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Neat work – on art and whisky

18 December 2020

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Rakewell would be fibbing if he didn’t admit that malt whisky has been helping him through this darkest of winters. So he was pleased to discover, at the end of November, that the Dalmore Highland Single Malt had announced a four-year partnership with V&A Dundee, through which the two will ‘cultivate a global platform for contemporary master creatives and their protégés’. Your correspondent has long felt that museums don’t have enough scotch in them.

The partnership kicked off with a silent auction of a 60-year-old, ‘extraordinary one of one, single malt whisky, once tasted, never forgotten,’ a donation from which a donation will go to V&A Dundee. Quite a tipple is must be too, with ‘a robust overture of aged oloroso shrry, treacle toffee, and liquorice stick, with hints of balsamic […] A further layer of Old English marmalade, freshly ground Java coffee, dark bitter chocolate and molasses […] Subtle whispers of glazed cherries, moist Napoleon cake, and sun kissed raisins.’ And that’s just the aroma!

Rakewell is certain that some of the great whisky-drinking artists would have approved. ‘Goya’s genius, Rubens’ powers / Did not stem from whiskey sours’, Arthur Kramer wrote in 1946 – but the old usquebaugh has certainly helped a few artists in their endeavours. Patrick Caulfield enjoyed the stuff so much that, as Virginia Nicholson writes, at cultural events he ‘would roll up in a taxi carrying his glass of whisky aloft’. (He loved it enough to paint it, too.) Maggi Hambling has often spoken about her whisky passion (Laphroaig is her favourite, apparently. ‘I’m not fit. Exercises are boring – malt whisky isn’t,’ she told the Financial Times in 2019.

A rather lesser artist, but an enthusiastic drinker, Winston Churchill painted a bottle of his own favourite whisky – Johnny Walker Black label – in 1930. It sold at Sotheby’s in November for £800,000. Which would be enough to keep Rakewell supplied with Talisker for most of a lifetime.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.