When he drinks whisky, a riot of colour and texture floods his mind’s eye. But Andy Clark has found a business that’s turning drams into designs.
Huge grey skies. Water dark and deep yet almost shining aquamarine as it pushes against the seaweed-strewn rocks. Great white buildings with an industrial beauty that should be so out of place, but fits so perfectly.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Caol Ila distillery. It was autumn, the day after the most vicious storm I’d ever seen. Among all the shrines to whisky that Islay is so famous for, this was the place I wanted to visit. My favourite dram – I had to pay homage.
I chatted to the woman in the shop, and tasted that sublime spirit. And, now, every time I try Caol Ila, the layers of flavour and waves of smoke dancing around my mouth, that image of an angry autumn day returns.
This is how I experience whisky, you see. I’m not very good at nose and palate. I get the broad brushstrokes – the smoky and rich and sweet – but freshly cut grass and just-ripe pears? That stuff eludes me.
Instead, when I try a dram, a riot of colour and texture floods my mind’s eye.
Some of the images are linked to memories – like the Fettercairn I poured myself in a joyful, tearful toast to my newborn daughter, or the Springbank I shared with a pal after we climbed Agag’s Groove on the Buachaille Etive Mor.
Some simply explode into my head – like memories of the bag of barley sugar “hidden” in my gran’s bureau when I tried Balblair for the first time, or sitting by a campfire on the shores of Loch Leven as I took my first sip of Ardbeg. Others are linked to place – like Caol Ila. A picture locked in the landscape where the whisky was born.
And if you think I’ve had one too many and should go and lie down, I have only one thing to say to you – The Distillers’ Art.
This company marries excellent whisky with exclusive artworks by renowned Scottish artists, and the art they create so uncannily captures a dram’s character, it’s really quite scary.
The image of Caol Ila almost identical to my own; a lush, colourful, gentle Linkwood; a luxurious, astounding, slightly quirky An Cnoc – pictures that prove whisky really is a work of art.
But what pictures does whisky paint for you? I’ve teamed up with The Distillers’ Art to find out, and we’d love to hear what you see when you take a sip.
Andy Clark is author of the Dr@m whisky blog.