We live in a very noisy and auditorily overloaded world. Traffic noise, constant music from various sources, tannoy announcements, machinery drones and groans. It is almost a constant presence whether we like it or not.
Sometimes sounds do not have to be irritating. Now I know you cannot listen to whisky in the glass, well unless it is ice crackling as you pour it in, but whisky has its own soundtrack: the satisfying pop of the cork and the pleasing glug as you pour the dram out; all adding to the experience of tasting, enjoying and sharing.
Matching whisky and music is another aspect that can give a different layer to the whisky tasting the experience. Of course music is as subjective as tasting, not one is going to like everything and some might not even see the point, but I reckon it is worth a try, it’s not going to hurt.
For some trying to link drams to tunes it is classic rock, for others it is classical music or Jazz that work best when tasting whiskies. Themes and variations mimicking the unfolding flavours in the glass. Some take it even further with musical matching: bluegrass and alt-country with Bourbon and Rye, and culturally specific music with world whiskies: Gagaku (Japanese classical music) or a Taiko drum session with Japanese whisky. Let’s not even delve into the subject of which deliver method is best: vinyl, tape or data file (audiophiles would of course say vinyl for the warmth and depth).
Taking it this far could be very fun. What ever your choice is it all adds to the complexity that comes with whisky.
Perhaps we can take this auditory experience even further. When Glenmorangie launched Signet it commissioned a specific sonic soundscape in which you could immerse yourself in a various tasting events. It was an excellent attempt to take things a little further.
I for one would like to see more of this; utilising all the senses. Our tastings experts often talk about the nose, palate and finish of whiskies: scents taking them back to moments in childhood and layers of flavours triggering memories. Sounds also play a big part in memory making, it is just finding a way to harness this.
Sounds also play a big part in the production of whisky. Walk round any distillery while it is producing spirit and there is a hum, a low level vibration, especially in the still room.
Now we can take this further. Next time you visit somewhere, as well as paying attention to the various changes of smells, listen to the spirit flowing into the spirit safe, the creak and rumble of the stills as the liquid is taken to boiling temperature and other little hisses, squeaks and sighs.
Fermentation has its own soundtrack as the yeast does its work: bubbling, swirling and popping, the gurgling of water being added to the mash tun.
Maturation in Scotland may be slow enough for you to hear time creaking through the dunnage warehouses, but in a Kentuckian summer you can hear the casks hiss and groan as the rickhouses heat up.
So perhaps next time you are taking an evening nightcap, slip on some headphones, choose an appropriate track and tune the world out. Enjoy.