Burns’ Night – a dram with a story
Burns Night, Monday 25th January, saw many of our team, clients and associates participate in a very special whisky-tasting event at Century Club in Shaftesbury Avenue. This wasn’t just about an excuse to indulge in the amber nectar, nor simply an opportunity for a social; it was a superb, seamless piece of storytelling, delivered by the Ambassador of one of the UK’s most celebrated single malt scotch whiskies – The Balvenie – Dr Andy Forrester.
As we lounged by candlelight in comfortable leather chairs – an atmosphere more akin to a cosy country residence than a club in Soho – Andy energetically took us through the five expressions of The Balvenie – Signature, Single Barrel, Doublewood, Portwood and the no-longer-available-limited-edition Rum Cask (which made a handsome version of the most delicious mojito!). We studied and experienced the colours, aromas, flavours, different characters and personalities of each expression ( a ‘conversation’, as Andy called it), and learnt about the unique method of ageing and flavouring the whisky from different types of oak cask. We heard the story of the Speyside distillery, the traditional methodology used, the people whose lives are dedicated to the handcrafting of this delicious single malt and the different roles each person has to play in its unique creation. Homage was paid to the malt master, David Stewart , whose experience and talent is key to the success of the range, but recognising – like so many success stories – that it is true teamwork that makes it happen.
And then there was Nigel Barden. Our friend and entertaining BBC food critic did us proud in rounding off the evening by revisiting the story of Robbie Burns, the celebration of Burns Night and the tradition of that ‘chieftain o’ the puddin’ race’, the haggis, which made an appearance complete with neeps and tatties for all to sample (the whisky sauce, of course, made with The Balvenie’s smooth Doublewood).
Tradition and heritage is often clouded by the mechanical processes, large-scale production and focus on the bottom line which characterises today’s commercial world. It’s during evenings like these that we often realise just how much we take our oldest traditions for granted, without appreciating the rich seam of stories that sit behind the creation of the food and drink we enjoy so much. But aside from the wonderful educational experience (or conversation) of last night, what struck me was the extraordinary bonding of the human race in creating things for others to enjoy, and the bonding that comes from that collective enjoyment and celebration itself.