Thursday, February 6, 2014

Whisky Galore - The Word and the Name

This is another shot from the archives. A few years ago, I took a trip to Islay for New Year and since Laphroaig is one of my favourite whiskies, a visit to the distillery was top of my list. On the day I visited, there were no tours, but it was possible to wander around on a crisp winter's day and take in the scene. It's hard to ignore the giant letters of the name on the wall. Letters can make up a word or a name, but they descend from the Word. The Word is about law, but the name is something else entirely. The ancient Egyptians felt that the name was much more than identification. It was an essential part of a person. There is a primitive belief that to know someone's name is to have power over the person and in ancient China, naming a person was to exercise control over them. I'm not certain about having power over a whisky. Some do and some don't. But if whisky has power over you, then it ceases to be what it is - an enjoyable drink. Yet if drunkenness ensues, that may also be a symbolic state. Drunken states were once considered spiritual and constituted a renewal of the life force. Uisge beatha is the water of life, aqua vītae in Medieval Latin. Group drinking filled in gaps between calendar years, a tradition carried on at Scottish Hogmanay. And for this good reason, the 2nd of January is also a public holiday in Scotland!