Arran: No Backstory Required

Let me tell you a story about a man named Ben. 2 summers ago Ben went, with his Mother, to an exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, to see an exhibition by famed Beatles Destroyer and bed dweller, Yoko Ono. The first thing he sees on entering the exhibition are three piles of dirt sat atop a tarpaulin. “That’s not art”, he thinks. He walks into another room, with a clear acrylic maze. “That’s not art”, he thinks.  As he goes to leave, hurriedly, he sees in a piece of rag on the floor which everyone has walked over. “interactive canvas #472” it’s called. He steps over it to make sure he doesn’t interact. There’s a sign written on the floor. “this is the ceiling” it says. “No it isn’t”, he thinks.

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Actually, when I read what the tags beside each of these pieces meant, some of them started to make sense. The piles of dirt, for example, were piles from Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia, and symbolised the futility of war, by exemplifying what soldiers were fighting over and dying for. Not only has the artist massively reduced the whole complexity of war to one very small point, she hasn’t even made that point very effectively. What I’m trying to say here, from an art philistine’s point of view, is that I like art that I love when I see it. If you have to explain art to make it good, it’s probably not good. I can think of similar examples within music (Godspeed You Black emperor; Yanquis UXO), film (Cloverfield), books (I understand every reason why Ulysees is an incredible creation, I just haven’t ever loved it) and many other forms of expression; they always irritate me. If the story behind the project has to sell the piece, I’m not interested, the story should only add something more to it.

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The only area in which I ever fall for this is whisky, where apparently I am blinded by a good tale. I recently inventoried my drinks cabinet (because what else is there to do on the long winter nights…) and found I have 50 scottish single malts, along with about a dozen blends and international whiskies. Of those 50, at least a dozen I bought purely because i liked the concept behind the whisky, without ever having tried it. Some of them I haven’t even tried yet. So this blog is about the whisky, rather than the story. While stories behind whiskies are a good thing, the whisky I’ve chosen today is a great whisky in and of its own right. It doesn’t require explanation. Of course, my blog would be pretty tedious if there was nothing to say about it, so I will give you the brief story but this is most certainly a whisky where the story is secondary.

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The Arran Distillery was founded in 1993; the building of the distillery was delayed by the proximity of a pair of nesting Golden Eagles and their young, and it started production of spirit in 1995. The Cask Strength bottling was first released in 2011 and this is the third batch. This whisky was really appreciated at a recent tasting, coming on the heels of two purely bourbon aged whiskies; the change to a fruitier whisky was refreshing, with just under 50% of the liquid having been aged in a combination of  first fill sherry butts and refill hogsheads, it was definitely the favourite of the night. The biggest note for me, particularly with a little added water, was cinnamon rich apple pie, which continued right through to the finish. This is not a whisky which comes out of left field with unexpected flavours; it is a superbly well rounded flavours, with no off notes at all.

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To my mind, this is a whisky that you could happily buy for almost any whisky drinker, or novice, and they would appreciate it. You could buy it for your father, who doesn’t know which whiskies he likes the most, but knows that the ones you get him are always good. You could buy for yourself, and you know it’d get finished and almost certainly replaced. It may not be the whisky you’d want to serve first to a whisky connoisseur to impress them with your knowledge, but it definitely would make a perfect second offering to show you’re not just about the fancy stories.

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