Gentleman's Portion

A good helping of life, love and whisky



A Gentleman’s Portion is a free pouring of liquor, usually scotch or brandy, where the bartender does not use a measure. It may not amount to as much as a double, but it seems generously more than a single. The origin of this English expression is difficult to trace, but it probably comes from a time before legal liquor measurements were introduced.

Applied to food, it refers to a good helping, but not a greedy one, suitable for a gentleman about to engage in some vigorous endeavour and needing the calories. Perhaps a day out hunting.

If you want to know what a good pour or helping looks like, it’s useful to know what a standard measure is.Trying to determine what a single and a double actually are depends very much on where you live and is not always a straight two for one ratio.

In the UK, famous for tiny measures, a single has been legally defined since 1963 as 1/6 gill (23.7 ml) and a double as 1/4 gill (35.5 ml), although this has now been replaced by 25 ml and 35 ml for single measures with landlords being able to decide which quantities they dispense.

Naturally in Ireland the measures are more generous: 35.5 ml for a single glass and 71 ml double glass.

In the US there is a wide variance across the states on the size of a shot, also called a pony, which is generally agreed to be 1 oz (29.5 ml by way of comparison). However, most bars pour a jigger of 1 1/2 oz (44.5 ml).

In Canada, most provinces follow Ontario’s lead where a shot generally refers to a measure of 1 1/2 oz, though many establishments serve a smaller size so-called “standard drink” of only 1 oz.

At home in Toronto, I always pour a Gentleman’s Portion for my guests, especially of my favourite scotch, and I don’t even own a measure. 

Auchentoshan 12 Auchroisk 28 Balvenie 12 Glenlivet 12Glenmorangie 10Highland park 12 Te Bheag


Diane was unsure how to cope with my large collection of single malt scotches. So she consigned the overflow from the liquor cabinet to a bucket – a very nice large antique wooden bucket, but a bucket nevertheless. The bucket probably holds seven or eight bottles and only the ones that are open and in use. The sealed ones stay in the cabinet. After dinner the bucket comes to the table for guests to enjoy.

Well sampled scotches in the bucket right now are:

Aberfeldy 12, a highland single malt from Perthshire used in blending in Dewar’s White Label. I have Limited Edition bottle No. D59435. Owned by Bacardi, who bought it from Diageo.

Auchentoshan Springwood, a lowland single malt from Dalmuir, Glasgow, aged in Bourbon casks, the only scotch to be triple distilled. Springwood, bought at an airport duty free shop may be an export name for their Classic as it doesn’t appear on their website. Also comes in 12, 18 and 21 year old expressions. Owned by Suntory.

Auchroisk 28, a very rare Speyside single malt, now discontinued. The 10 year old from this relatively new (1974) distillery is used in the J&B Rare blend, my favourite inexpensive blended scotch for everyday drinking. There’s very little left of the 28 year old as I write. Owned by Diageo.

The Balvenie Signature 12, a Speyside single malt from Dufftown is matured in three different casks, sherry, first fill and refill bourbon. I was introduced to this scotch by malt master David Stewart himself, who has just celebrated his 50th anniversary in the job with a 50-year old release (in Canada, sold only in BC).  Owned by independent distillers William Grant & Sons.

Highland Park 18, an island single malt from Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland’s northernmost distillery named ‘Best Spirit In The World’ by American whisky expert Paul Pacult in Spirits Journal 2005 and again in 2008.Owned by The Edrington Group.

The Singleton of Glendullan 12, another Speyside single malt from Dufftown. Aged in sherry and bourbon casks, the distillery’s output is mostly blended into Bell’s. Owned by Diageo.

Té Bheag (pronounced Chey Vek), a blended whisky from Skye, one of Scotland’s western isles the name means a wee dram in colloquial Gaelic. Islay, island, highland and Speyside malts are used in the blend. Owned by the family run Gaelic Whisky Company.

To my mind, single malts are rather like fine cognac. Something to be savoured slowly at the end of a good meal, when the various flavours can enhance the meal.

There’s the official Scots way to taste a single malt allowing just a drop of spring water to release the flavours (and BTW it’s officially called a “nosing”), but I’m not a Scotch snob and if a guest wants a cube of ice or two in his glass, that’s fine. If they want it with cola, then I’ll fob them off with a cheap rye whisky. There is a limit to one’s tolerance.

To be a scotch expert, you have to know where the single malt comes from. These are the main regions:

Islay, pronounced  eye-la – for example Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Bowmore

Highland – for example Glenmorangie, Dalwhinnie

Speyside (north-east Scotland) has the largest number of distilleries – for example The Macallan, Glenfiddich, The Balvenie, Glenlivet, Aberlour, Glendullan

Lowland – for example Auchentoshan, Glenkinchie

Island, excluding Islay (Jura, Skye, Orkney, Mull, Arran) – for example Talisker, Highland Park, Té Bheag

Experts can find many distinct flavours in scotch – honey, butterscotch, toffee, chocolate, vanilla, spice, candy apple and many more. I confess to an inability to find these subtle hints. I use this flavour map which is easily the best way I’ve found for explaining four basic whisky designations – smoky, light, delicate and rich. The single malts I enjoy most are all from the light and delicate axis, with Auchentoshan being my absolute favourite. Sadly the 10 year old expression shown here is no longer available.

Some of the single malts in my scotch bucket are smoky and rich and although they are wonderful to enjoy, I save them for my guests.

Drinking my favourite scotch at a bar in Saint-Martin

Drinking my favourite scotch at a bar in Saint-Martin

For everyday drinking, after say 5 pm, and before dinner I enjoy blended scotches. Top of the line for me is Johnny Walker Black Label  said to be the most popular whisky brand in the world. I also have a bottle of Blue Label, which I have yet to open. Perhaps on an auspicious occasion. For an inexpensive daytime bar scotch I like J&B Rare, which is a blend of 42 single malt and grain whiskies, made principally for the export market and popular in the US and Spain.

I liked Gentleman’s Portion as the overall title for my good living and food blog, which with your encouragement will continue with regular postings.

Author: Nigel

Freelance director and writer


  1. Great start to the blog. I will admit to thinking that Gentleman’s portion was a more gentle way to order a double. Can’t believe there isn’t an Islay in the bucket. They are my favourite after dinner Malt. Agree with you pre-dinner choice but would substitute a Cardhu occasionaly for the Johny Walker Black.

    • Sir, thank you for your kind words. Please see my blog on Dec 16 when the subject of scotch will be revisited and when my Lagavulin 16 will be unveiled. Please consider this an invitation to turn the Lagavulin from an unopened Islay languishing in the drinks cabinet, to a new friend sitting in the scotch bucket.

  2. Enjoyed reading the inaugural blog, Nigel! Good work.

    Personal Scotch trivia notes:
    1. I am the proud owner of one square foot of land (bog?), plot number 323639, on Islay thanks to a promotion by Laphroaig to which I replied a few years ago after enjoying the product. They send me a birthday card every year! Someday I plan to inspect my landholding in person.
    2. Last year I was given a bottle of English single malt whiskey from Norfolk, very first release (bottle number 0303, 2010) and a very good flavour – which alas I can no longer share with anybody!

    • Thank you for your kind words. I’ll be revisiting the subject of scotch in my blog of Dec 16 and while I don’t have any Laphroaig, I do have an unopened Lagavulin, just waiting for some gentlemen to gather and sample it.

  3. Great start. Suggestions for your bucket: Lagavulin 16 – Islay – lovely late evening after dinner; Oban – West Highlands – very smooth. Gentleman’s portion definitely for both. Slangivar!

  4. What better topic could there be to start a blog besides Scotch?! I was introduced to this splendid drink by my former father-in-law who used to pour me a Johnnie Walker Red when I used to visit him in Montreal. I got quite fond of it and the visits became more frequent. He came on a bareboat sailing trip with us in the BVI and brought half a dozen bottles of JW Red and a big beer stein to drink it with that had a bicycle bell on it. Everytime he wanted a refill, he’d just ring the bell! Good Scotch — Great Memories!

    • Commodore Dave, I hope you are real Commodore, because then we can have a really good sailing conversation, since I have been Commodore of Harbour City Yacht Club in Toronto for several years. Seriously, I love the idea of a bicycle bell on the scotch glass. I’m just off the Caribbean and I’ll be sure to introduce this attention getting notion at our resort.

  5. Hi there, just became alerted to your blog through Google, and found that it’s very informative. I will be grateful if you continue this in future. Lots of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

  6. Nigel,thanks for including me in your distribution.
    As you know I enjoy all whisky offerings and have an interesting collection
    of my own including many of those you list.
    Still love the Islay brands the best.
    Lagavulin 16 does the trick.
    Congratulations on a very interesting and varied publication.
    What else could I expect of you?
    Hope you enjoyed the trip south and we shall meet again soon.

  7. Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it’s truly informative. I am going to watch out for brussels. I will be grateful if you continue this in future. Lots of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

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