More and more often whisky is finding itself thrown into interesting partnerships and events. I imagine – if you were to ask whisky – it would likely comment that this is a good thing, given how bored it must be at being featured in ads where the fireplace and tartan are a prerequisite and the drinkers fully bearded and armed with walking canes.
Of the events I have attended of late, I’m sure whisky would have been very appreciative to have been a part, getting the chance to put on its glad rags and show itself off to younger folk who appreciate it for different reasons.
This has notably been the case in a launch of a blended whisky that has been created through the collaborative efforts of one funky whisky company, one former A&R man and one whisky-loving musician. The players? Master of Malt, CaskStrength Creative and Carey Willetts (former Athlete bass player and now solo artist). The whisky? Boxes Blend.
You see, Carey got a taste for good old whisky due to his manager Ian’s influence back when he was touring with Athlete, always ensuring it was on the roster of items requested for his dressing room (a much more normal request than, say, Lady Gaga who allegedly requests a mannequin with pink pubic hair). Often, other bands would come back and share the whisky with the group, leading to much camaraderie.
“There was always a lot of sharing and then, after a few, a lot of hugging,” commented Carey at the launch. “We’d line up a bunch of whiskies and you would drink your way to one end and then drink your way back and you kind of just kept going.”
Now to fill you in on how we get from the point where Carey is consuming whisky in a dressing room to the point where he is speaking about his own whisky release, you need to add in the factor of one Joel Harrison – of Caskstrength Creative fame – who is a former A&R manager and friend of Carey. The two have known each other since Joel attempted to try representing his band back when Joel was still a teenager, and he introduced Carey to Master of Malt so they could begin concocting the release.
“The whiskies I generally like are a little bit sweet. I wanted something that people could drink that wasn’t just something that 5% of the world would like – something fairly smooth, fairly sweet with a bit of smoke at the end,” explained Carey.
The whisky is named after Carey’s new solo project – Boxes – through which he released his first EP last year called Stickers. We were lucky enough to be entertained by him on the night and I can confirm that copious amounts of whisky drinking has not harmed his voice in the least – he was a pleasure to listen to.
So, what did I think of the whisky?
To start, it’s a lovely golden honey colour in the glass which makes it very attractive. The nose is appealing with hints of honey, butter, vanilla, pears (and pear skins especially) along with a background note of a soft, subtle smoke. On the palate, it is quite light to start with melted white sugar, early-on cake batter (eggs, vanilla, sugar) and a touch of smoke to give it some backbone. There is more smoke on the finish than expected which gives it nice body and a final hint of grassy bitterness to end things off.
I enjoyed Boxes Blend – it is one that can be drunk neat with no need to mix. It’s probably not my favourite blend, but for me that comes from the finish as anything that has a slightly bitter note tends to put me off as I find myself more and more sensitive to that taste. Others among you will, almost certainly, find this hardly noticeable and it doesn’t take away from the fact it’s well structured and extremely appealing on the nose. In general, I think it is an intriguing project – like so many that Master of Malt and CaskStrength Creative seem to be involved with – and I have no doubt whisky feels happy to have been spiced up through such an interesting collaboration as this.