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Golfer Graeme McDowell Works on His Whisky Game

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Golfer Graeme McDowell Works on His Whisky Game

January 23, 2023 –––––– Shane English, , , ,

Graeme McDowell, the PGA Tour pro from Northern Ireland, has been around whisky his entire life, growing up in Portrush, six miles from Bushmills Distillery. As a young adult, McDowell was more of a beer fan, but his travels as a tour pro offered the chance to try a variety of whiskies, sending him down a path that started with blended scotch and has led to a fascination with American and Irish whiskeys. “I probably didn’t get into drinking whisky myself until I was in my 20s,” he said. “Johnnie Walker Blue was probably my first real foray down the whisky route, and I started to fall in love with the flavors.”

Though McDowell names Blue Label as the first whisky that really grabbed him, his history with blended scotch stretches back well before he was of age. “My dad’s sister married a Scottish guy who worked for Chivas Brothers,” he said. “We’d spend a lot of time up in the Northeast of Scotland in a little town called Rothes. And we’d end up doing some family vacations there and touring distilleries and cooperages. I have vivid memories of touring those distilleries when I was super young. That smell—you never forget it.”

While McDowell has fond childhood memories of distillery visits, he dedicated his early years to developing his golf game. Years of grinding paid off when he started to play internationally for Ireland before turning 18. Halfway through his first year at Queen’s University in Belfast, he was recruited by the University of Alabama at Birmingham. From there, he found success as a college golfer before going professional, performing well on the European tour, and ultimately winning the 2010 U.S. Open, a first for a Northern Irish golfer, as well as securing the European team’s victory at that year’s Ryder Cup.

During his years on the tour, McDowell had his first brush with the whisky industry, helping to create Ballantine’s 2009 Championship Blend with fellow golfer Thongchai Jaidee. The pair won the whisky’s namesake tournament in South Korea in 2008 and 2009.

“My palate’s still evolving, and I spent a lot of time tasting a lot of bourbons a couple years ago,” he said. “I’m getting back into Irish whiskey and understanding how it’s all put together.” To that end, McDowell recently launched Grey Coast, a blended Irish whiskey made at the Boann Distillery in County Meath, just outside of Drogheda in the Republic of Ireland.

For American whiskeys, McDowell points to Blanton’s and Four Roses as two of his favorites, while he is also a fan of wheated bourbon. “One of my favorite American whiskeys is Weller 12,” he said. “Getting the difference between the corn versus the wheat, and kind of how it changes that smoothness profile…stuff like that.”

Beyond whiskies, McDowell also enjoys tequila cocktails and Napa Valley red wines. He keeps his home bar in his wine cellar, where his collection veers toward cabernet sauvignon-heavy wines. For tequila, McDowell has a particular fondness for Patrón, born from time spent golfing in Mexico. “I keep some liquors around just in case I have friends around—vodka, gin—but for me personally I’ve got a little scotch collection, a little Irish collection, and a pretty good bourbon collection.”

ICON INSIDER

WHO Graeme McDowell, PGA and European Tour professional golfer

WINS 2010 U.S. Open, 2010 Ryder Cup, four PGA wins

GO-TO WHISKIES Johnnie Walker Blue, Blanton’s, Weller 12 year old, Grey Coast

FAVORITE COCKTAILS Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Tequila and Grapefruit Juice, GMAC (1.5 oz. Grey Coast, 2 oz. tonic, 2 oz. ginger ale, Angostura bitters, and lemon wheel and orange wheel for garnish)

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