Having had some very special Jazz experiences over recent months, which have generally involved a very nice whisky or three to help the evening along, it got me thinking about whisky and jazz, their similarities and exactly why both go so well together.
I’ve always had a strangely eclectic music taste and as one of the best things to come out of the US, it’s easy to forget that so much of popular music over the years has been influenced by and often included many incredible jazz artists.
The most memorable jazz is always best served with a great whisky
It was on a recent trip to London that it got me thinking about jazz and whisky. Despite the fact that I had lived in London, for some time, I only managed to visit the famous Ronny Scott’s Jazz club on one of my more recent return visits for a friend’s birthday. From the moment you arrive, it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular place for jazz musicians, artists and fans from all over the world. With an equally good line up of malt whiskies on offer behind the bar, it’s also an interesting place to visit for a more unique evening out in central London for a whisky lover.
The thing which really got me thinking about whisky though was the idea that although the basic components are the same, like any typical jazz band, by bringing in different people, instrument compositions, styles and influences, it can change the whole character and sound of what is being performed. This was partly as a result of a late night jam which created this unique melange of music, which saw different artists adding their own touch throughout the jam. As is the etiquette, each musician and instrument had their typical jazz solo spot as part of each composition played, allowing them to improvise and show their own unique talent and style.
Creating a unique sensory experience with every cask
When you start to think about the maturation and finishing of much of the best whisky, it’s almost like every cask acts like an analogy for a great jazz composition or perhaps the opposite? Every cask has its own unique character and personality as a result of the nature of the malted barley, when it has been casked, how and where it has been casked and the various influences it has had over the many years in that cask.
As our palates widen and the demand for Scotch Malt Whisky continues to diversify, so too does the quest to bring in ever more unique flavours to the whisky being produced and to create a unique sensory experience for the drinker. Whether it be port, sherry, rum or a fine wine, the opportunity to give a each whisky it’s own unique set of characteristics is what is now clearly defining the industry.
Interestingly my other recent jazz experiences were actually in the historic home of Jazz, in the US, in none other than New York City, on a recent trip to visit another whisky loving friend. It was the one special thing on my wish list of things to do in the city and I really wasn’t disappointed. We went to a session at the Village Vanguard, the legendary jazz club in Greenwich Village. The session was with the American jazz bassist, Christian McBride and his band and really was one of the most amazing sets of live music that I have ever heard. It was like all the best whiskies, truly memorable. This time however it was bourbon which was the drink of choice and again we were spoilt for choice. Again it got me thinking about the beginnings of our own special drams, most of which start their lives in a bourbon cask from the US. If it wasn’t for bourbon, the Scotch Malt Whisky industry as it exists today would look very different.
Creating a passion in people which crosses borders
On a slightly different note, I also had the pleasure of tasting some award winning Japanese malt whisky at another little great little jazz bar, B Flat, in the TriBeCa area of the city, showing the true nature of both of these amazing art forms. Both have the power to cross borders and bring people together, right across the world – people who have a true passion for each art form. Whisky production is at it’s most basic is a science, however throughout its history it has grown into a true art form and one which now sees an immense amount of creativity and ingenuity to make the perfect dram. Perhaps that’s why it always provides the perfect accompaniment to the best jazz experience – for whisky lovers certainly!
© Louise Dougan; Ambassador to The Whisky Club