The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2016

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Page 63 of 100

november 2016  /  the tasting panel  /  63 A s an Ambassador for Glenfiddich, I am often asked how a whisky company founded in 1887 contin- ues to not only stay relevant and fresh, but also consistently push the boundar- ies of what single malt can be. Part of our success stems from a continued culture of innovation and experimenta- tion that permeates every aspect of our company, from the men and women who work at our distillery to the descen- dants of our founder, William Grant, to our global team of over 20 ambassadors. In the spirit of this culture, I sought to create a dynamic and creative event for the Most Experimental Bartender Competition that allowed people to experience Glenfiddich in a completely unique way. The question I posed stemmed from an unorthodox idea: What if, in lieu of offering traditional aroma and flavor notes, I engaged creative minds to demonstrate the essence of each expression? Would guests be able to truly experience the "freshness" of our 12 Year Old, the "heat" of Bourbon Barrel Reserve or the "sophistication" of our 18 Year Old Small Batch through unexpected mediums? I began my journey of exploration by considering the "music" of Glenfiddich and reached out The Nouveau Classical Project, an ensemble from New York City. Known for their Composed Cocktail Series—"hybrid concerts that offer eclectic sounds" served up with delicious cocktails inspired by the com- positions—this inventive group seemed liked the perfect match. I was delighted to immediately receive interest from the resident pianist Sugar Vendil. "In my own artistic practice, I connect seem- ingly unlikely or incompatible things," Vendil notes, "so connecting Scotch with performance directly aligns with those interests." As conversations with Vendil evolved, I began to wonder if investigating the "movement" of the whisky could add to the magic of the evening and the depth of the tasting. I was fortunate enough to have met modern dance choreographer and performer Jun Lee several years before, and I knew she was absolutely the right choice to bring a physical language to the whisky. What ensued was an incredible leap of faith. Over four months and numer- ous conversations, Vendil, Lee and I engaged in a series of long-distance calls and emails pouring over details to bring the idea to life. The artists were provided samples, a detailed history of our distillery and insights on the process behind the liquids. We dis- cussed, at length, my viewpoints on the essence of each Glenfiddich expression and, they, in turn, shared theirs. One particularly delicious moment came when we finally received the completed compositions from Vendil's collabora- tor, composer Trevor Gureckis. The music was weird, wild, edgy and absolutely perfect. After some insightful conversation, a venue was chosen. I wanted the event to take place in a location that was as eclectic and unexpected as the tasting itself. With its curated spaces, towering architecture and impressively impos- ing taxidermy, Clifton's Cafeteria in Downtown Los Angeles proved to be the ideal location. Finally, the Saturday before the performance, the entire team—includ- ing dancer Nicole Powell—gathered for the very first time in an L.A. studio. After so much preparation, effort and discus- sion, could it all possibly come together? As Vendil began to play, Gureckis fired up electronic backbeats and the dancers took the floor, it was clear that we had created something both singular and magical. "The trio of dances [I created were] a celebration of the energies of the three expressions," Lee recalls. "Each expression has its own distinct sensibil- ity and character. I challenged myself to incorporate imagery and movement inspired by the Glenfiddich Stag to give each piece shape and context." It was a perfect summer evening as our guests from the trade and press gathered in Clifton's Peacock Lounge for bespoke whisky cocktails. Just beyond, the ballroom was a flurry of activity preparing for the performance, as each table was set and each dram poured. At last, the lights dimmed and the first note played. Glenfiddich 12 Year Old burst to life as images of flowing water and blossoming flowers illuminated the space. Vendil's fingers delicately moved over the keys as Lee twirled and bounded across the floor with the lightness of a young stag in the forest. The tasting of our signature malt was followed by the story of William Grant, performed in monologue and illuminated through a series of chosen historical moments and dreamlike imagery of the distillery itself. Then, as the audience moved to Glenfiddich 14 Year Old, the projections became bright with golden red fire and Powell prowled warily over the floor, her body pulled by molten heaviness and punctuated by jabs echoing the aggressive influence of charred virgin oak barrels. Evoked by the tribal beats of Gureckis's evocative piece "Rise," the performance ended with Glenfiddich 18, represented by an intricately crafted pas de deux and an interplanetary journey through space and time. The reception from the audience was instant and passionate. "I want the script. I want the music. I want to share it with the world!" remarked Kerry Moynahan of the L.A. Scotch Club. "I honestly did not know what I was walking into tonight, and it was some of the most fun I have ever had at any whisky tasting." Over and over again, we were greeted with applause and delight beyond my greatest expectations. Now that the smoke has cleared and the lights have dimmed, the overwhelming reception and the delightful experience of working on this project have only served to further my desire to embrace Glenfiddich's legacy of ingenuity and exploration. I look forward to more opportunities to push the boundaries of whisky enjoyment and create more incredible experimental experiences for our friends and fans. Dancer Nicole Powell took the floor as guests of the tasting experience sipped on Glenfiddich 14 Year Old.

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