The summer solstice seems to bring out the strangest in some people – with celebrations around the world ranging from relatively innocent dancing, feasting and festivals to full-on naked frolicking and flinging yourself through fire.
Where would you rather be to welcome in the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere? In Greece, you could join an ancient village tradition of leaping over a bonfire three times to have your wishes granted. In Poland if you’re part of a couple and you jump over a fire holding hands, you’ll be guaranteed long-lasting love, apparently.
In Latvia people are encouraged to head out to the countryside, have a party and wait for the women to pick flowers to make crowns for their heads, while the men are supposed to strip off and jump naked into a nearby lake or river.
And in Norway and Sweden if you’re an unmarried girl (no word of what men might do here), you might want to take advantage of the summer solstice’s ‘magic’ by gathering a mixture of summer flowers and herbs at dawn. If you place them under your pillow, you’ll dream about who your future husband will be.
You don’t have to be in the northern hemisphere to feel the need to get naked at the time of the solstice. In Australia’s whisky island of Tasmania, the brave locals celebrate the winter solstice by stripping off and plunging into the Derwent River for a refreshing dip. The event marks the end of the Dark Mofo Festival, an art and music festival that takes place in Hobart in June each year. And in New Zealand, they have even recreated the mysterious stone circle of England’s Stonehenge at Aotearoa, where witnesses gather to witness the ‘symbolic death of the sun’.
With the solstice marking the extremes of light and darkness on both hemispheres, we thought it was as good an excuse as any to devise some ways to contrast and compare our whiskies with some intriguing pairings. Here’s what some of our ambassadors suggested. Embrace the contrasts!
Thom Glas, Germany
Set up a competition in your tasting between different bottlings: who’s going to win the battle between the different regions or even countries, for example Highlands vs Islay, or Scotland vs Ireland? Or pit two different cask types from the same distillery against each other to see which one comes out on top.
Peter Eichhorn, Germany
If you’re doing a tasting for people setting out on their flavour journey, offer an overview of contrasting forms of maturation: bourbon and sherry, cask strength and diluted, or a young dram compared with something young. And blind tastings as a kind of guessing game for the participants are always a pleasure.
Jutta Unterguggenberger, Austria
For a contrasting pairing, why not introduce some food along with your whisky? Bring some light to the dark, or the other way around, by pairing an Oily & Coastal flavour profile dram with a selection of sushi, or create a “smoke bomb” of Peated or even Heavily Peated Society whisky with a tiramisu dessert.
Tommy Calner, Sweden
My classic solstice dinner in our greenhouse starts with a frizzy aperitif like a young SMWS malt whisky from a refill bourbon barrel – usually found in our Young & Spritely or Light & Delicate flavour profiles. Then pair a Spicy & Dry flavour profile with pickled herring, in lime and cream sauce. With the classic Swedish pickled herring, I usually choose a young Peated flavour profile – or even an Oily & Coastal would work well.
Roy Arnold, Germany
Pay particular attention to versatility, and try to offer as much variety as possible from the Society’s 12 distinctive flavour profiles, where you can taste a wide range from Light & Delicate through to Peated or Heavily Peated. Each whisky should have its own selling point and stand out clearly from the others.