I’ll have a wee dram with you – or 140...

Just a few: Jeff Boss with some of his whisky collection at the Blake Hotel in Upperthorpe, Sheffield. Picture: dean atkins
Just a few: Jeff Boss with some of his whisky collection at the Blake Hotel in Upperthorpe, Sheffield. Picture: dean atkins
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Sheffield is going whisky galore as drinkers turn to a drop of the hard stuff.

But the recession isn’t driving them to seek oblivion in a shot glass; it’s the pursuit of quality and a keenness to support small brands – and distillers have the real ale trend to thank.

So keen are city folk becoming about their fire water, one fan has launched the Sheffield Whisky Society.

“I saw a surge in people trying whiskies at local pubs staging tasting nights. It’s a great drink and it deserves its new popularity,” says Jeff Boss, a manager at the Blake Hotel in Upperthorpe and Heeley’s Sheaf View.

“It’s long been considered an old man’s drink but the rise in real ale has made people of all ages realise there’s a great diversity of single malts, too.

“They want to learn more about the way they are made, their heritage and their flavours.”

Jeff, who 14 years ago studied politics and history at Sheffield University, honed his palate while working at Oddbins. He says: “I soon realised that, unless I won the Lottery, sampling fine wines was out of my budget.

“But I could sample great quality spirits for a fraction of the price.”

While working at the Shakespeare at Shalesmoor he introduced tasting nights and created the largest range of rums in Sheffield. Now he boasts his whisky stock at the Sheaf runs to 90 varieties and the Blake a staggering 140, including the rare American corn whisky Balcones and a prized 44-year-old Speyside Milton Duff which is “as thick, deep, rich and sweet as fruitcake,” he grins.

Jeff, who favours the Islay smokies and has started a blog (whiskysheffield.wordpress.com) is staging an Irish whiskey tasting at The Blake on Monday. £10 buys you five whiskies worth £25. Other tastings are arranged on Friday at the Devonshire Arms, Baslow ( £23 with food) and on Saturday (£25 with buffet) at The Showroom. To join the society, email sheffieldwhiskysociety@hotmail.com or follow on Facebook or Twitter @WhiskySheffield