Most reviews set out to do one thing, which to tell you exactly what a person thinks about a particular whisky. What isn’t usually explained is how that whisky makes them feel, how it changes their mood, even if it is momentarily.
I have spoken briefly about how a whisky can take you on a journey. How it evokes memories or sets scenes that might be fictional. They may have actually happened but it all becomes a scenario that relates to the very mood you enter whilst drinking a particular whisky.
Let me tell you more…and just bear with me as all will eventually become clear.
This is a tale of times long gone, remembered only from the many lips loosened by a mysterious liquid.
A time so long ago that it is now beyond living memory.
Imagine if you can; Walking through a meadow, the dewy grass wet beneath your feet and the damp air chilling your cheeks as you briskly walk towards the rising sun. The birds around you sing their awakening song. The farmer and his wife are feeding the livestock as they prepare to take some off to market. They’re smiling as they go about their chores and the sun is beginning to warm their faces. All the while they’re fervently hoping the harvest will see them through the winter that is only around the corner, the hardship from the previous season almost forgotten.
As you walk in a dreamy state you search your surroundings; you notice the scents rising from the many wildflowers that are gently swaying in the morning breeze. The blossom softly swirling in the air as it leaves the branches of the apple trees, which gently find themselves swaying from side to side. These very trees grow from the seeds randomly dropped years earlier by the animals who feasted upon the fruits bore from the ancestral trees.
You enter a small brick building. A bench set there by lovers to rest their weary heads, to search their souls for the future happiness, for the moments to sit in silence and allow that moment to become their world.
As you again rise to walk, every smell, every moment, every detail is stored in your memory bank. These memories will be called upon sometime in the distant future. A time when remembrance is needed, a moment when reassurance is required, a point when you can no longer find who or what you are looking for but until then, the memory lies dormant.
Your journey now takes you to a bustling street. Wooden carts are parked randomly beside brick buildings that line the streets. The lady wears a ragged dark blue dress that has seen better days. Her hair tied back with a red ribbon, her shoes old and battered. The sad smile on her face that tells you she has known many hard days selling her wares for the meagre pennies that she needs to feed her children.
A large black horse with hooves like dustbin lids tiredly walks by his head nodding as he pulls the heavy cart laden with exotic goods collected from the numerous ships tied up in the nearby docks. There is an overwhelming stench from an old shed where many homeless animals lay their heads. As the stench fades behind you, the smell of warm pies as they slowly heat on the small stove heated by hot coals drifts over you masking the unwanted aromas.
Another cart is drawn past heading towards the bustling market. A broken voice comes from the old man pushing it “Chestnuts, buy your Chestnuts here”. His voice reverberates between the walls but all you take on board is the way he looks. The dirty old jacket with a hole on the elbow, the torn shirt and trousers that trace the outline of his broken body. His flat cap covered in coal dust, just waiting for some rain to come and wash clean it once more.
As you round the corner into the bustling marketplace you are suddenly greeted by the fresh array of smells; Vanilla, toffee and citrus notes come from the cake stall. Fresh apples being prepared for the pies cooking behind the open door that leads to the bakers. The freshly baked bread sends a delicious, inviting aroma on the air that has you yearning to take a taste. The giggling voices of the faceless children hiding, ready to steal a fresh loaf as it cools, has you chuckling to yourself.
Then, as you turn into a darkened alley there is a door. A sign squeakily swings above in the sporadic gusts of wind. The squeak tells you that it hung there for many a year. Probably as long as the old but friendly face that beckons you closer and with a soft reassuring voice insists you enter. Jars adorn the shelves that reach to the sky and as you gaze upon them you begin to make out shapes, colours and then you understand. Sweets, thousands of sweets just calling for you to take them home.
As you leave the shop you take a final glance over your shoulder, the smiling face is fading away, the scents are dispersing but the memory is there. It will return one day when prompted, but until then it will lay sleeping, hidden away.
I now find myself standing beside water. I don’t remember walking here but the bag of sweets has all been eaten, the empty paper bag glaringly empty and my mouth sticky but still tingling from the sugar coated confectionary greedily eaten. There is now a freshness to the air, the spray of sea water hitting my face as it spirals up from the rocks and staves that make up the walkways. The sound of sailors merrily going about their work and the drunken singing that fills the air, along with the greedy birds swooping down to take any free offerings dropped as the day passes.
But what has this got to do with whisky? Well, to most of you reading this, nothing. But for me these are the scenarios that resonate through my mind as I drink, think and dissect whats in my glass. These are the journeys I go on when I allow myself to drift into the world the whisky wants to offer. I know!! Send in the people in white coats and the electric probes!!
What I am trying to say here is just allow yourself to let go, you might not go into these little scenes, you might not go anywhere, but if you just allow yourself to drift a little, allow the whisky to take over, let it offer you its secrets then you might just find that moment.