The last time I talked to Neil Strachan (The Balvenie Brand Ambassador, Southeast Asia) was in Whisky Live. It was brief, everyone was sloshed, and I vaguely remember a podcast where I was the only woman. All in all, everyone was in a great mood.
Fast forward to 16 August 2018 in 1824, Discovery Primea (Ayala Avenue Makati), where we managed to corner each other long enough to have a more intimate conversation. I discovered, man… The guy’s got some screws loose.
Not that I’m saying he’s some sort of freewheeling nutcase; the guy knows his stuff. It’s just that he’s married the art of entertainment and the ability to amiably shoot the breeze with anyone that possesses half a brain. He can also get people to be in a good mood and understand his brand… All these things, IMHO, make for a perfect representative of a well-loved brand such as The Balvenie.
Here he is talking to Joko (@jokoness on Instagram) about the brand:
In our own conversation, he said, “Whisky is about moods.” Meaning, one doesn’t consume the same thing over and over again, but matches each whisky style according to one’s preference, one’s company, the occasion…
Take for instance The Balvenie DoubleWood, aged 12 Years. An easy drinking yet complex single malt scotch, I can imagine myself breaking this out when I’ve had one of those days as a little pick-me-up. Trivia: Celebrating 25 years, the DoubleWood 12 was designed by “malt master” David Stewart in 1982 (and launched in 1993) using a process now known as “wood finishing.” Part of the process involves the whisky spending 12 years in traditional whisky casks (American ex-bourbon barrels/hogsheads*, oak), then spending an additional 9 months in Spanish ex-Oloroso casks. The traditional casks smoothen the whisky and add character to it, and the Sherry casks add fullness and depth. It then gets a little more hang time in their tun** to marry the flavours. This process is how DoubleWood got its name, having been aged in two types of wood.
Then there’s The Balvenie Caribbean Cask, aged 14 Years. This single malt scotch spent extra hang time in rum casks (hence, Caribbean), giving it distinctive vanilla and spicy notes. This was my personal favourite amongst the evening’s selection, and it’s something I would drink only with a whisky fan. It’s a conversation whisky that I could definitely sniff all night long while cerebrally dissecting each note (too geeky?).
Of course, there’s the evening’s pièce de résistance: The Balvenie DoubleWood, aged 17 Years. Smooth as silk and balanced by amazing complexity, I admit I’d reserve this for a special event (I swear I could hear my older brother LVV, a scotch aficionado, saying that every moment with him is a special event so I should always have a bottle of this baby for him on hand), or a night with my dad (who is also a huge scotch fan). It’s easy to describe the 17 year old as the deeper, more complex, elegant, and richer older sibling of the 12, with its vanilla notes and distinctive fruit characteristics.
Having said that, I think that the best thing I took away from that evening is that there’s a Balvenie for every occasion, whether you’re hanging out with friends, having a fun conversation with an old acquaintance (like Neil), or sharing a special moment with the loves of your life.
For dad, my number one fan and my favourite drinking buddy… And kuya, who comes a close second.
Follow Joko on Instagram as @jokoness (after following us on @2shotsandapintofficial, of course!)
*Hogshead – A large oak barrel, significantly larger than the oak barrels commonly used for wines. As a unit of measure a hogshead is the equivalent of 238.48 liters.
**Tun – For perspective, a barrel is 1/8 of a tun