The Angels’ Share

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The Angels’ Share was an editorial assignment that Dan Barham and I worked on together for Bike Magazine. Originally, it was meant to be just a travel story that featured in the print version of Bike Magazine, but after returning from the trip with a huge amount of content (both words, photos and video) we decided to create an on-line, interactive version of the story.

The experiment can be found HERE. Click the link to be taken into the world of single malt and singletrack.

Traveling to a foreign land gives you a glimpse of its character. That’s a given. There’s a world of distinction, however, between being a tourist and being a traveler. The tourist experience is superficial. You poke around the edges of the place. Visit the gift shop. Bring home a T-shirt. The traveler develops a much deeper connection with his new surroundings. The traveler is more invested, stays longer, chooses his own destinations, make his own plans, absorbs something of the place. The traveler, ultimately, is changed by his travels.

To mountain bike through some place new puts you somewhere in the middle between tourist and traveler. On one hand, you have an intimate engagement with the land because you feel, taste, smell, hear and breathe its idiosyncratic qualities as you move through the terrain. But there’s no denying this fact: Your voyage by bike is still a flicker book of fleeting imagery. We riders don’t exactly linger. Well, most of the time we don’t…

In June of this year, Dan Barham, Callum Jelley, Richard Cunynghame and I visited Scotland. We wanted to explore Scotland’s wildly varied singletrack experience. But we didn’t just go for the singletrack, we went to Scotland hoping to understand something more about the land and the people, and we’d use single malt whisky as our looking glass.

There’s something you must understand: Scotch is woven into everything in Scotland. From an economic standpoint this is obvious. Whisky distilling is the great survivor of the traditional Scottish industries, as evidenced by the 1.19 billion bottles of Scotch whisky that were sold around the world in 2012 at a staggering value of £4.27 billion.

To put a finer point on it, Scotch constitutes roughly a quarter of Scotland’s exports. The drink, however, isn’t just a means of commerce for the people of Scotland; it’s a connection with their land, ancestors and national identity. Poets, musicians, painters and writers have long had a relationship with the single malt, not just as a liquid muse to fuel the artistic process, but as a narrative theme alone.

You can’t visit Scotland and fail to acknowledge the achievements and depth of Scotch. We had no intention of making that mistake.

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