Bear with me on this one. We’re well into the 21st Century so this may be a new concept to some and a feeling of rediscovering something put away in your parents closet/attic/basement to others: The letter. Once the pinnacle of constructed communication, I couldn’t attempt to address the letter and its significance by vacuuming the subject into an article such as this. Remember the letter guys? The plain simple basic letter? No, not the “Letter of Intent” or the “Cover Letter” or all the other formal necessities we occasionally write, but rather the letter you weren’t forced to write. The letter that you wanted to write; to whoever about whatever. Remember that? Really taking some time out and thinking about what to say and how to say it? For those of you who have no clue what I am referring to when I speak of the letter, it’s like a mature email where the writer’s personal touch is felt by the reader. How about this: remember when they were handwritten!? For those of you who have no clue what handwritten means, it’s when humans had to pick up a pencil or pen. For those of you who don’t know what… nevermind.
Just try to follow along.
Writing a letter was like cutting the blue, red or green wire. Every decision mattered. How to start? How to transition? What to do, what to do? One mistake with a pencil that had that, for whatever reason, chalky, stain-leaving eraser or worse yet, a mistake with a pen and no whiteout was around (look, if you don’t know what “whiteout” is, use the device that is responsible for your lack of knowledge and search it online), and it was like watching the world crumble around you. Ah… The letter – good ole times.
I kind of feel hypocritical right now as I type this out to you. But hey, I’m spoiled by the times and too fiscally responsible to actually write a truckload of letters that need stamps and envelopes to send for you all to read. Oh, I forgot, if you don’t know what stamps or envelopes are… Anyway, I set all this up to talk about some whisky. That is what you’re here for right? And architecture, can’t forget architecture. But this is about whisky.
It was at a recent whisky event where I was reminded of the power of the letter. What a letter can signify and explicitly convey is a wonderful thing, especially when it leads directly to making some really great whisky.
That event? In a word: Bruichladdich. If you’ve ever had anything from the distillery then, like us, you know how daring and rewarding their expressions are. If you haven’t, then stop reading immediately, go buy some and pick up where you left off reading.
Ok, now that you have some idea of what I am talking about, it will be easier for you to understand where I am coming from. I had the pleasurable experience of running through a couple of the distillery’s offerings – even their gin – at a Masterclass event in Chicago, that even a sample week of Chiberia couldn’t keep me from. The event was hosted by our whisky brethren The Single Malt Alliance and presented by the infectious National Brand Ambassador, Michelle Fedor. As you can imagine, the event treated the attendees to a smorgasbord of delicious samples, which included, but were not limited to, the Classic Laddie, Black Art, and the infamous Octomore. Because I trust you have now tasted something from the distillery, I won’t even get into the details to make you envious. Plus it allows me some time to make sense of all the letter mumbo jumbo I started this article with.
I knew I was going to consume some good whisky that night, but I was not expecting a wonderful story about how this whisky came about. As important as the drams were, so too was the story Michelle told of Bruichladdich. On par with overtly romantic flicks such as the Lake House, or Dear John, as well as inspiring films such as War Horse, it is the story of a man who was persistent in professing his desires towards Bruichladdich through one form of communication: letters. That persistence resulted in the Bruichladdich we know today. So, to prevent myself from butchering the storytelling of seasoned speakers like Michelle, and to leave something for you to look forward to when you attend one of their Masterclass sessions, I will try my best, to sum-up a component of the story and continue on.
As the story goes (I say it as if it is not only about 30 years ago and more like the legend from 3000 years ago) the acquisition of the current Bruichladdich distillery was the result of years of letter writing. Good ole fashioned letter writing. It was over the course of a decade that, founder and former CEO Mark Reynier of the current Bruichladdich, would write an annual letter to the former owners, professing his love of the whisky and his hopes to purchase the then defunct distillery. Years of consistent letter writing paid off when finally his wishes came true. The consistency of the personal letters showed more than business intent but created an anthology of interest, care and determination.
Though technically not a traditional letter, we here at W+A still remember the power of letter writing – especially for whisky. So to continue that tradition, as well as to follow Mr Reynier’s lead, I will end this piece with a letter to the fine lad that is Bruichladdich.
Simply put: thank you. Thank you for the variety or vivacious expressions that you have given to the whisky community. Expressed as more than a distillery, every component of Bruichladdich is an example of a leading brand. The whisky experience is carried through from your eye-catching use of colors on your packaging, confident typeface and bold font, to the magical bottle design that stands out in a room full of scotches. Thank you for realizing that even though one may not be able to see inside the packaging (Black Art and Octomore), we all know the goodness that rests within. Thank you for trying to offer something new for whisky enthusiasts to test their palate capabilities, while still giving deliciously approachable expressions. Thank you for helping to lead the way in those aspects of whisky enjoyment. Thank you for your great brand ambassadors that carry your torch and enrich our enjoyment. W+A is grateful for what you have done for the whisky culture and for what you continue to do. Not as if the encouragement is needed, but keep on wowing us with the scotch that comes out of that Islay distillery resurrected by Mark Reynier and the accompanying Port Charlotte facility. If you promise to do so we promise to keep engaging in your events, grabbing your bottles, enjoying your drams, and spreading the word.
From one whisky lad to another,