Bushmills “Find The Craic” – The best whiskey day I can remember.

When the save the date phone call and email for the Bushmills “Find The Craic” challenge came from Tony Niemeyer at Atmosphere Communications I went home, opened my Bushmill’s Black Bush and started preparing.  I was a bit concerned when Tony said that the dress code for the day would be “sport casual” – running shoes and gym clothes would be a good idea as we would be doing a lot of running around.  Whisky and running What was he on about?

The Craic is a word for fun, entertainment and enjoyable conversation. Cape Town is known for having that, and beauty.  MI2B Cape Town 2011 – bringing Bushmills to Cape Town, and Cape Town to Bushmills, is program to celebrate Bushmills, fun and friendship.  We heard we were going to be traveling around Cape Town for a day of fun and adventure.

The activities of the 8th December 2011 were designed as an amazing race style adventure hunt.  A mixed bag of whisky writers; ad agency creatives; local winners of the Bushmills online competition; Sean and Jonathan, winners of the “Make it 2 Bushmills” competition and whisky gurus Marsh Middleton and Hector McBeth gathered at the Waterfront. The arrival of Colum Egan, Bushmills Master Distiller signalled how seriously Bushmills took the day – and how much the folk in Ireland love us here in South Africa. We left the Waterfront by bus to the Chapman’s Peak hotel where Taygan Govinden, Bushmills brand manager, welcomed everyone with words of encouragement, a light lunch, a Guinness or two and of course a warming Bushmills.

Time for the business end of the day. We split into teams, identified by coloured bandanas and Ophelia, the queen of activations from Hammer sent us on our way. Not with directions, but with an envelope, and in the envelope, was a clue.  Oh dear. We would have to think. Maybe that second dram was not a great idea.

Across the Bay of Wood lies a sea of a different kind.  What once was rock abounds this dry expanse, which takes its name from a beach where you can let anything hang out.” It had to be Sandy Bay, we thought, the famous beach where the rocks have no name and clothes have no place.  But no, we knew an international liquor company would having nothing to do with nudity.  Google maps and local knowledge led us to the Horse Trail at Sandy Bay dunes. Where we found a whisky barrel (empty), for rolling, a host of Hammer people and the only curves we saw were the shapes of the dunes. Steep, sandy dunes we had to climb in the midday sun.  Now I see what Tony was on about. Marsh and Patrick Leclezio, boasting the widest shoulders and tallest frames in our group attacked the barrel, rolling it round the course like seasoned distillery hands and ending with a time we knew was going to be difficult to beat.

The nest clue was easier to solve: “You’ve played in the sand, now think lush and green.  Near the gateway of a garden second-to-none you’ll find three dwellings made of stone.  It’s here you’ll find what you seek to sip.”  Clearly this was a reference to the world famous Kirstenbosch National Gardens.  And the task – blind tasting the Bushmill’s range – Original, Black Bush, and the Single Malts, 10 and 16 years old – and working out which was which.  The team selected Hector and I – or rather our noses. We cracked that challenge, thank heavens, in record time.  I think the fear of humiliation if we failed was the driving force behind our performance as our team-mates were devising wicked penalties if we got that challenge wrong.

Time for a good walk spoiled. Golf was calling.  Not lush greens, but sandy shores, to chip from the sand to a target on the beach at Oudekraal, opposite the 12 Apostles mountain range. The clue was “Now that you have had a taste of victory, hurry on round the table, through a bay that might involve tents and in front of a dozen holy gentlemen on high. You’re looking for a spot where cows might have been kept in days of old.”  Our team scored very well, the relaxing drams James and Grantham enjoyed did a good job lubricating their swings.

Clue four and time to reveal our secret weapon – glamour. Nadine, the only fwoman in the group and a former bartender was up to the task of making cocktails on Signal Hill.  The clue was “Track back on yourselves, to find signs of a landmark that looks over a point. It was from here people of old shouted out to waiting ships. If you can see the top of a world famous arena, you’ve found your place.”  With Lions Head and Table Mountain on one side, Cape Town Stadium in Green Point on the other, Nadine blended, shook, rattled and rolled, did the same with a cocktail shaker and served up a delicious drink for Colum’s enjoyment.

A great day, and it could have ended there with everyone perfectly happy. But there was more.  Down the hill we went, to the Cape Grace’s famous Bascule Whisky Bar, my second home.  Now here I pause to mention that the Bascule has hosted a few memorable evenings.  But I was concerned. It was a long day, with a dram or four already enjoyed, and drinking and driving is a stupid thing to do. I decided on coffee before driving home.  And then our clever hosts announced that RoadTrip Chauffer company would be available to shuttle everyone home, in their own cars, courtesy of Brandhouse.  We could therefore have another Bushmills, and maybe a Guinness or two, for the thirst.  It was what made the difference between a great whisky day, and a world-class whisky day.

Colum and Taygan entertained us with words before Foy Vance took the stage with song and took us to Ireland with his music.  At the end, our team came second in the competition. But what won was fellowship, friendship, a love of whiskey, the beauty of things that happen because of that amber liquid that brought us all together.

Much later, in the early hours of the morning, the chilly breeze came off the sea, blankets, heaters, glasses of Bushmills and mugs of coffee kept a few die hard whisky lovers warm, while Foy strummed his guitar and sang the songs or Ireland. That was a whisky moment to treasure.

Cape Town, February 2012.

What I wrote about the responsible drinking side of the day is here: A Party with a happy ending.

Involved in organising and managing were:

Dom Malan  – Brandhouse premium whisky marketing manager.

Taygan Govinden – Bushmills brand manager

Claire Deacon – Brandhouse project events manager

Ophelia Ross – Hammer business unit manager

Tasneem Kariem  – Hammer project manager

Thami Mazana – Jupiter account executive

James Armstrong  – Jupiter creative

Andrew Lang – Jupiter creative

Lauren Volmink – Atmosphere account director

Tony Niemeyer – Atmosphere account manager

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