As we moved through our startup journey amidst the global pandemic, the normal ways of working were forgotten. Everyone has their own experiences of how lockdown life changed their normal habits, but for us, the amount of time spent on screens was balanced with time spent in nature.
As huge fans of Japanese culture (and whisky) we were aware of ideas like 'forest bathing' and we're all aware of nature's ability to inspire... But it was only through really experiencing the transformative effects that nature had on us first hand that we could understand the concept. Even in small doses, we were changed.
These verdant excursions into nature were transformative. The sheer power of stillness to allow the brain to relax for a moment, just long enough for a thought to form. Individually, we came back from long walks with ideas for blends and concepts to explore, yet it was reflecting on the overall that gave us the idea for this blend.
Experience N.5 was about exploring the subtle nuances imparted into spirit by different types of wood.
To create this blend we took a Campbeltown malt and placed it into two casks of different origin (one red wine, the other dark rum). After some time we blended them back together to make the central component of this whisky which takes a look at the transformative nature of wood.
It was a fascinating exercise as it forced us to really identify what was similar between the two samples - rather than (as is the case with most tastings) focusing on what makes them different. It gave us an appreciation of how flavours are related to each other and how layering these whiskies can provide structure, whilst retaining a delicate profile.
We paired the Campbeltown hybrid with a vanilla-centric Highland grain whisky which had spent some time in an Amontillado sherry quarter cask (the smaller size of cask allows the whisky more contact with wood; increasing complexity and flavour). Really good grain whisky in quality wood is a truly wonderful thing, and something we try to highlight in our blends. The pairing of the malt and grain was almost perfect, balancing the soft fruit of the malt, with sweet vanilla, a touch of tannin, and green forest notes from the casks. The final liquid element was a robust Speyside single malt which gave a punch of honey and baking spice to the blend.
This is a whisky that invites you in, and leaves space for you to notice the soft sound of the wind through the branches. It is an experience of deepening, and diverging. Nature is everywhere in Whisky making… And finding harmony between spirit and wood is the ultimate aim. Once the blend had been put together, it spent a final 25 days of marriage in an old Tawny Port cask. A final layer of subtlety, and warmth. This last step, after so much precision in the blending process, allows nature, and wood to have the final say on the precise qualities of the whisky.
A little reminder that although we affect the balance, we never fully control it.
In wood we trust!