A few months back, a French friend who is a big drinker of a particular brand of whisky said that he had downed so much of the stuff that the company in question ought to acknowledge his efforts by sending him a pallet piled high with cases of complimentary Scotch. I offered to write and tell them. I did so a week later. Reasoning that for these sort of things to work they need to be done firmly tongue in cheek in the sort of tones generally employed by a pompous old fart infatuated by the sound of his own voice (you might be surprised to hear, but I’m actually quite good at this), I knocked off the following and popped it in the post . . . .
Christian L. Porta
CEO Chivas Brothers Ltd
Tuesday, 08 January 2013
Dear Mr. Porta,
I am not a drinker of whisky. Never have been, never will be. In consequence, this missive is composed without calculation or the prospect of personal gain, but in a spirit of selfless purity of purpose that should appeal to anyone who aspires to a perfect distillation – this means you.
I am writing to inform you of the existence of Saint Boran of Aberlour. Despite his kingly name, Boran Le Goarnic is a humble Breton mason. He is, nonetheless, something of a royal personage hereabouts, famous throughout Finistère for immaculate masonry, faultless good taste, ruthless lucidity, a startling psychological acuity, and his passion for good whisky. These things are not unconnected and it his artistry, grace, clarity, and perspicacity that have lead him to conclude that Aberlour is the ne plus ultra of whisky.
Doubtless you hear good things about your whisky from many contented connoisseurs, but rarely can any of your customers have done such extensive proselytizing work as Saint Boran of Aberlour. There’s not a bar or supermarket within fifty miles of Saint Boran’s hermitage that doesn’t stock Aberlour, not because the publicans and grocers of Brittany are people of uncommonly refined sensibility, nor because the local representative of Pernod-Ricard is a superior salesman, but because Saint Boran is greatly venerated in these parts and, wherever he goes, people are falling over themselves to ensure a bottle of Aberlour is to hand.
Being a cultured and cultivated individual, I am sure you will be aware that, in the spiritual history of mankind, there is a long and widespread tradition of leaving votive offerings in sacred places, notably in honour of men and women who have achieved something akin to sanctity and to whom we wish to express our gratitude. It is for this reason that I am writing to ask you to arrange for a crate of Aberlour to be delivered to Saint Boran of Aberlour in recognition of the sterling work he has done converting this small corner of Brittany to the spiritual practices of his chosen tipple.
I’m not panhandling here, or appealing to charity. It would simply be the gracious and honourable thing to do. You know I’m right.
To my very great surprise, I got a reply . . . .
29th January 2013
Dear Mr. Davis,
Thank you for your letter of 8th January and for bringing to my attention the work and ambassadorship of Boran Le Goarnic. You referred to him as “St. Boran of Aberlour” which initially caused some confusion as we already have our own saintly connections through St. Drostan, a 7th century Celtic saint who was exiled from Ireland and came over to Scotland to support Columcile in spreading the word of Christianity across the country. St. Drostan’s well was the original water source of Aberlour which allegedly burst back into life when the whisky won one of its first awards back in the 1980s. We are fortunate to have such saintly connections to our whisky and it was pleasing to hear of “St. Boran’s” powerful advocacy and its effects in the surrounding area.
You suggested sending some Aberlour in honour of the sanctity of Monsieur Le Goarnic – whilst it is nearly impossible for me to assess his spiritual credentials, I do understand his artisanal accomplishments and as Aberlour is a spirit borne of dedicated craftsmanship, I agree it would be a fitting tribute.
To that end, I will ask our colleagues at Pernod, who handle marketing and distribution of Aberlour in France, to arrange a suitable contribution to be sent to Monsieur Le Goarnic. Would you be kind enough to send us his address? I hope this will continue to inspire “Saint Boran” and look forward to hearing any further news from this Celtic outpost.
I read with much regret that you are not a whisky drinker. Would a bottle of fine Aberlour single malt Scotch whisky change your mind? If so please let me know and I would be delighted to arrange for a bottle to be delivered to your personal address!
Chairman and CEO, Chivas Borthers Limited
I was well chuffed by this, not least by the fact that they had had the grace and wit to enter into the spirit of the thing. Inspired by such unexpected success, I wrote back forthwith, and on this occasion I really let rip, unleashing my pompous old fart within like never before. I even justified the text.
Christian Porta, CEO Chivas Brothers Ltd
Friday, 01 February 2013
Dear Mr. Porta,
I knew my confidence was not misplaced. That was a truly gracious reply and if the good people at Pernod prove half as gracious, I shall do my very best to work out a suitable collocation of words like ‘just’ and ‘reward’ and ‘heaven’. Indeed, I might even go so far as to bung in a clause about heavenly reward happening right here and now, on this earth, and in no short measure, either. I shall be quite stern with any deity that is behindhand in dispensing the necessary recognition for people engaged in activities that are clearly calculated for the greater good of humanity.
I was interested to hear of Aberlour’s links with St. Drostan, who apparently has 1400 years precedence over St. Boran. Religious rivalry is a delicate matter, especially when it comes to the relative merits of competing Celtic saints, some of whom, it has to be said, are so fabulously obscure that even God hasn’t heard about them. I confess, the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints has been somewhat tardy in acknowledging the work of St. Boran and I myself am a tad hazy about any miracles he might have effected other than the quotidian marvels he achieves in stone, slate, and wood. Nonetheless, neither juvenescence, nor obscurity, nor a doubtful claim on sanctity should come between a great institution like Aberlour and those tireless foot soldiers of the faith who, day in, day out, face odds that are actually very small (seeing as how the devotions they promote are so tempting), but who nonetheless do their bit toward ensuring there’s a bottle of Aberlour in every home. Just thinking of it makes me feel quite emotional.
In light of this, I can tell you that St. Boran of Aberlour, being of a naturally shy and retiring disposition (a fact that makes his many public pronouncements in favour of The Holy Spirit all the more remarkable), can be contacted via his postal box, an address designed to guard his privacy and keep at bay a despicable postman:
Boran Le Goarnic
Concerning your kind offer of a bottle of Aberlour for our own establishment, I have to tell you that this house is never without a bottle of Aberlour. You never know when St. Boran of Aberlour is liable to materialize and, for all his saintly qualities, you wouldn’t want to mess him about by offering him a draught of something blended that comes in a bottle decorated with a dodgy sketch of a stag and a bit of tartan trim. We consequently keep a close eye on the Aberlour and buy the next bottle well in advance. However, in the spirit of ‘just reward’ and so forth cited above, I would not be so churlish as come between you and your evident desire to do good in the world, for which reason I readily agree to be the beneficiary of your generosity and promise to do my best to give the lie to the disclaimer in my first letter.
I suspect there may be a small corner of the calendar into which we could squeeze a new aberlourian saint. Perhaps St. Porta of Chivas?
All Good Things, Charles
I might have gone a bit over the top there, because I heard nothing back, but not to worry, not when there was a bottle of Aberlour winging its way to my door. Except it wasn’t. Weeks ensued, weeks turned into months, and eventually I felt constrained to send a reminder note. Nothing has come of it to-date and I suspect nothing will come of it, which is a pity, as I felt the following was my best shot yet.
CEO Chivas Brothers Ltd
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Dear Mr. Porta,
I thought perhaps you might appreciate an update on how things are progressing in the western provinces of Aberlourland, notably insofar as they concern Saint Boran of Aberlour and your good self.
There was some excitement in local circles last March when we heard of a vacancy opening up at the Vatican. The prospect of an Aberlourian pope was too exquisite to miss. St. Boran was duly dragged from his devotions in his hermitage and told it was time to brave the wider world. We had a whip round, bought him a couple of bottles of Aberlour to tide him over on the journey, popped him on a plane, and dispatched him to Rome, where he presented himself to the Habemus Papam panel. As I understand it, the interview was going swimmingly until the moment came when he was called upon to say “N’ayez pas peur” (apparently it’s a vital part of the job application), whereupon the entire College of Cardinals fled screaming. I don’t know why. Rumour has it that the Dean of the College said that a pope from Finistère truly would be the end of the world. What he meant by that, I couldn’t say. Anyway, this inexplicable reaction on the part of the electorate rather scotched (if you’ll excuse the allusion) the papal aspirations of Plougasnou.
Concerning the other matter we discussed in our previous correspondence, the canonization of St. Porta of Chivas. We were progressing well with the beatification process and I had hoped that in very short measure (not a term to gladden the heart of St. Boran of Aberlour, but never mind) I would be conveying tidings of comfort and joy. Unfortunately, we’ve hit a slight snag.
As I’m sure you know, the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints requires proof of at least one miracle before proceeding with sanctification. They’re quite strict about this from what I hear. Perfectly willing to overlook the clause about the candidate being dead, but they will have their miracle. Anyway, France is a famously bureaucratic country, so it was widely felt that if someone living overseas could move the desk jockeys at Pernod-Ricard to action, it would be a miracle of the first water. Sadly, at the time of writing, this hasn’t happened.
I appreciate that you’re a busy man and have other matters on your mind apart from canonization, but I felt you ought to be apprised of the situation, as it’s a sorry state of affairs when some lackadaisical minion fails to pull his finger out and consequently stands between a great man and his just reward.
Yours in spiritual fraternity,
No reply as yet and no word from Pernod-Ricard, either. Seems the pompous old fart will have to be put back in his box. Shame, really. I was quite enjoying the correspondence. I feel my inner pompous old fart is not sufficiently expressed in the normal course of events. I will, of course, keep you posted on future developments.
Causes Charles Davis Supports
Oxfam, Amnesty International, Greenpeace