Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Glenmorangie Whisky, the 16 good men of Tain and our hero Mordechai triumph over Haman, the evil man from ancient Persia.

Jews invented whisky. Well not quite, but allow me a bit of poetic license.  The accepted origin of the Water of Life is somewhere in the Middle East 1500 years ago, enhanced by the Monks and Priests 500 years ago and perfected by, depending on who you want to believe, the Irish;  Scots; Japanese; South Africans; Indians and even the Aussies and Kiwis now take credit. 

Jews celebrate great events in our history and whisky is the spirit of choice to aid the celebrations. What’s that got to do with Haman, one of the many evil men in history that tried to annihilate the Jewish nation? Quite a bit.

The festival of Purim, celebrating the defeat of Haman by Mordechai is a joyous festival, one known for an excess of food and drink.  Haman drew lots to determine the day to destroy the Jewish nation. His plot was discovered, Mordechai came to the rescue, and there was a party to end all parties. And to this day we celebrate. 

Now that Glenmorangie Whisky is Kosher, what better way to celebrate than with a dram, which by holy decree, should be a large dram. A very, very large dram. 

In my youth I spent every Friday night and Saturday morning; every festival, night and day at the local synagogue. It was once a quiet place until it was taken over by the Lubavitch, an ultra-orthodox sect known for its exuberance and passionate prayer. One of my clearest memories is of Rabbis in full cry, glazed eyes and slurred speech, practicing one of the lesser known and even less understood rituals associated with Judaism: the tradition of excessive alcohol consumption over the festival of Purim. Because the Rabbis said that "A person is obligated to become inebriated on Purim until he doesn't know the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai".

Not differentiating between good and evil is one interpretation, but the other, more sensible and certainly more responsible interpretation, is that alcohol expands the creative mind, freeing it from the restraints of societal convention. So over Purim, we free our minds from anything that interferes with passion and creativity.

The 16 Men of Tain are the gentlemen that make Glenmorangie, a damn good whisky, and a Kosher whisky. You can call them the Mordechais of the modern world, saving us not from destruction, but from mediocrity. 

I want to be more creative, so over Purim – ah, why wait, I will start tonight - I will have a Glenmorangie in my glass to help me on my way.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Something new and delicious....

There is a bit of a buzz in the circles that are involved in premium spirits. It seems that the licking of lips and salivating in informed circles is because of a new premium spirit - what, we don't know yet - that is about to hit the drinks scene in South Africa.

Calls to a few people who know these things have been met with a stony silence - "Don't worry Bernard", they say. "You'll find out soon enough." Is it a whisky, a brandy, a vodka, a tequila? "We can't tell you much but can promise you that it shines with the quality of a precious metal. And yes Bernard, you will be invited to the launch, which promises to be a party of note."

So what is it? Watch this space and we'll find out.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kahunas the size of Whisky barrels

Shane Dowling is the publisher of Whisky, a new glossy magazine for lovers of whisky and all things nice in South Africa, and a man who must have kahunas the size of whisky barrels. Anyone who ventures into print publications for a niche market is a very brave person, or is under the influence of too much of the lovely liquid.

The press launch was appropriately at the Bascule Whisky Bar, Cape Grace hotel. The usual crowd was there, with one major difference – the appearance of a Sangoma (an African Shaman, for those from outside South Africa) who blessed the magazine and all who sail in her.

Shane assembled a top team to write and edit Whisky, including ex Wine magazine editor Fiona McDonald, Neil Pendock, a man who knows his liquor and is not afraid to say what some of us are thinking and Dave Hughes, whose knowledge is only surpassed by his humility.

The first edition is worthwhile picking up just for David Bullard’s column. David will be a regular contributor and will have a few people choking from laughter on their single malt.

First views – it is a very good read. The writing and layout is great and hopefully the advertisers stay on board. Will it be a commercial success? I hope so. South Africa needs a quality local publication.

Tops at Spar are going to be stocking the mag (well done Ray Edwards) and see from 1 February for more info about where to find Whisky. .