When it comes to whisky, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s a rule-driven old man’s game. Far from the old boys’ club it once was, Diageo, the brand behind Malt whiskies including Lagavulin, Talisker, and Singleton, fused the worlds of fashion, food, and art as part of its Spirited Xchange programme this year.
The Xchange took place as part of Diageo’s Special Releases rollout, which sees limited edition single malts distilled and enjoyed for a unique tasting experience. This year, Culted headed to Glasgow to celebrate the banging brews and see what all the fuss was about. Simply put, rare releases fused unique cask finishes with a craft that honours worldwide communities.
On a rainy night in the Scottish city, we saw The Engine Works, a disused Rolls-Royce factory, transformed by creative agency Something™ into an immersive space of art and culture. Keep reading to see what went down.
Talisker set sail with the “Wild Explorador”
In a cavernous room annexed from the rest of the building, we were greeted by a dimly lit space. The blue-tinted room set the foundations for the nautical journey ahead. We were treated to a display from Boris Chimp, an audiovisual duo from Portugal renowned for merging live performances with graphic installations. We saw the space transformed through an LED display, with nautical sounds interrupted by an electronic musical soundtrack, exploring the beauty of the ocean.
The Wild Explorador is a Talisker inspired by Portuguese exploration, finished in a combination of Ruby, White, and Tawny Port casks, which was drunk neat with an accompanying menu prepared by legendary Lisbon-born chef Nuno Mendes, who served up three dishes inspired by his home country.
First up was wood-grilled blue lobster, served on a skewer, which it delicately clung on to before its buttery flavour unravelled in the mouth. Next up was a barrel-aged broth, perfectly following the last course with its light yet hearty and salty flavours, excellently paired with the musky port-infused Talisker malt. To finish was Portuguese wet rice, which felt like the kind of warm comfort food sailors would crave after time spent at sea – perfectly binding to the warmth of the whisky. The Wild Explorador paired Talisker’s fragrance with an immersive visual, audible, and culinary exploration of all things nautical and nice.
Mendes wanted to weave the coast into the dish, stating that his “greatest cooking inspiration has always been the wonderful products from the Portuguese coast,” adding that he wanted to weave Talisker’s “adventurous spirit” into his creation. For Mendes, the limited edition Talisker “Transported [him] all the way to [his] home.”
Lagavulin took us to the land of Tequila
When it comes to high-quality single-malt Islay Whisky, Lagavulin is a name you’ll hear bandied around a lot. For its Special Release, the legendary brew was finished in Don Julio tequila casks for a Scotland-meets-Mexico twist.
Next up was Nadia Tamez, a Guadalajara-based XR designer and poet Gabriela Jauregui, who took guests on a journey through Mexico. The LED display assumed the role of the modern-day fire-pit, perfect for sharing stories over a crisp dram.
The Lagavulin 12-year-old “The Ink of Legends” release was a perfect marrying of culture presented through the medium of design and literary narration. This boundary-blurring whisky was accompanied by an out-of-this-world culinary exhibit courtesy of Adriana Cavita, who usually showcases her skills at her restaurant, Cavita, in London’s Soho.
As part of the journey, Cavita curated three morish Mexican dishes that perfectly drew out the smoky, woody flavours of the whisky. First up was the charcoal-grilled Chutoro tostada with avocado puree and a macha dressing. It’s safe to say this slapped, perfectly setting us up for what was to come.
What followed could easily be described as a carnivore’s dream: a 50-day aged ribeye memelita with smokey chilli tomatoes, before being rounded off with a palette cleansing poleo and honey granita. The Lagavulin 12-year “Ink of Legends” experience proved that whisky and tequila can go together through its lip-smackingly-satisfying fusion of spice and storytelling.
Singleton put on a silk-filled show
Singleton’s fruity and easy-drinking profile makes it a great dessert whisky. For the final act of the evening, French fashion designer Charles De Vilmorin crafted a silk installation which draped from the ceiling to showcase the layers of lush golden fruit as part of his creation “The Silken Gown.” A wearable tablecloth was worn by a dancer for an avant-garde fusion of food, dance and design.
Charles shared his thoughts on the collection: “The veils of flavour in The Singleton have sparked a desire for me to delve further and explore new realms of design. This one-of-a-kind expression, finished in Chardonnay de Bourgogne French Oak casks, needed its own installation.”
As part of the cross-country collaboration, the warm and fruity Singleton was finished in Chardonnay de Bourgogne French Oak casks for an added layer of French decadence. To pair effortlessly with this opulent desert drink, French chef Louise Bourrat served up a French Christmas Pudding, drawing out the fruitiness of the Chardonnay-infused Singleton for a warm nightcap to end the night on a high.
Diageo’s Spirited Xchange 2023 tore up the whisky rule book, proving that whisky isn’t boring and unchanging, and can be chopped and changed into something unique and exciting. If the Spirited Xchange has wet your whisky whistle, these one-off whiskies are available to purchase in limited quantities on malts.com.
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