Tag Archives: Whisky for Girls (&Guys!)

Whisky For Girls ~ washbacks to slingbacks 009
Nov. 12.


Malt is MusicBarenboim

 Listening to  recordings of  Daniel Barenboim, the Argentine born, Israeli pianist and conductor giving the Reith Lectures in 2006, I was reminded of how classical music and whisky resemble one another, both in their construction and in our relationship with, and to, each.

 Whisky and music both have notes ~ whisky has flavour notes and music has sounds notes, and both are experienced over an organised period of time.

 Both experiences involve the active participation of the ‘consumer’ ~  absorbing  music into ones body as sound vibrations penetrate the ear, and  absorbing whisky into the body as  tiny vibrating particles of matter ~ liquid molecules,  penetrate the mouth and aroma compounds penetrate the nose.

 Both experiences are extremely subjective as we bring our personal associations to each. We experience the true substance and simultaneously we experience our subjective experience of it.

 Both have past, present and future having being build on what went before, engaging with what just precedes the experience. In music it can be the silence before the first note and with whisky it can be the very air around one ~ whither inside or out. Both experiences are built on the skills and experiences of the past ~ building up the physical quality of the musical instrument, building up the quality of the fermentation and so on, learning from experience how to improve.

 Both experiences are vertical as well as horizontal as both build on the memory of what has gone before, ones association with  piece of music or a dram. Where one heard the music, where one tasted the whisky.  Both evoke memory. Both  stimulate emotion. And,  this is an interesting point ~ can whisky and music evoke emotion? Or do they stimulate latent emotion we already have?

 Both classical music and malt whisky used to be just ‘part of life’ and  now are regarded as ‘experiences’ ~  that mainly only the monied can afford.

 Ones enjoyment and appreciation of both whisky and music grow in relation to the more one knows about them. For example, having tried many whiskies and being aware of the ‘journey’ of the dram, one is more able to separate ones sensations upon drinking the whisky and therefore be aware of the physical construct of the dram. One can comprehend the experience of the dram in a  way that is already familiar.  It is the same with music. If one understands or knows the construction of the piece of music or is familiar with a style of music, one has greater awareness and is better able to ‘map’ ones experience  and hopefully relate more fully to it.

 Melody and harmony in music create a specific kind of tension. This can be found in the creation of whisky ~ there must be a balance between the notes, strengths and power of the new make spirit with the maturation. The tensions when balanced are what create a wonderful dram, and a wonderful experience of music. The magic of the universe is such, that,  if the notes and movements are right, the energy flows naturally and something greater than the sum of it’s parts is birthed.

 Mr Barenboim says the lesson to take from music is that life must combine transparency, power and strength.  All notes must be played at their power, but to form a great chord sound the various players must be heard together,  in a dynamic tension that holds all sounds as equal. This creates great strength of sound. If this does not occur, you have great power from one section  overwhelming another so there is no tension, and therefore no strength. Music will be totally uninteresting without this ~  it is the same with whisky. If the notes of peat, or cereal or vanillin are too powerful and overwhelm the other flavour notes, you have a heavy, flat whisky . If it does not allow the other notes to be heard it has no strength, only power ~ and this does not express the totality of of a great whisky.

 Music shows the inevitable flow of life, as does whisky, both are experienced in a linear fashion albeit both vertically and horizontally.  The experience of both is constant change. One cannot hold the sound or the taste any longer than it is meant to be held. This is like life ~ no matter how we wish for something to last longer or to hurry and pass, it will take as long as it takes!


And thank you to Daniel Barenboim for sharing his wisdom in the great Reith Lectures.

Bruichladdich Nostalgia BAROLO 017






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Whisky For Girls ~ washbacks to slingbacks 009
Nov. 05.

Terroir ~ in Gaelic, is Anam an Fhearainn ~ Soul of the Land

Favours Galen & Ling


Barley grown in a field in Bridgend, Islay in 2013

TERROIR : of the land

Anyone who thinks there is no such thing as terroir misses understanding themselves and our world.  Barley, water, peat, yeast, copper, people ~all come from the land.

In making whisky ~ everything is provided by the earth, by nature herself ~ barley, earth to grow it in, people to sow it, tend and harvest it, water to soak it and let it germinate, yeast to react with the sweet barley water, wooden wash backs to ferment the wash in, copper stills to distil the wash and spirit in, peat to burn to toast the barley ~ all from Mother Nature. 

Stone built warehouses to keep the drams in, wooden casks for maturing whisky made from oak trees from all over the world, glass made with sand from ground down stones and shells for the bottles, and paper made from trees for labels and packaging. The people required at every step of the way, their skills, their attitudes, their passions and compassions ~ all from Mother Nature.

The weather conditions and geology which influence flora and fauna, which in their balanced relationship with each other made a perfect location for people to farm there ~ eg  Kilchoman, Lagavulin, Laphroaig.

Because they farmed there they grew barley. When they harvested they had grain for making flour, animal feed, to plant again the following year, and to make whisky.  People chose land that was fit for purpose. Their lives grew out of what was there. They were shaped by that land, and in turn produced that which was shaped by the land and the people of that land engaging in an interactive, reciprocal relationship.  Their society was formed by their habits in that land. Their interaction with that specific landscape and animals therein shaped how their language became, what food they ate, what they drank. 

So, concisely;  the geography, geology, flora and fauna created what would happen there; what settlements, what habits of human behaviour, what language, what skill sets, what creativity.

Next, the distilleries became bigger than the farms. There were piers where puffers brought coal for the fires to heat the stills, bringing casks to store whisky (in those days people made whisky from the outset) taking excess whisky away, bringing in extra barley; the moving and shaking of that place.

Each area created a different whisky as each area had different sets of characteristics ~ the characteristics were in the people, too; the habits they had in distilling, their traditions and customs of living, the specific skills they had, the shape of their buildings, where they were located in the landscape. The weather they received influenced what clothes they made, what food they ate, what they drank, when their streams went dry, where was best to store grain, the particular time things were done. All these particulars are shaped by the landscape in which they take place. And all these particulars allow the spirit of a landscape to produce something unique. The energies specific to a landscape produce things unique to that area.  This is what is meant by terroir.  In Gaelic, we call it

Anam an Fhearainn ~ Soul of the Land.

 We believe Anam an Fhearainn matters  

~ not just in whisky: it matters in EVERYTHING.

Pronounciation : Anam an yerr-ane   ~  Anam (as in Adam)  ane (as in plane)

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