Ever since the invention of the electric guitar in the 1930’s there has been a close relationship between the world of music – as originally played by black bluesmen like John Lee Hooker – and the world of whiskey
Right through to the Jack Daniel’s fueled tales of the recently deceased Lemmy – though I would prefer the Mackmyra produced whisky bearing the Motorhead name,
And the alcoholic excesses of Irish band The Pogues who have also entered the Whiskey Hall Of Fame by having a tasty Irish blend named after them from West Cork Distillers,
Whiskey is associated with rock ‘n’ roll.
Meanwhile back in the 80’s a new musical phenomenon exploded on the scene inspired by a plastic box of electronic wizardry and a different type of drug.
The Roland 808 became a central plank in the development of dance music. So much so it has become an iconic instrument almost as revered as Lemmy’s Rickenbacker bass.
There is even a new film released featuring many of the famous artists who used the 808 in making their music.
The ever changing styles of music and drugs means there is an opening for the more traditional forms of intoxication – as the lyrics of The Far East Movement’s hit ‘Like A G6’ show.
A drinking culture obviously exists in the electronically inspired music scene too. A culture that needs to forge a new identity with new brands for it’s own fulfilment.
One company that’s trying to fill that need is 808drinks.
Now to many people – electronic music is soulless and lacks character.
Grain whisky – when it first appeared in the late 1800’s after the invention of the Coffey Still by Irishman Aeneas Coffey – was also similarly derided as ‘The Silent Spirit’ by the dominant distilleries of the time.
Oh how history is cruel on those who don’t adapt.
Grain whisky is the main ingredient in blended whisky which make sales of up to 90% of the market.
The overarching genre of dance music hasn’t reached that dominance over rock – but is did cross over into mainstream as shown by the 1986 Run DMC / Aerosmith hit collaboration.
808 Whisky is also a collaboration between established icons of Scottish Whisky like Jonathan Driver – formerly of Diageo but now at Whyte & Mackay – the massive North British Distillery in Edinburgh and long standing DJ Tommy D who helped create the sounds for many a famous artist.
Being made for a different audience 808 Whisky bucks the trend.
It’s a blended grain whisky.
It has ‘Chill Filtered For Purity’ emblazoned on it’s trendy designer label.
So can it live up to the ‘808 BOOM’ much loved by musicians?
To start with it’s a light straw colour. This is good in my book as there’s no obvious signs of added caramel.
For me – there wasn’t much going on in the nose however – apart from a subtle sweetness and that grainy smell. Again – no real surprise there.
The taste was rather soft – mellow – and surprisingly smooth. I’ve had many a cheap blend that burns your palate on the first mouthful. Not so with 808 Whisky. A delicate well balanced grain taste.
I actually enjoyed the warm feeling as it slid down.
This grain whisky is an easy to drink – inoffensive – light dram.
Many a distilleries standard blend would also fit this description – and they sell in their thousands – so it’s in good company here.
Personally I’d like something a bit more – well – ‘In Yer Face’ to allow me to showcase yet another 808 inspired tune.
But then I’m not part of the core customer profile this whisky is aiming at – which is possibly younger and more experimental than me.
808 Whisky would make an excellent mixer drink due to it’s soft mellow profile.
It would also make an excellent easy to drink shot to fuel your funkiest moves on the dance floor.
808 Whisky may not yet have the iconic status of it’s namesake synthesiser Roland 808 -but it does combine my passion for music and my passion for whiskey in a wonderful way.
I wish 808 Whisky all the best for it’s bold combination and unusual style resulting in an easy to drink smooth and satisfying blended grain whisky.
Now that’s ‘Something Good’ as Utah Saints used to say.
PS I’d just like to thank The Whisky Lady for bringing my attention to 808 Whisky and allowing me to indulge in my musical mayhem whilst enjoying a whisky or two.
Update: Since writing this blog 808 Whisky has morphed into a Single Grain Whisky. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to sample the new expression. Whiskey Nut 8/08/18
Germany is not a country usually associated with whisky manufacture. They do love their whiskies however – and it is one of the top export countries for both Irish whiskey and Scottish whisky companies.
Germany also has a long tradition of distilling – mainly schnapps – but is increasingly turning to whisky.
Germany – shockingly – according to my research – has more whisky distilleries at 250 than Scotland with 115!
So when a friend invited us over to Berlin last weekend – I made it my goal to sample some of the expressions emanating from these German distilleries – I must say – I was very impressed!
My first port of call was to the very extensively stocked Wein Und Spirituosen Center at Tegel – a handy 5 minute walk from the marvelous public transport network Alt-Tegel U-bahn station.
Very friendly staff guided me through their German Whisky range which included tasting a few samples from bottles the shop already had opened for customers to try.
A glass of Glen Els Sherry Cask was tried. Now normally a sherry finish floats my boat – but I found this somewhat lacking – maybe not enough sherry for me?
Slyrs Single Malt provided a much more enjoyable experience. Aged in new American White Oak casks this 3 year old gave a lovely woody aroma with a pleasingly smooth taste for it’s youthfulness. No wonder it has gained awards!
An interesting bottle caught my eye so I requested another sample. The intriguingly named Sloupisti from Spreewalder proved to be an equally fine dram.
Loaded down with my booty I ambled down to Greenwich Parade where The Fisherman’s Restaurant have an outdoor picnic area. I indulged in Fish ‘n’ Chips delightfully overlooking the Tegeler See in the bright sunshine!
After meeting up with friends and been shown round the German Foreign Office enjoying fabulous views of Alexander Platz from the balcony – it was off to Berlins only whisky distillery.
Eshenbrau in Wedding was a fantastic place where many beer and whisky enthusiasts congregate in the outdoor beer garden set in the middle of a housing scheme to enjoy the beverages made only a stone’s throw away. They also served lovely flammkuchen to soak up the alcohol!
A fine range of beers are available all year round with seasonal brews regularly alternating on the menu. They have also started whisky production which I was eager to sample.
The three styles on offer were all a youthful 3 years old;
Pete – aged in American oak,
Charlie – aged in chardonnay casks and
Amber – aged in Spessart German oak for a truly home grown product.
All of them were pleasantly quaffable with a hint of youthfulness but the Amber finally came out tops with rich woody notes and a slightly smoother finish. As the only venue to buy this whisky is at the distillery I duly bought a bottle – as well as the lovely tasting glass.
The rest of my time in Berlin was taken up by the more normal tourist spots – but I was impressed by the range of Irish, Scottish and American whiskeys available in nearly all the restaurants and bars we entered. I took the opportunity to try out a Bulleit Rye whilst dining outside in the trendy Prenzlaur Berg area which despite being a little sweet in comparison to the German expressions – I enjoyed very much.
For whiskey fans Germany has much to offer. The sheer number of whiskey distilleries produce a vast array of styles, finishes and malts that match that of Scotland in terms of taste and quality – although volumes are small by comparison. Independently family owned or craft distilleries are the order of the day supplying local markets so expressions can be hard to track down – but from my experience well worth the effort.