When it comes to whisky, the beverage is a iconic cultural component of many peoples and places all over the world. From Europe to Japan, whisky bottles preserve and encapsulate history, tradition and excellence,
The first bottles of Royal Salute, were launched at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 to celebrate this occasion and the British monarchy. The brand’s name takes inspiration from the 21 Gun Salute – a traditional sign of respect at Royal events. The legacy of the tribute that originated the prestigious scotch whisky is still alive and relevant today and has conquered drinkers all over the world with its finesse and taste.
To celebrate the two new additions to the Signature Blend Collection, Royal Salute gathered media and friends from around the world to host an exclusive launch event in Seoul, South Korea. We were lucky enough to attend the event and get a glimpse into the universe of the iconic brand and the traditions it beautifully preserves.
We sat down with the Creative Director of Royal Salute Barnabe Fillion in Seoul to talk about their unique brand and their two new whiskies: The Malts Blend and The Lost Blend.
Why is whisky important?
I think whisky is one of the most handcrafted spirits that celebrates the art of transformation, which I call alchemy. Especially with whisky, at Royal Salute, we are talking about a transformation of 21 years old minimum. So, it is about the force that has been put into it. It’s like drinking something which is connected to time and beauty and I think time is primarily what is escaping from us through life and that we want to capture. So, I think that whisky is a very reflective, philosophical drink about time.
For you personally?
It is very related to the fact that I love the taste of it. I love the trace of smoke that you can have at different levels in a whisky. I love the territory of Scotland so I mostly love Scotch whisky. For me, being able to drink what I love the most with the taste and a history like this is like a big journey.
Do you think that different cultures affect the consumption of whisky? For example, the Japanese, they enjoy their high balls.
Yes, of course. I mean, every country has a different way to drink although it started with the idea of celebration. if you go back to the origin of spirits, we are talking about the time when we were planting a seed, we would want to know when it was raining and we were actually creating alcohol to get drunk and dance to the gods. So I think there is a strong connection with culture but there is a union about the reason why we drink. The way we do it is according to local ingredients, temperatures, all of it…and that changes, really, the taste of it. You can drink it neat and find it fantastic. You can drink it with a little bit of water and the aroma will be much stronger. The alcohol will be lower but the aroma will be stronger. You can have it with ice and it will still be refreshing. You can have it in cocktails. There are so many ways you can drink that spirit.
How do you like to drink your whisky?
I love to drink it neat with just a little bit of water. And I love to observe the difference between neat without water and with just a little bit of water.
From photographer to famed perfume designer to Creative Director of Royal Salute, do you think your experience in different industries helped shape you today?
Definitely. I think that even when limited to the industries, just the idea of exploration, all my work is dedicated to exploring the old factory worlds through different mediums. It could be photography, it could be creating an object with craftsmanship, it could be creating music. All of this. It’s all about this hunger for creativity into the old factory world.
How does it feel to work for a whisky brand?
It feels amazing. I feel very, very lucky to not just work with any whisky brand but to work with the most prestigious. And I feel lucky to be able to work with ingredients that are more than 21 years old. It is very exceptional. It is also extending the possibilities of my practice but also extending the possibilities of the consumer to taste and smell so that’s very exciting.
Scent is one of the most important elements in perfumes and whiskies. So, how do you try to create memories through such a short span of time?
I think perfume is all about time travel. In a way, you try to connect people with their memories. I don’t try to invade someone with my memory. My memory of something that is rich to me will translate differently to someone else, but if I’m focusing on my memory when Im composing a perfume, then I’m sure it will touch someone and connect with them.
For whisky, how do you strengthen the memory?
I think with whisky, the way I work is to extend the tasting of it. I create perfumes so the perfumes are actually a way to extend your memory of the moment that you are tasting the whisky. 95 percent of what you taste in the whisky is informed by your nose so if you are skilled with your nose, you will have more of a memory of what you are tasting. I am also creating an edible perfume so you will also have amplification in terms of the taste of the whisky. Meanwhile, we stand, we look at them, we touch, we smell perfumes, we smell essences, we look at flowers that have a relation with time.
What’s the best way to enjoy whisky?
The way you want and I think there is an immutable layer of possibility. I think it is about celebration but even we were talking about sadness earlier. Someone was saying that some people drink for sadness, some people drink for happiness. I think even if it was sadness, it is related to nostalgia, which is a very beautiful feeling. And it shows the beauty of whisky in making your time travel. You can go back into your memory of the past but you can also imagine an amazing thing by celebrating and being super happy.
When it comes to picking a bottle of whisky, what advice would you give to a first-timer?
I think it’s quite important to define what type of taste in general in life you like. If you don’t like smokey things, don’t go for the lost blend because it’s quite a fire plated whisky. If you like spicy and the idea of exploration, I think that the malt blend would be amazing. If you like something more relating to classic and balance and amazing harmonies that have been there since 1953, so 66 years old, the Classic Signature would be amazing. So what we’re offering now is a range of different facets of the whisky blend and that’s a big offer.
Who is your #legend?
Arthur Rimbaud, the poet. He’s an amazing poet that created probably the most aspirational lifestyle in terms of poetry and he disappeared at the peak of his career and went to Ethiopia and there’s an old blurry stage of his life where we don’t know where he went. He is an iconic incredible Frenchman.