Trust Duncan to know his whiskies.

Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "Trust Duncan to know his whiskies." means in the following sentences:

‘It’s good, mate,’ Duncan says. ‘It kind of reminds me of a Laphroaig, you know?’
‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘I guess so.’ Trust Duncan to know his whiskies.

- Lucy Foley, The Guest List, Chapter 15

This is a thriller novel published in 2020 in the United Kingdom. One hundred and fifty guests gathered at some remote and deserted fictional islet called Inis an Amplóra off the coast of the island of Ireland to celebrate the wedding between Jules (a self-made woman running an online magazine called The Download) and Will (a celebrity appearing in a TV show program called Survive the Night). The day before the actual wedding day, at the rehearsal dinner, Will, during the conversation, says to Johnno, Will's high school friend and the best man, about tasting the whiskey that Johnno himself developed. Then Duncan, one of the ushers and high school friend of Will and Johnno, comments that the whiskey reminds him of a Laphroaig.

In this part, I am wondering whether it is a compliment towards Duncan, meaning "Wow. Duncan really has a deep knowledge about whiskies!", or is just an ironic/critical comment, meaning "Why would Duncan comment on whiskies when he knows absolutely nothing about whiskies?". (I guess I am confused because I am not used to this "trust someone to~" expression.)

And I would also like to know whether it would be all right to understand that "know one's whiskies" means that one knows the tastes of whiskies by experience, i.e., by drinking many kinds of whiskies.

I would very much appreciate your help. :)
 
  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Duncan is a traditionally Scottish family name. The implication is that he really knows whiskies. We don't know how he got that knowledge, but drinking many types of whisky was probably part of it. (The singular of Scotch whisky is spelled without an "e." The Irish kind is "whiskey." Laphroaig is Scotch, from the island of Islay off Scotland's western coast, but if Inis an Amplóra is Irish, "whiskey" could be correct.)
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Egmont,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    So it means Duncan really has knowledge regarding whiskies!
    And I didn't know Duncan is a Scottish family name. I learned a new thing all thanks to you!
    I sincerely appreciate your help. :)
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Duncan is a traditionally Scottish family name.
    It is also a traditional Scottish (male) first name. It is not clear from context whether Duncan is this person's first or last name. It seems more likely to me that it's his first name.

    Sometimes "trust <person> to <do something>" can have an ironic slant. That does not seem to be the case here. Here the meaning is "You can rely on Duncan to be knowledgeable about whiskies".
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Rover_KE and Edinburgher,

    Thank you very much for the explanations!
    Sometimes "trust <person> to <do something>" can have an ironic slant. That does not seem to be the case here. Here the meaning is "You can rely on Duncan to be knowledgeable about whiskies".
    Yes indeed, I think what confused me most was that I could not tell whether the narrator was being ironic or not. But your explanation cleared my doubts! So the narrator was really saying that Duncan is trustworthy regarding his knowledge about whiskies.
    I sincerely appreciate your help. :)
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    ... and so are versions of whiskeys produced in America, Canada, Japan and anywhere else in the world.
    Absolutely correct. I didn't get into that because only Scotland (home of Laphroaig) and Ireland (location of the wedding) seemed relevant, but this completes the picture well.

    One small correction, though: Some Japanese whiskies, made in the style of Scotch whisky, use the Scottish spelling. A Japanese relative by marriage gave me a bottle of Suntory's Hibiki whisky, which I found quite good. (Added in edit: The picture is not Hibiki, but a different Suntory whisky. It's easy to find pictures of Hibiki online, though.)

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    abluter

    Senior Member
    British English
    I certainly detect a slight irony in this. "Trust Duncan to know his whiskies" has a distinct implication that he would have had every chance to know his whiskies extensive experience of drinking them. I think it's the "Trust" which gives it the ironic twist, (you can be absolutely sure); otherwise you would just say "Duncan knows his whiskies" in that flat, neutral way.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I wouldn't call it ironic, but I do agree that it implies that he has extensive experience. There are probably some stories these friends all know that would nicely illustrate that.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think a lot depends on the speaker.

    Laphroaig is a very characteristic West-Coast whisky. Very easy to recognise, for a refined drinker of malt whiskies..

    In the days, about ninety years ago, when I drank whisky, I hated the West-Coast whiskies and only drank Speyside malts.

    The fact that we are talking about single malts as opposed to blended whiskies, suggests a certain sophistication in the company.

    Among real whisky drinkers the ability to tell a Laphroaig would be the equivalent among bird-watchers of being able to tell a blue-tit, ie. not a very cultivated accomplishment at all.

    So from a whisky drinker this could be very sarcastic; from most other people, and I think probably here, it's a compliment.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I definitely get the impression the speaker doesn't know his whiskies. He has to take Duncan's word for it.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Egmont, kentix, abluter, and Thomas Tompion,

    Thank you very much for the explanations!
    Among real whisky drinkers the ability to tell a Laphroaig would be the equivalent among bird-watchers of being able to tell a blue-tit, ie. not a very cultivated accomplishment at all.

    So from a whisky drinker this could be very sarcastic; from most other people, and I think probably here, it's a compliment.
    I, as a usually-non-whisky drinker (I just prefer other liquors than whiskies, though I drink them when I have a chance :D), found this very interesting! So telling a Laphroaig was not a big accomplishment when viewed from a whisky drinker.

    Then, whether this "trust" has an ironic intonation or not would depend on whether Johnno has expertise in whiskies.
    Based on the fact that he established his whisky company seems that he has one, but again, it is a new business so he might not have a deeper level of expertise, and he might have been genuinely astonished that Duncan recognized a Laphroaig.

    Anyways, I guess the certain thing here is that Duncan drank whiskies a lot and he is definitely informed about whiskies.
    I learned so many new things all thanks to you! I sincerely appreciate your help. :)
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    ... So telling a Laphroaig was not a big accomplishment when viewed from a whisky drinker...
    In the context of the quoted paragraph, "reminds him of a Laphroaig," it doesn't say he's a true expert. However, if he can tell Laphroaig from Ardbeg and Lagavulin - they're all smoky, peaty whiskies from the same part of Islay - without looking at the bottle, I'd say he knows something. (The kind of barrel a whisky was aged in affects its taste, and all three offer whiskies that were aged in different kinds of barrels.) Of course, we don't know if he'd be able to, and he's fictional anyhow so he can do anything Ms. Foley wants him to do.
     
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