn't until his early twenties when he got a job at a bar that he began to develop a thirst for the stuff.
"After I'd exhausted all of the whiskies on my back bar, I started doing loads of research on the subject and began travelling all around the world, visiting distilleries," he says.
From passion to profession
For the past 20 years Woolley has been able to turn his obsession into a well-paid career that included owning his own whisky bar, training bartenders and creating whisky lists for more than 200 bars across Australia. Twelve months ago he secured an ambassador role with his favourite drop; Laphroaig.
"I guess I'm the luckiest man in the world," he says. "I don't particularly want to tell you how I got to where I am, because everyone's after my job. I can say this much; it's through hard work and determination. I've visited Laphroaig on five occasions. It's very far away and very hard to get to [on Islay in Scotland] but my determination, drive and passion have got me to where I am today."
Woolley's passion for Laphroaig saw him spend a week helping out at the distillery, assisting to make the whisky from the barley to the bottle. Next month he'll be getting the Laphroaig logo tattooed on one of his knuckles.
"Apart from my thee-year-old son Laphroaig is the love of my life," he says. "It is without doubt the most unique flavoured whisky on the face of the earth … we're talking intense smoke, very very ashy, medicinal, salty maritime flavours, sweet vanilla spices and a little bit of citrus, with lots of honey sweetness."
Long live Laphroaig
His favourite Laphroaig is the Triple Wood. And he's looking forward to the new expression of the Laphroaig 15-year-old which will be released to celebrate the company's 200th birthday this year. "I'm gearing up for the celebrations, and I am going to be drinking a metric s---load of Laphroaig. I love it."
Presently, the most expensive bottle in Woolley's enviable collection is a bespoke whisky made especially for him by master distiller Richard Patterson (of Dalmore fame). "It is probably worth in excess of $100,000," says Woolley.
He also owns a Highland Park 40-year-old worth upwards of $4000, and numerous examples of hard- to- find Japanese whisky including a Yamazaki 25-year-old.
Indeed, Woolley believes Japan is about to become 'the absolute world powerhouse of whisky'. "Some of the greatest whiskies on the planet are already being produced in Japan and I think it's only going to become stronger. The product coming out of the Suntory distilleries is as good as it gets."