Monday, 21 July 2014

A WEEK WITH PETER ....

 
When someone is a direct descendant of William Grant you can be pretty sure they will have inherited some of that mans appetite for hard graft and that it will be carried out with a dedicated passion. This is very much the case with Peter Gordon who despite a very busy schedule for his visit to Glenfiddich last week still found time to personally catch up and formally welcome this years artistic cohort to the distillery his great great grandfather built over 126 years ago. Peter was very much the originator of the idea to have a residency programme at Glenfiddich and as such always takes a very close interest in its progress each year. Monday evening saw us all assemble in the Robbie Dhu Center where Peter hosted the annual welcoming dinner, expertly prepared by one of our talented in house chefs, Alan Robertson.

The evening was enhanced with the presence of another great supporter of the programme and one the whisky world's great women, Libby Laffery. Libby retired from William Grant and Sons earlier this year after 44 years with the company where she latterly had responsibility for Scottish PR. A native of Girvan, she began her career at our distillery there before heading up to Dufftown to take a managing role in the Glenfiddich visitor centre. Over the years she also organised Glenfiddich's sponsorship of the Highland Games and the annual Spirit of Scotland Awards.

So with all these guinea pigs present it seemed an appropriate occasion to test out a selection of Glenfiddich serves so we could choose one in advance to serve at Friday's gallery opening. The Glenfiddich sonic is a simple but refreshing serve presented in a high ball glass. A measure of 12,15, or 18 year old Glenfiddich is poured over crushed ice and is respectively garnished with either lemon, orange or lime depending on the age of spirit being used. The drink is then topped up with equal measures of tonic and soda water... hence the name sonic! After a through testing the unanimous verdict was that the 15 year old with orange was the most flavoursome.

In between the arduous tasting and comparing of serves Peter was able to speak in turn to each artist about their experiences so far in residence and learn more about their work. It was one of these conversations that resulted in Tania meeting again with Peter later in the week, where he was able to his explain to her the subtle ways that the flavour profile of a maturing spirit builds resonance and develops not unlike like a lingering musical note.


Peter was also able to meet with a party of special guests who arrived from China in the middle of the week. The group comprised of our selection partner, Cheng Xixing of the Don Gallery in Shanghai and three editors from leading Chinese arts publications. The informal lunch time meeting was held in the Gordon family ancestral home, a farm house located in the isolated splendour of the Cabrach. With no 3G or indeed any mobile signal available, the tranquillity of this high moorland is about as great a contrast to hustle and bustle of Shanghai and Beijing as one can find.


Monday, 14 July 2014

LAST DAYS HERE....


It's only half way through the summer but for some at Glenfiddich the season is already coming to an end. Having arrived in late April Joyce has little over a week to go before returning to Taiwan. Of course before she goes we have our first exhibition opening this Friday. And so for her, along with Han, Hu Zi, Trevor and Rhonda, who are also presenting works in this exhibition, the next few days will be busy. Although since arriving in Scotland Joyce has managed to become almost nocturnal, painting all night and sleeping through the day. The finalisation of her work has required Joyce to often awake in the early hours of the afternoon so she could get the coopers to fit custom made cask hoops as frames for her paintings during their daylight working hours.



The first leaving of the house by Joyce in full daylight was a reasonably traumatic experience. Jake the multi purpose residency hound was placed on guide dog duty readiness but thankfully he was not needed. Joyce's eyes eventually adjusted to an extent that she was able to get a number of her works completed in their frames and hung in the gallery ready for Friday.



Also completed and hung are three water colours and two drawings by Hu Zi and with Han Won Suk's audio/sculptural instillation in place the gallery is slowly taking shape.



All that remains now is for Rhonda to get her last copper pour carried out at SWW to complete the coin workshop presentations and along with Trevor, who arrived back in from Toronto yesterday, put the finishing touches to their cask stave veneer project. The pair are currently working round the clock sculpting  the required number of miniature moth adornments from the shavings and chips of cask stave Trevor toiled over during his first visit here in May.







Monday, 7 July 2014

A SPICEY COMBINATION ...



The past week saw two more arrivals to Glenfiddich. Tania Candiani, from Mexico City and Chetnaa Verma, of New Delhi. Winner of the third annual Glenfiddich/Bestcollegeart Emerging Indian Artist of the Year Award, Chetnaa's paper based practice takes a highly geometric approach to the mapping out of her experiences.

Tania becomes our second Mexican artist in residence, her works combine audio with sculpture and is looking forward to identifying new and interesting sounds to record for later use. She is already imagining ways that a still might be used as a trumpet.

With Tania and Chetnaa having now joined the programme we are now at maximum capacity with nine residency places currently filled. So before things start getting really hectic - with preparations for the first exhibition opening in less than two weeks. It seemed like a good time for our annual day out with Mr Ian Miller.


Ian is our Global brand Ambassador and former distillery manager at Glenfiddich. Originally a Perthshire loon, Ian has also worked at a number of other distilleries over the years including a stint at Mortlach Distillery where William Grant learnt his trade as a distiller. In fact Mortlach was one of the stop off points on his 'history and heritage' tour. We also visited the site of the Robbie Dhu spring, which is the source of the water used to make our spirit. The house where William Grant was born. Where he lived with his family while building Glenfiddich. And finally Balvenie House where he passed away in 1923. We also took a trip up the Cabrach to visit Reekimlane where the family of William Grant's future son in law, Charles Gordon, once lived.


As we drove over the high moorlands to the house, we managed to spot a group of red grouse in the rough grazing close to the road. Hugh had never seen grouse in the wild, so we stopped the car and he launched himself in the direction of the birds, phone camera in hand. As an attempt at wildlife filming goes it was perhaps not the way David Attenbourgh might have gone about it, but still.....


I am happy to report that neither grouse or artist was harmed. Hugh failed to break his leg in the drainage ditches hidden beneath the heathers and the birds simply flew away....

After lunch Ian took the group through the core Glenfiddich range with a tutored nosing and tasting. This was held in the rather formal setting of the Robbie Dhu Centre. However as a final treat to the day the group were blindfolded and lead to a secret bothy deep in the heart of the distillery, that only a select few know of. It is here Mr Miller keeps his most special whiskies, not just from Glenfiddich but our Balvenie and Kininvie distilleries as well. And so on offer were a 38 year old Glenfiddich only available in China, the very first batch of Kininvie to be released, but only in Taiwan and a very special 50 year old Balvenie. Not a bad end to the day really.







Tuesday, 1 July 2014

OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY...

 
Its a been a busy week for the slug ferrying Rhonda back and forth over the Cabrach to the Scottish Sculpture Workshop where she is completing her coin project.

With initial task of wax forms being made of each coin produced at Rhonda's workshops carried out on the previous visit. The final and most tricky stage of casting the coins in copper has begun. The first attempt at casting almost ended in near disaster when the furnace ran out of propane gas. But after a quick trip to the local garage the second attempt was much more successful and Rhonda returned with her first set of coins.


Isidora has also been bitten by the molten metal bug and has also spent some time over in Lumsden experimenting with molds for her copper casting project. Or it could be she just likes dressing up?

Thursday, 26 June 2014

OUR FEATURE PRESENTATION....


There is a new weekly event in Dufftown, Tuesday night is presentation night. Loosely based on the popular television programme 'Come Dine With Me' . Each week pairs of artists compete to give the best presentation. Just like in the programme, participants are marked on hospitality and as well as content, however unlike the programme there is no large cash prize. We kicked off last week with Rhonda and Isidora both giving short presentations on their work to their resident peers and Jake, the residency mascot.

Jake the hound, performs an important role in the overall judging process as once he begins to show some signs of boredom the artist has clearly gone on too long. Like a canine Simon Cowell his restlessness quickly spreads out amongst the rest of the audience and once the collective howls have begun to drown the presenter out, its time to stop.

This week it was the turn of Hugh and Suso. Rhonda and Isidora had set the bar high the previous week despite some clear restlessness being shown on occasion by Jake, And so with the stakes high, Suso made sure his guests were able to find his house by water marking the gable end with a suitable message. Hugh had wisely chosen to sweet the audience in advance by providing a mini Chinese buffet and copious amounts of alcohol. But their master stroke was holding the presentations in Suso's spare bedroom meaning Jake was able to recline in comfort and silence till the very end.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

HAMMER OF THE GODS....

 
Following on from her visit the other week to Forsyth's in Rothes, Isidora's research into the qualities of her chosen working material continued when she met with one of Glenfiddich's most respected craftsman; Dennis McBain. For fifty years Dennis served as the distilleries coppersmith and as such was responsible for the maintenance, repair and replacement of our stills.
 
it would not be an exaggeration to describe Dennis's knowledge of working copper as being encyclopaedic and to his credit it is a knowledge he is more than happy to share. Isidora was not only shown some of tools employed in the manipulation of copper sheets, through  heat and hammer, into the flowing curves of a complete still. She also gained some first hand experience of how the copper behaves when heated. This will be important when she comes to work with it herself. Indeed the parameters of the material's qualities will have an influence in shaping the form of her final work.
 
 
Despite being officially retired since 2008 Dennis is still a common face at the distillery always happy to share some fascinating insights to his craft. From the burning of juniper in a newly made still before the first distillation, to 'sweeten the copper'. To some of the terminology used in still construction. Dennis drew our attention to how different pieces of the still are named after parts of the body, the shoulder, neck, belly, throat etc. Such an empathic vernacular conveys the quality of dedication and passion that can be found in many of those involved with the production of our single malt. Dennis is no exception and over his life time he has developed a deeper understanding with the still almost becoming a living, breathing thing, being cared for and nurtured by Mr Dennis McBain, the still doctor.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

SPANISH SUN ...


Its been another busy and sunny week up at Glenfiddich. Monday saw the arrival of the artist known simply as Suso 33, the first Spaniard to be in residence here since 2007. Although Suso's work also involves video and performance he our first resident to practice street/urban art.

The inspiration environment of The Glenfiddich Distillery has already provided Suso with a number of ideas, which as they come to him are jotted down in his notepad for future reference, one or two have even been put into practice. Using the gable of his residency accommodation as a canvas and water as a medium he has been producing ephemeral graffiti which begins to fade away almost as soon as it appears.


As well as comings there has also been goings, with Joyce heading back to Taiwan to attend a family wedding and Han off to a Paris studio to begin the editing work on the sound recordings he has collected over the past few weeks to provide the audio content of his installation. This meant that they both not only missed this week's ceilidh but also the first of Hugh's 'salon' evenings which, was attended by two visiting artists, Carl and Nick, who are currently in residence at the Scottish Sculpture  Workshop over the hill in Lumsden.