Diageo hosts a ‘Spirited Xchange’ with artists and chefs to celebrate 2023’s Special Releases
In Mesoamerican mythology, fire was integral to an understanding of the world, an intrinsic part of all living things. An indispensable part of feasts, rituals and worship, dancing tongues of flame and thick, pungent smoke would combine to engulf the senses, creating a portal to another world through which offerings could be transported to the gods. The element was both creator and destroyer, simultaneously marking the beginning and end of life. Today, that connection to fire is still prevalent in Mexican culture, from its spiritual traditions to its food and drink – think of the charcoal tang of Pasilla de Oaxaca chillies, or the back-of-the-throat flare of mezcal.
It’s this celebration of fire that serves as the inspiration behind Lagavulin’s release of a Mexican-inspired whisky as part of Diageo’s Special Releases 2023. Named ‘The Ink of Legends’, it’s an inspired cross-cultural exchange which marries the peaty burn of a fine Scotch with the smoky patina of Don Julio Añejo Tequila. At the launch, a menu from chef Adriana Cavita highlighted the myriad ways fire can be used in Mexican cuisine, from grilled Chutoro to Ribeye memelita. Cavita said that she was drawn to cooking as a “very ephemeral art”. It’s a way of connecting, a social bond that holds us all together in a moment, no matter how well we know each other.
As we ate, writer Gabriela Jauregui told guests about the story of Citlali, an alternate interpretation of the goddess of Agave. In this evocative reimagining, the union of food, drink and people became a ceremony, a ritual of rhythm, ritual, and patience. “There’s an expression: to watch paint dry,” Jauregui explained. “Well to me, more than boredom, that expression relates to connection: watching the leaves move on the trees, the clouds in the sky, being present enough to feel the pain or joy of others, even if they are half the world away – that kind of connection seems especially relevant in the world today.” In Mexican culture, food is an essential part of the cultural fabric, inextricable from storytelling, and Jauregui recalled stories told to her as a child at her grandparents’ dinner table, shiny-eyed and full of awe. “Stories and food are profoundly linked for me: they are culture and memory.”
The backdrop against which guests ate and listened was a tableau created by Nadia Tamez, which took inspiration from ancient Mexican fire pits. For Tamez this union of food, drink and people, of countries and traditions, represents “the blending of cultures, traditions, and flavors” that these partnerships engender. She emphasised the diverse connections that arise from this unique fusion of Scotch whiskey and Mexican tequila, highlighting “the spirit of collaboration across borders” that this cross-pollination affords. “Through connection,” she told us “we can bring together distinct elements to produce something extraordinary, fostering a sense of appreciation and unity that transcends geographical and cultural differences. And it’s a reminder that, in the world of art and technology, the power of connection can yield remarkable and innovative results.”
Throughout Special Releases 2023, this spirit of connection acts as a lodestar, a guiding principle that threads through food, drink and performance. We see it in Talisker’s ‘Wild Explorador’; a whisky finished in Port casks inspired by the Portuguese coast. Chef Nuno Mendes presented a menu inspired by the unexpected moments of commonality that exist between Portugal and Scotland. While tasting the Talisker, he explains: “I was transported to Portugal and to the flavours of the seafood, various seaweeds and spices. I tasted those first in the whiskey – it paved the way to the creation of my dish, one which shares an ingredient of pristine quality celebrated in both countries: the amazing Scottish Blue Lobster, which is the first cousin to our wonderful lavagantes.” Accompanying Mendes’ briny, beautiful meditation on the bounty of the Atlantic ocean was an audio-visual performance from Boris Chimp 504. A journey to the depths of the ocean, its creators set out to design a multi-media experience where “each person can create his or her own narrative and be taken to another dimension.”
This interchange of ideas, customs and traditions is also seen in The Singleton’s special release. Named ‘The Silken Gown’ and finished in Chardonnay casks, the result is smooth, rich and luxurious. Inspired by the silken finish of the whisky, fashion designer and couturier Charles de Vilmorin created an immersive fabric performance with dancer Lola that married the organic and the manmade, the physical and the spiritual, in an exploration of tactility.
Mirroring de Vilmorin’s extravagant space, chef Louise Bourrat’s goal was to anchor the twin culinary heritages of France and Scotland with “a silky, textured dish”. This came in the form of a Christmas pudding-style dish that incorporated black pudding – Boudin noir, as she grew up calling it, is traditional to both her native Normandy and to Scotland. Once again, the whisky is the impetus for connection, a call to us to consider the ways in which we always have – and will continue to – communicate across cultures, traditions and geographical boundaries.
These diverse bonds are what lie at the heart of the Spirited Xchange pop-up. Created to showcase the latest Special Releases edition from Diageo, this isn’t merely an event series, but something infinitely more: a luxurious, multi-sensory marriage of Scotch whisky, artistry and global community.
A Special thanks to the team at Something™ for hosting this incredible experience.