Ali Levack playing to the whisky casks. Photo: Jeff Holmes.

An award-winning young piper has turned whisky maker after being enlisted to play to casks of whisky prior to bottling to enhance its flavour.

Reader, this may sound like an April Fool story but it isn’t. It’s definitely June 23 today!

Dingwall piper and whistle player, Ali Levack, the 2020 BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year was asked by the Wee Smoky whisky brand to help attract a new audience to Scotland’s most famous drink. Levack was recorded as he played to the company’s whisky casks in an attempt to, er, “enhance the flavour, a process known as ‘sonic-aging’,” it says here.

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.

The partnership began when Levack’s folk band, Project Smok, auctioned naming rights to its 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, Wee Smoky with its own release of 550 special edition bottles of whisky, 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 is a QR code which will take drinkers directly to Wee Smoky on Spotify. 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. 

O thoir a-nall am botul. Project Smok playing to a bottle of Wee Smoky. (Photo Jeff Holmes).

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. 

Rory Gammell.

“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.”

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 National Piping Centre’s award-winning resturant and hotel, The Pipers’ Tryst, is urgently looking for talented, enthusiastic and creative individuals to join the team as waiting staff and a chef.

The Pipers’ Tryst.

The Pipers’ Tryst has a fantastic reputation for great customer service and fresh Scottish food. A spokesman said: “We are seeking multi-skilled people with outgoing personalities to join our small team. If you do not have any experience, please do not worry – our team is here to train you up!

“There is also a unique perk with these jobs! As a staff member you are entitled to one free weekly piping lesson with the National Piping Centre’s world class teachers. So if you have always had a passion for Scottish food and music, this is the perfect place for you.”

• For full details and to apply.

Seumas Coyne, pictured, the well-known North American piper, has been busy during the pandemic by creating a one-stop archive of piping and pipe band recordings on his website.

Seumas’ Citadel‘ was intended to showcase his own original tunes as played by leading pipers and pipe bands. Now, it has grown to become a unique archive that includes audio and video recordings of pipers playing their own original tunes. 

Bagpipe.News spent some time browsing through the page and was impressed at the variety and quality of recordings there. Seumas’ site is well worth a visit at: