Monday, September 10, 2007

Dear Doctor #1

I've only written one weekend post since February so I will make up for it on this break in the Malt Mission (I am in Canada). It's not for lack of whisky things to write about. I guess it is just that I have been busy and/or lazy...?

So here is Dear Doctor #1.
The first in a possible series of Q&A posts that will see me try to answer your questions.
As it is, I have been doing this for months via email(thanks for your questions, all!), but I think in some cases others would benefit from the info as well, so here we go.
Two recent emails from the UK and Canada.

Hi, Where can I find the story about Johnnie Walker changing striding directions and the impact on sales? Thanks RS

This question had me thinking for days. Did Johnnie turn? When artist Tom Browne sketched the famous striding man character on a napkin in 1908, in which direction was he striding? Is it even consistent from campaign to campaign? After all, Tom Browne died in 1910 and the 'striding man' responsibilities were handed over briefly to Bernard Partridge and Leonard Raven Hill, then Leo Cheney (until his death in 1928), Doris Zinkesen who took Johnnie into the world of colour, Fougasse (Cyril Kenneth Bird) Clive Upton in the post-WWII years, and countless others who seem to have moved Johnnie from cricket pitch to shipyard facing all sorts of directions.

So I looked through some jpegs of old 1920-1950s adverts, looked at some 1980s-current ads in magazines, looked at the bottles here in our flat, looked at bottles online, looked at the Johnnie Walker website, leafed through the books I have, asked friends, whisky industry folks, and fellow bloggers. And waht did I learn? The first striding man image appeared in an advert in The Tatler and the striding man was walking to his right. In others since, he walks to his left.

If anything in the history of Johnnie Walker's advertising has affected sales it is the theme of the advert [golf, cricket, football, support for the war(s), English heritage, literary series, buy British campaigns, etc.), not the direction in which this iconic figure is striding. Great question, though. Thanks!

If you want more info, check out John Hughes' book, "Still Going Strong: A History of Scotch Whisky Advertising" or Gavin D. Smith's "The Whisky Men". If anyone has any other info relevant to this question, let me know!

Hey doc, i've got a question for you: what's up with whisky and food? are they ever paired? i know we're all supposed to have clean, virginal palates when sampling our fancy drams, but damn do i ever sometimes like a whisky and chocolate after dinner. given your liberal approach to whisky appreciation, i thought i'd see what you think. ISM

My quick answer is that there is only one way to drink whisky: any way you want. This sentiment echoes the great Robert Hicks(Ballantines, Teachers, Laphroaig) who is famed for saying (paraphrasing) "Hey mate, you bought it, do what you like with it!" Liberal, indeed.

That being said, I would still suggest that the first time you have any given whisky that you let yourself get to know it first, and the best way to do that is to enjoy it in its natural form, in a good glass (or THIS or THIS). Something with a tapered top is ideal to help concentrate the aromas, but really anything you are comfortable with. Just give the whisky the respect it deserves. You can always disrespect it later with ice, coke, lime, and the saliva of virgins. Then once you know what, say, Auchethoshan 10 tastes like, you can match it with an apple tart or pork rinds or whatever you think it would compliment or would complement it.

Many companies have been pushing the idea of matching whisky and food, as have whisky appreciation societies of all shapes and sizes holding dinners and events to showcase the complimentary nature of boozery and cookery. Whisky Magazine has featured pieces on whisky and food, matching malts with dishes, cooking with whisky, etc. for quite a while now. In Whisky Magazine, back in October 2006 (Issue 58), Ontario-based writer Andrew Coppolino wrote a great article about whether or not whisky was suited to food. His conclusion? Do it. Do it now.

For me, I like something I can fill my mouth with when eating so beer or wine suit me fine. But whisky is such a versatile beverage, it can find a place at every meal. Try it on porridge!

Thanks for emailing, and if you have any questions please don't be shy, ask away! It can be an intimidating whisky world, but it needn't be...

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