The Loft Manchester

Chris Patrick
The Loft

The Loft on 13 Quay Street, previously Walkabout, and now about to be all kinds of things as the building is redeveloped into an event space. We ascended by elevator and walked out into an environment that was rather like the set of a sitcom about people who live in lofts.

We were greeted by the ebullient Richard, and after a firm handshake led into the whiskey blending area. As we filed into the rows of benches – set up for twos, with one lucky guest getting to sit next to little me – Richard gave us a resonant account of the history of Chivas Regal.

Blended whiskey is not a way to offload the whiskeys that the Scots don’t want, but rather a way to make something that is more than the sum of its parts.

Chivas Regal is a blended whiskey, available in different vintages, all of them put together from the repertoire of whiskies that come from different parts of Scotland and are worked on to accentuate particular flavours and qualities. Contrary to popular misconception, Richard explained, blended whiskey is not a way to offload the whiskeys that the Scots don’t want, but rather a way to make something that is more than the sum of its parts.

The room we were in was set out like a science classroom, with beakers and funnels and other glassware for mixing the whiskeys in. I found myself furtively scanning for Bunsen burners and pigtails to set on fire, but my attention was drawn back to the presentation.

The sale of blended whiskey was given the go-ahead by the government in the 1860s, assisted by tea-merchants, and through the British Empire blended whiskeys became popular in many diverse places. The style really took hold after the French Wine Blight knocked a hole in the supply chain for Cognac. The Prohibition cast something of a shadow but following its repeal, Chivas was able to supply the Americans once more and became a favourite over there.

After a few more investigations I went away with a whiskey of my own, which I called ‘Nothing New Under the Sun’

Anyway, we set about blending our own bespoke whiskeys from the available base types; we could do whatever we wanted, Richard said, as long as we used Floral as the base. So I stuck a bit of Citrus and Smoky into the Floral to begin with and sipped it. I got something sharp, as if I’d intruded upon a nectar ceremonial in a golden hive and was being stung for my troubles, but without particularly caring.

After a few more investigations I went away with a whiskey of my own, which I called ‘Nothing New Under the Sun’ – a scriptural reference, as I explained to Richard. ‘That’s a good one’, he said nodding, then looked over his shoulder.

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