A young piper has turned whisky maker after being enlisted to play to casks of whisky prior to bottling to enhance its flavour.
Ali Levack, frontman of Scottish trad band Project Smok, has joined forces with Wee Smoky, a whisky brand on a mission to attract a new audience to Scotland’s most famous drink, to release a single and bottle in perfect harmony.
The piper and whistleman from Dingwall, who was BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of 2020, played to the casks to enhance the flavour, a process known as ‘sonic-aging’.
The partnership began when Project Smok auctioned naming rights to their new single in a creative way to tackle loss of income due to cancellation of live gigs during the pandemic.
Wee Smoky won the auction, and will celebrate the release of the song ‘WeeSmoky’ with its own release of 550 special edition bottles, with £1 from each bottle going to the neo-trad trio.
Ali Levack said: “Playing to whisky casks was a new experience. I loved being part of the whole process, from playing our music to the whisky while it aged to drinking it while listening to our recorded song. The song and the whisky go very well together! “When everything froze in March last year, we didn’t think we’d be in the same position more than 12 months later.
“We’ve had to think outside the box as to how we can generate income until we can start playing live music again. Auctioning off naming rights to a song was an idea we didn’t think would work, but it has ended up with us having our own whisky named after us, which is a dream come true.”
On the bottles will be a QR code which will take drinkers directly to ‘WeeSmoky’ on Spotify.
This is the latest development in Wee Smoky’s ambition to champion ‘Scottish Flair’ and act as a megaphone for the country’s best creative talent to reach worldwide audiences.
All 400 limited-edition bottles from the first cask – principally aimed at non-whisky drinkers – were snapped up within days of becoming available in December last year. Bottles from batch two are currently available to order on the Wee Smoky website.
Wee Smoky’s founder, Edinburgh-based Rory Gammell, said: “Music is part of everything we do. Our whisky is best enjoyed with music so it was natural to experiment to see how music could enhance the flavour.
“My dream was for Project Smok to headline our launch party. Unfortunately, those plans were put on hold. Nobody embodies the spirit of our brand quite like them. They’re non-conformist and I couldn’t think of a better example of Scottish flair – they’re a remarkable band with a unique sound.
“They’re making people think differently about trad music, and we’re making people think differently about whisky. It’s the perfect match. We’re both looking to modernise Scotland’s image, to make it more relevant to a younger generation.
“We’re proud to work together with Scotland’s incredible music community. This collaboration is only the beginning.”
Following this limited edition run, Wee Smoky’s next batch of whisky that is inclusive and welcoming to younger people and perfect in cocktails is already shaping up to be a sell-out, with people snapping up pre-orders on the company’s website, and significant interest from international importers.
This is the start of significant growth plans for the business which plans to make more than 20,000 bottles early next year.
A significant portion of the 5,000 bottles which will be produced as part of the next run of Wee Smoky’s signature peated single grain in August have already been reserved by international importers. Pre-orders are available on Wee Smoky’s website.
The concept of ‘sonic-aging’ stems back to the 18th and 19th centuries, when vibrations in oak casks caused by transit across the seas were considered essential to the ageing process of liquors including whisky. It is thought that by playing music to casks, these vibrations can be recreated, enhancing the flavour of batches by accelerating the way liquor reacts with the wood.
To order the limited edition Project Smok X Wee Smoky Collab whisky, visit weesmoky.com.