Whiskies have a way of announcing themselves. Some bark bold statements, boisterous and brazen. Others whisper quiet secrets, never to be repeated. You get straight talk and wild tales, the odd lie and way too much swagger. But every now and then you hear something distinct: a whisky with a golden voice. It’s not so much what it says, but how it expresses this. Like a nightingale it entrances. Impeccable. Mysterious. Perfect. It hits all the right notes.
Yossi Schwartz, founder of Single & Single, discovered one such whisky, and was immediately smitten. It wouldn’t usually have grabbed his attention. But usual is not what Yossi usually does. Tucked away in a Macallan warehouse, it contained spirit from this illustrious distillery, but also malt from Highland Park, Dalmore, Glenfarclas, Glen Elgin and Tormore. Yossi had built his brand around single cask, undiluted rarities. This was very different. But all it took was one sip. He bottled it, and called it Cambridge Circus. Nothing more to be said.
“Blending is an art,” he states. It’s an art he admires from a distance, readily admitting that he possesses neither the expert hand nor the natural talent to attempt creating his own. But here was one ready and waiting, 32 years old and, most importantly, Oloroso matured. “I’m fascinated by the depth, colour, nose and flavour profile of anything Oloroso,” he elaborates. This process transforms whisky, enhancing rich, fruity flavours and sweet nuances, whilst adding extra body and texture. Many Single & Single bottlings have been kissed by Oloroso. It was the deciding factor for this blend.
Yet still it was different, and tasted unlike anything else. “It’s all velvet and silky,” he exclaims. “Supremely well-balanced and considered. You can’t but enjoy it. So many layers of taste.” And amidst all this complexity, there is perfect harmony. Nothing dominates. Red berries sit politely alongside hints of smoke. No friction. No top dog. All equal. “I find it very charming,” he smiles. There’s an innuendo here, and it reveals itself when Yossi distinguishes single malts from blends. One is rough around the edges, the other is agreeable. One is devised, the other is what it is. One is totalitarian, the other democratic. Merkel. Putin. The contrast couldn’t be greater. But in his eyes, neither is superior. There’s difference, and then there’s different. Both are celebrated.
You’ll easily tell them apart on the shelves…there’s a deliberate distinction in their packaging. Blends will be marked with an off-white label, whilst the single malts will continue to be black. And there will be more blends. Cambridge Circus is the first Single & Single whisky to make it to America and Taiwan, where consumers will no doubt be intrigued by the name. “The name?” asks Yossi. “Ask Smiley.” He refers to George Smiley, the intelligence officer with recurring roles in John Le Carré novels, the same author who gave his blessing for Single & Single to be named after one of his books. Smiley works for The Circus, the British intelligence agency with headquarters in the northeast corner of Cambridge Circus.
There’s that contrast again. Fact. Fiction. Fantasy. This blurred landscape is Yossi’s hunting ground. “The blend was brave a move for me,” he admits. “Way outside of my comfort zone.” But even as he says this, it becomes apparent that this zone is forever expanding. He’s always pushed back those boundaries and broadened his worldview. For this is where the good whisky is. It’s quite simple. It’s quite complex. It’s many things. It’s singular.