Fiona MacNeill, the Whisky Wench


Scottish-born Fiona MacNeill, a.k.a. the Whisky Wench, has been doing her act for five years. A combination of performance art, whiskey appreciation, and revelry, the piece brings her guests along on a journey of Scottish-ness and debauchery, and most shows raise money for a cause. In the case of the scheduled tasting this Saturday at the VFW Post 6208 in Prior Lake, proceeds will benefit the Scottish American Center and the Minnesota Scottish Fair & Highland Games.

The following is a conversation with the Whisky Wench about her history with the sweet nectar of the Gods.

How did the Whisky Wench come to be?

Quite a few years ago I worked in a hotel in Scotland that had a handsome whiskey collection. I was a bartender, and when folks asked for a dram I needed to climb a ladder to obtain it for them. I also needed to wear a skirt for this job and I thought, 'What if I knew about the whiskey and could make someone else climb the ladder?'

How has your performance evolved since you started doing it?

Initially I was a wee bit shy, but then I was like, 'Fuck it, who else is going to explain this shite?' I was aghast at the lack of history I encountered at other tastings, and to my mind the Scottish whiskey industry and the country's history are indelibly entwined. Also, I have definitely evolved on a personal level. I've been doing this since 2006, so I'm older and wiser--but still look great in a kilt.
What does an evening with the Whisky Wench entail?

An evening with me is a mixture of history, engagement, and revelry. Whiskey represents one of humanity's highest achievements, and at turns one of our most telling endeavors. As George Bernard Shaw put it: 'Whiskey is liquid sunshine.' Bearing in mind the weather we've had this week, we could probably all do with a bit of that.

Since you are from Scotland, did you draw on any personal experience for you Scottish character?

Being from Scotland is a huge part of it. When I talk about the main elements of a good dram--from the appearance to the strength, taste, body, and finish--I draw on experiences from home. When I taste a hint of honey, I relive the sensation of eating fresh honey from the comb, which my violin teacher used to bring for me. When I detect heather-like aromas, I remember the day I ran through a heather- and brush-filled field. I also happened to meet my first adder that day [a wild snake]. When I drink a West Coast whiskey, I relish the sea salt and seaweed, and remember the sea and all the times that I went exploring in my sailing dinghy.

I know you have a background in performance art. How is the Whisky Wench similar to that kind of art form? What makes it different?

The Wench is a facet of me. I have tried to siphon her off a couple of times, but she is a leach that won't let up. Think Diana Prince to Wonder Woman. Although, I'm not sure which one is which...
What makes a good whiskey?

You know those 3D films? They have nothing on a brilliant whiskey.

Any tips for potential whiskey connoisseurs on how to pick out, taste, or enjoy whiskey?

First, think about the tastes that you like. What do they feel like? If you closed your eyes and imagined what they felt like, what universe would you encounter? Would they feel like a fresh wind crossing your brow, the scent of spring and flowers filling your nostrils? Would they be the strong scent of your first car, the heady, singed rubber hitting your consciousness? Either way, a good whiskey can move one's body and mind to that level of enlightenment. Just wait, taste, and think.

See the Whisky Wench this Saturday in the Basement Banquet Room at the Prior Lake VFW at 16306 Main Street. Registration is at 6:30 p.m, with tasting going from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 per person. For reservations/tickets call 651.260.0306 or email [email protected]