Hedgehog Whisky

There are myths that one hears and wishes were true: fairies, unicorns and gods among them. But for me, there has always been the hope that two of the most wonderful things on this planet would, in some amazing way, become united.

But how? How can we get hedgehogs and whisky into the same thing? We cannot make whisky from hedgehogs (can we? I should have a chat with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) and while I have heard rumours of hedgehogs drunk on beer-trap slugs I have not heard of anyone seeing a hedgehog consuming whisky. Though I now remember a tale from the 19th Century of a family in Britain with a pet hedgehog that was once got drunk at the dinner table, but I think that was on posset.

And then, while researching my now slightly late book for Reaktion (winter has thrown sickness at our household like a drunken student walking home reconsidering the wisdom of the kebab, hence the lateness), on the iconography of hedgehogs I came across a little miracle.

But first, a digression. Germany has a town called Igel, France has a town called Herisson – yet England, a country that prides itself in a profound love of the hedgehog has not the decency to have a town named after the animal. There are plenty of references to otters – Ottery St Mary for example. And there is Wolverhampton, Derby (deer village) and many many others – in fact that would be a fun exercise for anyone, find me more – and I will probably find that Wolverhampton is nothing to do with wolves …

So – is it time to launch a campaign – to get a town named as hedgehog? And if so, do we re-name a current town (if so, which one – which town can claim great hedgehog-connections?) or do we start a new town? A community run on hedgehog principles? One where we spend the winter hidden away, asleep?

But that is all by the by – the main thrust of this blog is my discovery of a wonderful thing – Herisson, the town in central France named after the hedgehog, has a distillery, run by Monsieur Balthazar. And he has the good grace to anglicise the name of his whisky; Hedgehog Whisky is a reality.

With trembling fingers I followed the links through and found that it would be easier to have it delivered within the country of France – and by good fortune a most delightful friend lives there a great deal of the time (thank you Stokely) and at the end of last week I visited her in London and took ownership of my dream …

The excitement … obviously, but there was also the fear of disappointment … what if it was rank? So it was not without trepidation that the first drops of this golden liquid were poured …

Now there is a language of flavour that I have yet to master – my experience with wine has been rather binary, I like it or I don’t. And with whisky, similarly. So what can I say?

The familiar burning sensation on the tongue was reassuring – maybe that is too strong a word, but there is that spirited tingle that prepares you for more. Lacking the smokiness of western Isles peat based drinks, lacking the occasionally floral lightness of some of the Speysides … what did it have?

There was a harshness, there was a sense that this might not be part of a long lineage of whisky makers, but it was definitely not unpleasant … just not quite what I am used to … which has been refined over many years and topped by a Whisky Society bottling of something called the Eriskay …

I will persevere. It might grow on me. And maybe a touch of water would help … so, if you are around Oxford in the next few weeks and want to come and experience a little hedgehog-nectar, drop me a line and we will see if we can link up!

Animal Estates

I have been invited to give a talk in London on Thursday 15th December and fear that I may be upstaged by the poster for the event!

So if you are around Camden on Thursday evening at 6pm, come to ANIMAL ESTATES LONDON HQ, at ARUP Phase 2, 8 Fitzroy Street, London W1T 4BJ for some hedgehoggy fun and games … though I might be learning as much as anyone else given the impressive spread of hedgehog iconography on offer already!