Can you be truly passionate about something if that passion isn’t articulated? No, we would argue, but there is a condition. The articulation can’t be in the form of didacticism. Perhaps the purest form of passion is the expression of an opinion that comes with a welcome invitation to start a debate and listen, truly attend, to views given in return.
As an art gallery we find ourselves drawn to a range of interests that provoke genuine and fervent reaction. Where dedicated craftsmanship in the process brings about artistry in the end product and admiration in the hands of its recipient. Acknowledging all the while that someone else may, and is very much entitled, to disagree and occupy that space in their heart with an alternative.
Perhaps one reason why an exploration of whisky makes sense to us is that there's a similarity of pace when it comes to appreciating art. Yes you can down a dram in one, and there are highly consumable forms of art too, but there's so much more to be had from savouring. Trying, thinking and tasting again in an echo of the act of looking, considering and seeing again a piece of art.
Our individual palettes are unique in just the same way as our aesthetic sensibilities differ but the range of approaches when stimulating them is universally accessible. We can choose to play it safe with trusted knowns, take comfort in that feeling of enjoyment, or challenge ourselves, make things a little uncomfortable initially, but kick start the desire/reward response on an altogether higher plain.
“It’s fine to say you don’t like something,” reveals whisky expert James Welton who we welcomed to ArtÓ for our inaugural Burns Night whisky tasting. “It isn’t negative, it just means that those flavours aren’t for you. Instead it opens up new paths to new flavours you're sure to love. So, the next time you're at a tasting, think differently and look for the door to your next favourite flavour.”
“It’s a positive and empowering act to challenge preconceived ideas,” he adds. “Whiskies and wines from accepted regions usually deliver flavours you might expect, though they can still surprise and delight, however it’s taking a step sideways which can truly exhilarate. Who would have thought Starward, a whisky from Melbourne, Australia, could amaze and delight?”
Welton’s odyssey through malts and casks was an exercise in opening minds, not teaching. Perhaps the reason for this is that despite his credentials, Welton places himself on a par with his fellow tasters, introducing rather than explaining each whisky and allowing personal interpretation to season the mood where others might seek to lecture.
Observing him in action is to capture someone himself in the act of watching. Taking the non-intrusive approach and judging when the room is ready for the gentle hand of input rather than leading from the front. Engaging in conversations with individuals or small groups and being receptive to feedback which informs and augments his own knowledge in a spirit of democracy.
An avid traveller, Welton is also an advocate for the impact of circumstances. “The company of friends, the music playing as you enjoy that magic tipple, and the environment around you will seep into your memory,” he enthuses. We couldn’t agree more. To experience a whisky tasting in an art gallery, and one where every piece of art is chosen with feeling, is perhaps the perfect marriage of stimuli.
“Few experiences in life engage all the senses, but tasting an extraordinary wine or whisky certainly falls into that category,” continues Welton. At ArtÓ the full sensory journey matters to us. Our setting incorporates fragrance and greenery. We invite you to encounter art with a soothing or refreshing drink in your hands, to sit down on a warm sheepskin rug and to listen to uplifting music as your eyes wander.
Most of all we invite visitors to engage in conversation, share opinions, find common ground as well as opposing views and learn something in the divergence. Our inaugural whisky tasting couldn’t have been a more logical extension of this attitude and we look forward to more events at ArtÓ where the art of appreciation is explored in the round.
With thanks to whisky expert James Welton
Old Pulteney 12 Year Old
Cragganmore 12 Year Old
Macallan 12 Year Old
Starward Left-Field Single Malt
Cotswolds Founder's Choice
Laphroaig Four Oak