I don’t know if it is my age but I’m very much enjoying the brilliant BBC iplayer and some of the eclectic shows which can be found on BBC’s 6 Music radio station. I have written before about what delights can be uncovered on shows such as the excellent weekly offering from Don Letts and others.
We are in a time when a lot of us will own some form of digital device on which we can store music. When I was young, the storage of songs was on cassette tape. C30, C60, C90 and if you were really luck, a C120. That was it.
Not now- even on the cheapest of devices you’ll end up with hours of storage space for your tunes.
Hours. That’s a lot of music.
Ergo, this forces music consumers (that’s you and me) into a wider spectrum of genres in the listening experience. If you’ve only got a C60 tape to fill, you can only stick to one genre. If you’ve got hours, you’ll jump between hip hop, indie, rock, folk, acoustic... you name it, you can have it.
When I first started my whisky journey, it was all about one genre: single malt Scotch. However, as my palate as developed, as I have dedicated more time to understanding whisky, greater attention to details and production processes, I have expanded my spectrum of flavours to blends, world whiskies and grains. And better my life is for it, too.
Recently, we ran a backstage bar for our friends Mumford and Sons, when they played their biggest headline show to date (save for Glastonbury), selling out the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.
We were offering a selection of different Scotch whiskies to try, as well as a cocktail, The Gentlemen of the Road whisky cooler, made using apple juice, homemade apple cordial, Cutty Sark blended Scotch whisky and chocolate bitters, which went down a storm with the bands and VIPs.
The real star of the show, the headline act at our original 1950’s bar, was a blended Scotch whisky which we crafted at Caskstrength Towers and held in a giant vintage demijohn. Made up from around 100 different whiskies, some dating back to 1954, it was the centre piece to our bar.
Alongside sampling this bespoke blend, we were letting attendees fill their own small complementary bottles (each featuring the gig poster as the label) which were then hand numbered and wax dipped. Only 120 of the little 60ml critters were available.
We were thrilled with the reaction to our whisky and hope that it in some way it highlighted exactly what an art it is to compose those famous blends which have existed for generations and are often sadly maligned in the UK, often for their ubiquity. There is a reason so many blends are seen on shop shelves: because they’re pretty darn good.
We are in no way Master Blenders, but we hope this small exercise went some way to entertain as well as educate those who came to the bar to explore whisky. Blended whisky is not something to be scared of and we hope that, in trying some and understand the art of blending, that it will do what the MP3 has done for popular music: your love of whisky shouldn’t fit on a C90 cassette, but should be broad enough to fill a whole ipod and for some, hopefully this was the start of that journey.