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This is the first of a series of special edition whisky discussions that I am doing to celebrate the upcoming Three Choirs Festival. In July 2022 which this year will be in the wonderful city of Hereford. An amazing festival that has been running across Gloucester, Worcester and Hereford cathedrals for more than 300 years. For the next few weeks I will be picking out certain pieces that are to feature at the festival and choosing one of my choice home drams to pair with it.

This week is Quo Vadis by George Dyson (the composer not vacuum cleaner).

The work was originally written for the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford in 1939, but had its first performance cancelled due to the outbreak of WWII, and was only given its première in Hereford 7 years later. The work is further subtitled ‘A Cycle of Poems’, and charts one's journey through life and the afterlife, using a tapestry of poems from the greats including Wordsworth, Walter Raleigh, Blake, George Herbert, Shelley and many more.

It is exciting to have the piece back at the festival this year, performed in it's original form on Monday 25th July, find out more here.

The whisky I have chosen to pair with this extensive and substantial piece is a Talisker whisky, one of my favourite and most versatile whiskies originating from the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

Vital statistics: This version of Talisker is named Talisker Skye it was first released in early 2015, named after the beautiful island from where it comes. It is matured in a combination of refill and toasted American oak casks, with a slightly higher proportion of toasted casks. Probably introduced alongside the better known Talisker 10 as a non aged statement whisky perhaps as whisky demand in recent years has forced whisky distilleries to change their model of releasing. It has an ABV of of 45.8%.

Appearance: Is a dark caramel colour like stewed apples, tor the syrup for tarte tatin. The legs leave a distinct line on the side of the glass, it is a semi viscous consistency, suggesting perhaps some oil richness that will linger on the palate when you taste it.

Nose: The aroma of the dram is immediately apparent, rum and raisin to me, fresh citrus notes, definitely heading towards a lovely Christmas cake., with an over tone of a salty breeze as if one is at the coast, perhaps my imagination as I love the coast in Scotland so much.

Flavour: The opening flavour is strong and spicy, you get a dual tone of flavour with this Talsiker, lower notes of sea salt and almost brine on the edge of tongue and a softer note of caramel in the middle. As the dram expands it can hit a little harshly at the back of the throat with a slightly peaty note (please add a drop of water as an option), but as the dram is consumed you are left with a warm note across your chest, like cosying up by the fire in winter, or lying in the sun on a summers afternoon. The whisky is a great palate cleanser enticing you to take another sip if you dare.

Summary: This is a whisky that will always be on my whisky shelf. It has a wonderful combination of sea salt and caramel which is one of my favourites in a whisky. I feel this is therefore a wonderful whisky to pair with Quo Vadis; a piece designed to achieve visionary heights, it is an ultimately a whisky that creates a deep vivid vision and has a complex set of flavours to fill the imagination. Quo Vadis, with colourful orchestration and fine melodies, charts our journey through life and the afterlife, philosophically Talisker is a whisky I would take with me through this life and beyond... And as a work of 90 mins and 9 movements I would take the whole bottle with you now.

Here I share the 5th movement of the work which gives a wonderful sense of the piece as a whole; with beautiful serene soloistic and chorus passages alongside sublime orchestral writing.