A Dram Good Time With...
In our opinion the association between Jack Daniels and rock is old and tired and that’s why Simply Whisky feels compelled to re-introduce whisky into the music scene by profiling contemporary bands talking about their interest, opinion and experience of single malt whisky.
Simon of Simply Whisky caught up with New York based singer-songwriter Angel Deradoorian during her recent mini-tour of the UK. Angel is a very busy lady, as well as being in experimental rock band Dirty Projectors, she has also recently collaborated with Bjork and was chosen by Animal Collective to perform at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival they curated in May 2011. Her solo music can be described as healing, easy listening and nu-jazz. I also hear a smattering of soul against an ethereal backdrop that is at times reminiscent of early trip hop with an occasional classical bent.
“My first drink ever was rum and orange juice and it was fucking gross.”— Angel
Sitting down in a bar that resembles a Swedish sauna I suggest to Angel that before we begin the interview we drink a whisky, and so I proffer a nice glass containing a Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, 46% ABV finished in a port cask. Knowingly Angel comments that 'presumably it will have a sweet, or semi-sweet finish to it' which I confirm albeit with a little surprise. Angel appears to know her whisky. Taking a sip her next comment is "wow!" and so we appear to be off to a good start.
Christmas day, every day!
Dae ye ken?
Glenmorangie means "Glen of Tranquillity" in Gaelic. The Matherson brothers founded the distillery in 1843 using second-hand swan necked stills from a gin distillery. They are exactly 16 feet 10¼ inches tall (5.14 metres) making them amongst the tallest stills in Scotland
Ruby port finish
You’re immediately transported to a traditional Christmas dinner party
Rich, dark chocolate enrobed walnuts lemon rose jelly texture of Turkish delight
Lingering memories of dark minty chocolate with the effervescence of orange
The Glenmorangie distillery maintains the tradition of only employing 16 Men, who work around the clock, all year round, only stopping for Christmas & essential maintenance!
In the context of you and your music when did you come of age?
'What does that mean? I guess I don’t really know totally what that means?' Angel replies, and so taking a wee dram myself I clarify by questioning when she felt her musical ambitions started to be fulfilled, or when she felt as though she was on her way…? ‘Eh, never!’ she laughs, ‘Never!’ So is that to say that you think you are still growing into your music? ‘Yeh, definitely, I don’t think you ever stop. I mean I became a professional musician about five years ago, but I’ve been playing music since I was five years old, its always been a part of my life and a huge process of working on getting somewhere with it but to me music takes your entire life so you really do have to keeping working at it and never think you have reached your peak because there is no possible way of doing that.'
What is the best moment you have experienced musically, and how did you celebrate. What did you drink?
‘Ooh, best moment I experienced musically?… (she pauses)... well in my younger age before I was doing music professionally I was a bigger fan of music and I think one of my favourite experiences musically was seeing Radiohead live, it was an amazing experience. When you know all the songs of these bands, and of a band that you really love, and then you get to go see them perform, and you can just be right there with them, that was a great experience. I was too young to drink at that point.’
What year was this then? ‘Pfff, I don’t even know. It must have been like seven years ago, 04-ish?’ she reflects. Respectful, but slightly suspicious of Angel’s abidance by U.S. drinking laws I quiz her on whether being too young to drink meant that she didn’t drink? ‘I didn’t, not too much! Well, I started drinking a little bit when I was 16.’ What did you start by drinking? ‘My first drink ever was rum and orange juice and it was fucking gross’ she laughs ‘it was terrible and I did get drunk!’ Aye, that would be the rum…but I wonder when you first had a whisky? Considering this question carefully Angel ‘mmmm’s’ and then with a ‘phew’ recollects ‘I don’t know, probably at a bit of an older age and it became my drink, definitely, it was the one I was most in love with’ she admits with an audible intake of breath,
“but recently it has become a little difficult for me to drink whisky.”
Slightly concerned I ask why?
‘Maybe it is just Jameson, from being on tour and having Jameson on your rider every single night. The flavour has a specific emotion and period of time which I don’t really wanna ingest anymore. It’s kind of done with and it makes me feel a little ill, not to say that’s what that time was when I was drinking it, just that it represents such a repetitive motion and flavour to me that I’m a little over it right now.’ Well, too much of anything can be a bad thing. ‘Definitely’ she muses.
Hopefully tonight I have a couple of whiskies for you that are different in terms of flavour than the Jameson, ‘definitely, already!’ which is perhaps a nice time to have another sip (of the Glenmorangie) and tell me what you think of this whisky?
‘To me it is very smooth but it has a nice little after burn. It’s a little smokey, is it a scotch whisky? It is. ‘Em, it kind of has a honey type flavour to me and it is a little more rounded than scotch whiskies that I’m used to. It is sweet, like port.’ You are describing it very well! ‘Yeh?, thank you!’
So is this (the whisky) something that you like, are you enjoying it? ‘I do enjoy this a lot, it is very nice’ Angel tells me. Different from the Jameson? ‘Very different from the Jameson, it is much more high end tasting to me.'
George Orwell, author of 1984, travelled to the Island of Jura for creative respite, which drink enhances your creativity and is your writing companion?
‘Wow! I wouldn’t say it was a drink, but something I smoked instead (laughing)’. Angel continues ‘Erm, I do get along well with vodka. Aah, I do enjoy whisky but it is when, I don’t know, it is not a very creative drink for me. No drink is really in a creative time. I prefer to be sober for the most part.’
If you were a drink what would it be, and why?
‘I probably would be around the scotch whisky realm, a little dark and a little light’ she laughs. ‘Yeh, something that is more bold. I’ve always considered myself to be a no bull-shit kind of person and because of that I’ve always decided to take my drinks pretty straight up. Black coffee for the most part, whisky and ice, most drinks not mixed with anything else, but that is my perception of myself, that is not other people’s perception of me.’
We could test your perception of yourself by introducing you to an Islay whisky? I suggest. The Lagavulin 16 is known for it’s no bullshit approach to its taste and flavour. ‘Great!’
I pour Angel a measure while at this point the music in the club gets louder making it a little harder to hear ourselves speak. The whisky you are drinking is the lagavulin 16 and I see that your eyes have just hit the sky. ‘Yeh!’ she agrees.
The Lagavulin 16 is quite medicinal, strong in flavour and aroma, reminiscent of peat smoke. Some of the whiskies from Islay can be a bit like a smack in the face, I suggest. Deep in the moment of her dram Angel exclaims ‘Wow!’ and then again ‘WOW!’
A powerful, bear-hug of peat
Dae ye ken?
The name means "Strange Horse of Suinabhal". Traditionally there has been legal battles with neighbour Laphraoig over rights to the water course
American oak bourbon barrels
Massive peat. Ultraintense iodine carries a shade more spice than of old. The fruity-sherry notes are clean, vanilla is much deeper. Beautifully layered. Lapsang Souchong and fruity sherry
Oily, grassy, and, in particular, salty notes emerge in a long, sustained, aggressive, attack. Peat so thick you could stand a spoon in it
Long and lingering. A huge, powerful, bear-hug of peat
The aristocrat of Islay whiskies, it has an unmistakable powerful peat-smoke aroma. The distillery dates from 1816 and like all those on Islay was built on the shoreline to make possible the easier receipt of supplies and dispatch of whisky in small coastal vessels
I decide to give her a moment to enjoy this one... before asking her how she feels? With affirmation Angel comments ‘this one is like kind of manic depressive tasting.’ I laugh, a little shocked. She continues ‘it feels more transparent than the last one in the sense that its, to me, one flavour then another flavour and there is not much of a complexity to it.’ Could you describe it as being a bit blunt for your taste? ‘It is blunt!’ she agrees. Too much so I ask? Pondering this point ‘I think its probably not something you would want to sip on all night but it does have its power, yeh, its very soft in the beginning and then just punches you in the face in the end!’
I suggest to Angel that perhaps she wouldn’t be an Islay whisky, maybe a whisky from a different region of Scotland, one that has more complexity, and one that we have still to discover. Angel counters ‘mmm, its nice though; its almost like a clear alcohol to me, almost like vodka but not as sour. I like it. I do like it.’
Do you have any favourite people that reference the enjoyment of alcohol; authors, poets or people you have met?
As a fan of Robert Burns I decide to share a poem called ‘Scotch Drink’ as I feel it perfectly describes my enjoyment of whisky.
“Food fills the wame, an' keeps us leevin;
Tho' life's a gift no worth receivin,
When heavy-dragg'd wi' pine an' grievin;
But, oil'd by thee,
The wheels o' life gae down-hill, scrievin,
Wi' rattlin glee.”
‘Ooooh!’ Angel remarks with glee. I then translate the stanza as follows:
Food fills the belly, and keeps us living;
Although life is a gift not worth receiving,
When heavy dragged with pine and grieving;
But oiled by you,
The wheels of life go down hill, careering,
With rattling glee.
Casting her thoughts back a few years Angel concludes that ‘the only person that comes to mind is one of my old band mates who was very into writing about the effects of alcohol on himself, and how it was kind of destroying him but he was addicted to it.’
I acknowledge that some people seem to use whisky for more negative reasons in life and that I guess whisky as a drink has both good and bad connotations. ‘Yes, I would think that’ Angel accedes to which I counter that hopefully for her there are more positive connotations than negative. ‘Yeh, I don’t feel as though I am an addict of any sort, I feel like I am able to enjoy every flavour of alcohol’ she laughs lighthearted again. ‘Not too many artists that come to mind, though, that reference alcohol, no.’
When was the last time you said to yourself (about a drink) ‘It will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine…?
‘I do have one, and I wouldn’t even be able to tell you. Good reference!’ (Angel and I share a mutual appreciation for Wayne’s World.) Quizzing herself Angel tries to remember ‘what the hell was in this drink? I had it at this bar called Hotel Delmano in Brooklyn, its on north 9th and berry and they have an amazing selection of all alcohol, like this bar is well equipped and knows what they are doing, and I had a nice cocktail, it had elderberry in it I believe and maybe a clear alcohol, I almost want to say gin, but maybe not, and a little bit of lemon. It just was this beautiful light, aromatic flavour, almost like an essential oil but much sweeter. I really enjoyed that drink!’
Did this drink had whisky in it? ‘It did not have whisky in it, I did recently have, and I do really enjoy drinking a Manhattan.’ I explain that the Manhattan is my favourite cocktail. ‘Yes’ Angel agrees ‘it is a very nice drink. Or an old fashioned but that is like a rye whisky.’ I admit that I didn’t know Angel had so much knowledge about her spirits. ‘Yeh well when it comes to food and drink, I feel like I’m into it! Yup!’
Your EP was titled ‘Mind Raft’. For me that conjures up images of being adrift in my imagination. Whisky fires my imagination while its aroma is passed via the olphactory nerves directly to the lower brain (the limbic system), the earliest part of our mind to evolve and the seat of our emotions. What emotions does whisky bring to your mind?
‘Interesting…’ Angel replies. ‘Whisky, I think it kind of spans a broad spectrum for me, usually I’m pretty happy with it though, so it is a peaceful one.’ Pausing for thought she adds ‘I feel pretty level for the most part emotionally with this drink, unlike tequila which makes me very, very dark and very sad. Whisky is definitely one drink that gets me a little bit energized, happy and social I would say. Those are my initial feelings with it.’
What is your future whisky journey?
Countering this question with her own she smiles and replies ‘my future whisky journey?’ as if dancing over her words. Do you see yourself trying more whiskies? ‘Well, I’m always down to try something new, there are little scotch whisky tastings near my house that I’m interested in going to, I’m always interested in the artisanal drink as opposed to the commercial alcohol that you are often given for the most part. I like to know what people are putting their work and time into, and so whatever that may be, I mean, I’m into having a whisky tasting if anyone is down to initiate that session’ she closes out laughing.
Well, on that note I will give you another dram (I gift Angel a wee bottle of the Welsh Penderyn for her to enjoy in her own time). ‘Well, alright! Thank you.’ Thank you Angel for a great interview, your knowledge of drink and your approach to it has impressed me greatly. ‘Wow, thank you. Alright…one more dram!'