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Issue 66 - The heart of the matter

Whisky Magazine Issue 66
September 2007


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The heart of the matter

Dave lets us in on part of his tasting regime

His voice is slightly awry. Strong, yet fragile, it possesses a flawed purity, giving it a welcome honesty. It allows the words to come across more as timeless narratives, nakedly emotional, binding myth and reality. Alasdair Roberts makes the old ballads sound new and therefore stranger than they already are. His own songs have the same quality. Once heard, they are hard to shake off. As a result, Roberts and that old bard Robin Williamson are on heavy repeat as I work.

The binding spell of the music creates new connections in this listener's head. Williamson's “The barley's hum will fuel the tongue”, that must be about whisky.. mustn't it? The same goes for Roberts' ‘Firewater', a song about the impossibility of understanding someone, “how can I ever know you?” he asks, then adds “where is the firewater?” It is this (whisky.. in my reading) which will help him in his task, allowing him to build “our library of aethers”.

It might not be referring to whisky at all, though what any song is ‘about' is always a moot point (though one should never point moots). It is what the reader or listener takes from it which matters. The making personal is the most important element.

How can I ever know you? The song's question nags away.

It's at its heart, it's at the heart of this whisky writing lark. How do we explain this aethereal substance? How can it be categorised? By score, though that's erratic and ultimately meaningless; by database, though that reduces th...

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