Whisky has always been a drink that brings people together, of that there is no doubt, and especially a drink to inspire conversation. We often imagine people gathered round a fire at the end of an evening, “chewing the fat” after a meal, recounting tales and anecdotes amongst friends. But what of more romantic encounters? As whisky becomes young again and catches the imagination of a whole new demographic, it seems to be found in more unusual circumstances.
Last week, I travelled to Edinburgh to host some tastings in the city – it certainly seemed strange flying back over the border with a suitcase full of whisky, but it gave me the chance to catch up with old friends and of course make new ones along the way. I met the boyfriend of a friend who was recalling (over a whisky) how they met. They were in fact both members of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, although they had actually met in the pub, they chose their first “date” to be at the society’s venue in Leith called The Vaults. Now, for those who do not know how the society operates, let me explain.
The SMWS purchase single casks from distilleries all over Scotland (and further afield) to bottle non-chill filtered and at cask strength in limited run to members. The bottles are not overly expensive and the society rooms in Edinburgh, of which there are two- the Vaults and Queens street, as well as in Farringdon in London, allow members to bring in up to three guests, enjoy a lunch perhaps or simply kick back with the papers in the relaxed surroundings and partake in a dram or two. There are also great meeting rooms to use and always something going on arranged by the society. I like it because it’s not stuffy, the bar staff are young and knowledgeable and for those of you who don’t like whisky (eh?) there is a fine wine list and fab beer selection too.
First timers may be a little confused as on glancing at the back bar it seems they only have one whisky on offer? But upon closer inspection, the society’s best asset comes into play. Every bottle is the same shape, green glass, tall with a slimmed waist and handsomely broad shoulders. The white label across the front has only a set of numbers, 17.23 for example, the first being the distillery the bottling came from and the second refers to the number of the cask the society has procured. Below this, is the title of the whisky, names such as “Light blue touch-paper and retire” or ” Seaweed, sushi and Arbroath smokies” start to conjure up certain images that hopefully give an indication of the whisky’s character. Then below this, a large (and sometimes rambling) set of tasting notes describe, not only all the aromas and notes to expect, but in most cases will help build a picture in the mind of the whisky’s personality- a bit like a lonely hearts column. M 40, kind-hearted and generous with GSOH WLTM similar becomes “Starting off in a cottage in the morning clearing out the peat fire and end up in a rugby club with camphor muscle oil, hot and smokey – Russian caramel” (3.187 by the way!) The green glass restricting the sight of the whisky’s colour, the uniformity of the bottles and the hidden distillery names all combine to mean you have to be tempted by what the whisky tastes like. Drop all your preconceived ideas and forget trying to recall all your own tasting notes - just be drawn in by the liquid and nothing else. Genius if you ask me because I have often held “blind” tastings where many people have remarked on the quality and taste of a whisky which upon revealing what it is, they are shocked to find it is something they would normally dismiss. The SMWS helps reintroduce whisky to even the most experienced of drinkers in a fun way. It breathes life into forgotten distilleries and with new outturn showcased in its monthly magazine, there is always something to tempt you. Interested? Memberships can be purchased here.
Anyway, where were we? Ah yes – take this above ethos and apply it to dating as my friend did. By arranging the first date at The Vaults, she was being very clever indeed. Obviously they both liked whisky, so that was a bonus, but the clever thing here was, as they perused the menu of drams, they could get an indication of the others likes and dislikes without having to question – in fact, as she blushingly recalled, there are even certain tasting tips that will help warm up the conversation. She pointed one out in particular from the list “Slip on the velvet robe, dig out your finest slippers and pay this dram a visit” . now, if you say that in a deep Cockney male voice, it might not have the same seductive properties of a softly spoken Edinburgh girl…but you get the idea. Reading through the collection of whisky titles, such as the two above will quickly let you get to grips with your date - don’t like sushi? mental note – next date is not Japanese…never been to Arbroath – who has?
So whisky “matching’ is not all about cheese, chocolate and canapes -( we do those here ) apparently it can pair people together as well.
Next month, Dramatic whisky are hosting a first - a Singles Night in association with Mutual Attraction, the select members dating site to see if this fire water can ignite some passion. Mutual Attraction was set up due to demand from city professionals and executives who were finding dating in London tough. The thought of having a photo online horrified them as did the notion they may have to spend their precious time hanging out at bars everynight. Mutual Attraction was born and the first thing they promised? Confidentiality and no photos on the web!
The event is open to non-members also so if you are in the mood for falling in love - even if it might just be with whisky, then book in here to join us.