One of the hazards of this job is waking up in the morning to find a scrap of paper – sometimes it’s a napkin, occasionally a beer mat – next to the bed with vaguely familiar writing on it. Somewhere in the fugged up recesses of memory is the recollection of that last conversation the night before, the one in which the world’s problems were solved yet again. The only problem is, the writing is an indecipherable scrawl. That’s whisky for you – on one hand it has the unrivalled ability to solve the most intractable of problems, on the other when you write the solution down you can guarantee it won’t make any sense in the morning. Anyway, it was one of those. At least I could read it. A paper serviette with the following scrawled on it: Capt. Beefheart = B, Led Zeppelin = L, Iggy = I, caramel. Aha! Derrida! I thought … Then it began to trickle back. UDV’s Jim Beveridge, Dr Morgan and I talking of film, Nick Hornby and music, as we do.The conversation had turned to filing systems. It was late, very late. I was telling them how I had a running argument with my wife over where to put Iggy Pop. My preference is for I, because he’s Iggy. Jo always puts the record back under P because she argues “to me he is always Mr. Pop”. Beefheart is under B because it would be absurd to file records under people’s rank.Jim was bemused. Actually, come to think of it, he seemed genuinely disturbed. “I’m really worried about you,” he said. “Putting Capt. Beefheart under B, Led Zep under L, and then Iggy under P, it seems so … random. A mind like that just wouldn’t be interested in caramel.” We had been talking much earlier of the obsessive nature of some whisky lovers and the current debate over the rights and wrongs over the (legal) addition of caramel to standardise colour. The conversation had moved on but as I said, it was late and Jim does tend to ruminate on things.As far as he (and Jo) are concerned there has to be consistency and logic in any system. Their record shelves are manifestations of their tidy and ordered minds. People like that care about the tiny details, they fuss over minutiae, they’ve all passed their maths O-level. “But I am interested in caramel,” I protested, slightly weakly. He had me. Caramel additions aren’t that important to me, I don’t really care whether Beefheart is under C or B as long as I know where to find it. The music is more important than its precise position, the flavour of the whisky more important than a drop of colouring.It’s good that Jim has a mind like this, as part of a team of blenders his whole job is concerned with the little changes. Details matter, don’t get me wrong, but isn’t there a risk that we whisky amateurs get so caught up in the technicalities we forget to see the big picture? Jo was glad she had an ally. OK, I said, how would you file these three records: Iggy Pop: The Idiot; Iggy and the Stooges: Raw Power and The Stooges: Fun House. “Ah,” she said. “I’d have the last two under S for Stooges because Raw Power is more Stooge-esque than Iggy’s solo work.” Hope at last! There’s a gap in her logic. I pass this on to Jim. He’s started again. He e-mails me: “Driving through Menstrie my mind raced, I’d missed something. Jo would have put Rolling Stones under ‘R’. It was OK. I could relax. But now, I’m haunted, I can’t shake the thought from my head, it torments me. Shouldn’t Rolling Stones be under ‘T’?” This discussion followed a farewell dinner for UDV’s Neil Cochrane who is taking early retirement. Neil’s willingness to share his encyclopaedic knowledge of distilling has helped many people – me most of all – understand the true skills involved in whisky making and blew away many myths. I’ll miss him and wish him all the best.