Whisky pouring

It’s interesting, and wonderful, to be in the company of whisky lovers. The air full of the bonhomie and personality that make a whisky show such great fun. There’s also a common trait amongst the enthusiasts; an ingrained appreciation for life’s small luxuries and, ultimately, the understanding that life’s luxuries all take time to reach fruition, and take time still to enjoy fully.

Without getting too “zen” about it all, it can be very satisfying to allow yourself to slow down and relax once in a while, and it is this strange “enlightenment” (too far?) that poses as a very fitting metaphor in James Graham’s latest play, The Whisky Taster.

With a demanding London as a bustling backcloth, Graham’s narrative follows Nicola and Barney, both marketing professionals, attempting to boost sales of a vodka brand.

Nicola, played by Kate O’Flynn, embodies the extroverted, fearless saleswoman persona. Samuel Barnett’s Barney is her polar opposite, whose shy reticence is compensated by the double-edge blade of his synaesthesia: a condition whereby sensory observations manifest themselves as colours.

The story develops as Nicola and Barney call upon the whisky taster – played by John Stahl – who comes decked out as the archetypal Scot; wildly hirsute and clad to the teeth in tartan.

The whisky taster’s attitude is one of patience, and an odd wisdom. He also shares a common bond with the introverted Barney. The play’s underlying message is one of fortitude; whisky, like people, takes its time to reach maturity and whilst perfection is nigh on impossible to reach, it’s the appreciation and understanding of our imperfections that add colour to life.

Graham’s satirical and mildly droll take on modern advertising hardly makes for an original subject, but he counteracts this with a great maxim. The whisky taster’s ultimate contribution to the cause is his perspective, and a very refreshing one it is too.

It’s interesting also that vodka be chosen as a subject in need of a little “enlightenment”, a drink whose success in the marketplace seems all too dependent on branding and placement, and is contrary in so many ways to whisky.

Perhaps to really recognize the value of any luxury is as much about prioritizing life as it is about the objective sensory pleasure. Next time you poor yourself a dram, envelope yourself in it, experience it as best you can and consider the effort that went into; its terroir; the years it spent maturing and the skill that made it. You’ll feel better for it.

You can see The Whisky Taster at the Bush Theatre, running until 20th February 2010. Click Here for more details.

– The Chaps at Master of Malt –