Once upon a time there was a malt based distillate named Whisky. Whisky lived in Scotland, it did have various family members scattered about the world but for the purposes of narrative efficiency Whisky lives in Scotland. It was very happy with its life in Scotland, it was made from barley malted on long, cool malt floors, finely milled and slowly mashed before being fermented in large wooden vessels over several days and then distilled carefully in flame heated copper stills by Scottish men who looked about 25 years older than they actually were. Finally, whisky was laid to rest in hefty oak casks where it would slumber quite contently for several years at a time – or longer – in big, pleasingly dank, earthen floored warehouses.
Life was good for Whisky, it was full of ups and downs and the ups always seemed to balance out the downs. For every drunkenly abused housewife in some grotty tenement there was moment of great kinship forged by siblings or friends over a few drams. For all the sore heads there were moments of great mental nourishment and whisky-fired intellect. And for all the excess there was appreciation and love.
Life continued in this fashion through the decades for Whisky, it dawdled along contentedly, it began to be appreciated around the world but its heart remained in Scotland. But then, the 1970s arrived and something sinister began to happen…
…ok, so a lot of sinister things happened in the 1970s. But something else was happening, Whisky began to feel strange things happening all around it. One night, while sitting in a bottle in an office in London, Whisky met the accountant. “What are we going to do with you Whisky?” said the accountant. Whisky wasn’t sure what to say at first, not least because it was a metaphorical construct and not used to being directly addressed by men in suits who weren’t dishevelled, weeping and had recently visited a prostitute and/or been fired. “What do you mean?” ventured Whisky, “Drink me seems the obvious answer here?”
“Well, of course you would say that.” mused the accountant, “But what are we going to do about you? Of course we want people to drink you – I mean goodness me they’re clamouring for you, in just a few years you should be the toast of the globe. But you’re just too damn pesky to make? Too slow, too expensive. What can we do about that?”
“Well, I suppose I could ferment a bit quicker if you like?”
“Ah, ok, I like it…and?”
“And? Well… I could possibly be made from different barley or sleep in more active casks. But – to be honest with you – I’d really rather not.”
“Ah come on now Whisky.” Said the accountant draping an encouraging arm around Whisky’s bottle which looked really weird. “You’re a tough entity, you’ll be fine. A little tinkering here and there won’t change you. And besides, we really need you to take one for the team on this one, come on, things will be good all round for everyone – including you. Just think of all the people that would get to enjoy you if we could just make a bit more of you.”
“I suppose…” mumbled whisky while really trying to evade the accountant’s armpit.
Things got strange for whisky after that meeting. It began to feel rushed, then soon exhausted. Began to loose weight and not long after caught sight of itself in a glass and saw a shadow of its former character glistening back. Things continued in this vein for quite some years. By about the year 2000 Whisky met its good friend Wine at some sort of very strange party in a small village in Alsace. Whisky found itself nestling in the cold winter air on a little table in some guys garage. Beside it stood a large trough of something called ‘foie gras’ which turned out to be a kind of cement for gluing internal human organs together. Someone placed a big bottle of Riesling down next to Whisky. “What’s the matter whisky, you look pretty dishevelled.” enquired Riesling with a sturdy, Germanic lilt. “I’m just not feeling my usual self lately, I’m exhausted and they make me wear this really heavy suit made out of oak.”
“Man, that sucks. What are you going to do about it?”
“I don’t know there’s not much I can do.” said Whisky morosely. “Ah nonsense, you just need to go find the Whisky Wizard, meet your maker and have your complaint heard.”
“But how do I do that?”
“I don’t know, but it sounds like you could have a highly amusing adventure trying. Anyway, you’ll have to excuse me, I’m about to be ingested by some exceedingly stereotypical French people.”
From that moment onwards Whisky decided to set off on a mission to find the Whisky Wizard. It would be a great search, far and wide across mountains, valleys, oceans and forests. Through cities dark and deep, across vast, endless plains. Or at least it would have been if Whisky hadn’t bumped into the Whisky Wizard in a hip flask on a Grouse moor the following morning.
“So you’re the Whisky Wizard?” enquired Whisky of the sharply dressed gentleman. “Ah, no, I’m afraid I’m the Whisky Walrus, you’ve got me confused with someone else. My name’s Rory, but we do already know each other rather deeply I must confess.”
Rory the Whisky Walrus. Just add whisky to activate.
“Oh, right. Yes, come to think of it rather a lot of me has been intimately acquainted with you over the years. Do you know where I can find the Whisky Wizard”
“I’m not so sure I do, who is this Whisky Wizard of which you speak? Are you sure you don’t mean that outfit David Stewart wears when he reads Harry Potter?”
“No, I’ve been told to find the Whisky Wizard, that only he can help me with my predicament.”
“Whatever is the matter Whisky?”
“Well I’ve just not been feeling myself these past few decades. I’ve been run down, out of sorts, all vanilla and no soul.”
“Ah, well I didn’t like to say but I had noticed something was up. I’d say that you really don’t need to see this Whisky Wizard but rather take the matter up with someone really influential who can fight your cause for you.”
At which point, completely out of nowhere and totally uninvited this chick just shows up…
Ho ho hold me back!
“Whisky! You seem like you’re in vogue and have a cause! Lets work together, you and me, I’m Victoria by the way, lets get things going. What you need is a charter, that and I should probably be in a position of power. Perhaps minister for Pubs or Chief Gynaecologist to Nicola Sturgeon. That would help you along your merry way, I’ll get this sorted, just you leave this to me. I’ve got you covered, you can trust me. Just sign this charter!”
“Fuck off!” said the Whisky Walrus, although Victoria appeared not to be listening. “Yeah listen we need to galvanise the young drinkers, get the world involved, sort out those English bastards and get you in some seriously sexy cocktails. Perhaps glass is so last tuesday, plastics where it’s at! Lets sort this, together we can fight off the Japs and the Yanks and the Irish and the Mexicans and the English – did I mention them already- and the Swedes and…”
At which point in the proceedings Whisky just gave Victoria a massive amount of cash and this seemed effective at making her go away…
It’s a highly effective strategy.
Whisky was forlorn now. It felt sadder and more lonely than ever, even though it was now a rather large multinational product it felt cold, clumsy and superficial – like penguin in high heels. Whisky was all but lost when two almost interchangeable figures appeared before it. “Who are you guys?” asked Whisky disinterestedly.
Good luck with the whole sleep thing now.
“We’re Noella and Joella – the evil step sisters.” said Noella and Joella the evil step sisters in chilling unison. “We’re here to help you Whisky.”
“Ok, you’ll forgive my reticence but it’s just that I can’t help noticing you referred to yourself as the ‘evil’ step sisters.”
“That’s right, we ARE the Evil Step Sisters. But we are still here to help you.”
“Is there any chance you could stop speaking in perfect unison, it’s not really helping with the whole ‘evil’ thing.”
“Ok, fine.” Said Joella. “Tell Whisky why we’re here Noella.”
“Whisky, we’ve heard about how fed up you are. What you need is a concrete brand implementation and awareness strategy. You need to be out there, focusing on your core message and structural brand diffusion across key markets. You need to embrace the flavour-led, innovation and concept driven delivery system of our branding strategy and you need us on your side and on your telly. No messing about here baby, one horizon at a time. Now can we take a selfie with you?”
Whisky, who was temporarily incapacitated by the full force of their clothing, groggily agreed to their suggestions and decided to go along with their ideas. That is until Noella and Joella presented Whisky with their bill for services which included several hair cuts, a subscription to ‘The Chap’ magazine, fourteen Space Hoppers, a novelty Christmas jumper, an early 1970s Moog synthesiser, enough personal lubricant to slide an elephant through a windsock and several copies of ‘How To Rim Friends And Take Selfies With Z-List Celebrities”.
“Look girls, I know you mean well – even though you do call yourselves ‘evil’ – but I think I just need to figure this one out myself. Besides, I’m exhausted by all the marketing. I think I need to just continue my quest for the Whisky Wizrd.”
“Oh you don’t need the Whisky Wizard.” Said Noella, “What you need is the Whisky Santa. I can even introduce you, he’s in my band, Prince AbuDhabi And The Hipsters.”
“Well that would be nice, although is he not exceptionally busy right now? What with it being Christmas eve and all?”
“Oh it’s ok, he works for Diageo so he has a number of subordinates to control and manage all festive retail-based gifting processes.”
With that Whisky and the Evil Step Sisters parted ways and Whisky soon found itself in the company of the Whisky Santa himself, drinking Whisky in the form of a Lagavulin 16 year old and tuning/fondling his guitar.
Come and sit on Santa’s knee little malt based distillate…
“So you’re the Whisky Santa?” enquired Whisky cautiously. “Yes, I am. Although if you want a Whisky themed Christmas present it will have to be a Diageo brand.”
“It’s ok, I am Whisky so I kind of have it all covered really.”
“What seems to be getting you down then?”
“Well, I just feel rubbish, I don’t think I’m as good as I used to be and I’ve been looking for the Whisky Wizard but no one seems to know where to find him and apparently he can fix everything for me. But to be honest all I’m feeling is frustration and despair. And I’ve had no time at all to do any Christmas shopping which is also annoying as the shops are like the Somme at this time of year.”
“Well, I can tell you for one thing that the Whisky Wizard does not exist. Just like Jesus and actual Santa – or indeed your own consciousness – they are all loosely constructed metaphors given shape by legend, human imagination and our own very real and desperate need to find meaning in this unfathomably complex, terrifying and exhilarating world. And when we cannot find that meaning we compensate by constructing our own or transposing it onto pre-existing entities and ideas.”
“So, you’re saying I’m not real so I should’t worry?”
“No, you’re pretty much the manifest anxiety of all the people who genuinely care about whisky and want it to be as good as it could – and probably should – be.”
“Right. Shit! That’s a lot to take in on Christmas eve, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to enjoy the Doctor Who Christmas special tomorrow any more.”
“The important thing is to find the glimmers of hope, like this Lagavulin 16 for example. For all the Talisker Storms and Glenlivet Founder’s Reserves there is still this Lagavulin 16. I made a big effort to make sure this stays where it is and wasn’t replaced by some faceless vatting of 5-10 year old. It’s a small battle won in a much bigger fight but it matters.”
“So what’s the answer. If I’ve been forged into reality from the mental anguish of all the people that decry falseness, arrogance, laziness, self-brainwashing and lies in whisky then wouldn’t that suggest that the war is lost. That whisky is dead and I am but it’s ghost?”
“No, I wouldn’t say so. I’d say – if you’ll permit me to use your Doctor Who reference for a moment – that all you need is a new lease of life, to regenerate and be harnessed by new people with better ideas and real interest. It’ll take time but you’ve been around for a long time. You’ll still be here for years to come, and even if vast oceans of you are little more than vanilla dosed, neutral spirit, there will always be the small resistors. The ones who stand firm against the tide of acquiescence to deluded market self-interest.”
“Hmmm, I suppose I feel a little better. Although I’m still not sure how I feel about not really actually existing.”
“Just think how Jesus, actual Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost, Death, Satan, Jill Bumsden, Zwarte Pete and Jonny Five from Short Circuit feel.”
“So what do I do now, it’s Christmas Eve and in a minute you’ll be off somewhere else and I’ll be all alone again.”
“I suppose you could think about all the places you’ll be spreading joy this time of year, all the people that will be raising a glass of you with friends and family, all the people you’ll be consoling, bringing out of their shell, adding the warm icing to a night of festivity. All the special bottles getting cracked open, all the company they bring together around you, all the flames of wit and warmth that will be ignited by your enigmatic spark. You’ll be in their company just as they will be in yours, and always have been.”
“Well, when you put it like that, I suppose that’s not too bad. Merry Christmas Whisky Santa.”
“Please just call me Nick, it’s getting weird. And I should probably go before someone comes in and finds me sitting in an empty room talking to my glass. Again!”
Merry Christmas Humans!
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