We have been working closely with Ballantine’s and being a part of their Boiler Room x True Music Partnership has been something we’ve held in high regard. We’re long-time fans of Boiler Room and the Ballantine’s True Music Partnership and just like our ethos here at MyCityByNight, both brands strive to unearth new talent through each of their initiatives.
So you can only imagine my excitement when Kwazi from One Eyed Jack PR agency called me to ask if I would like to join their team of publishers and report on the launch of the new global partnership between Ballantine’s & Boiler Room. Without hesitation, I immediately said yes and then realised I was cutting it fine, along with everyone else to get our visas in time.
Next, the scramble to get to the visa – send in all the correct information, pay for the visa and the pray it arrives in time. I can’t miss this, I won’t miss this. This would be my 10th Boiler Room across 4 countries and that means I couldn’t miss this one, I just had to be there.
Let’s paint the picture, I’m set to leave on Wednesday the 23rd of January and not only am I shitting myself that my passport/visa isn’t going to arrive in time, but my next worry was also getting onto the plane itself. But that’s another story altogether. I get the message on the 18th that my visa has arrived for collection and I race off to get it, tear it open and see that I’ve been accepted and got the British stamp of approval. Next stop London!
Now you can imagine that when travelling with Ballantine’s, you do things right. I landed with Darren from OEJ and we were picked up at Heathrow and driven through to the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch. The Ace Hotel can only be described as one of the trendiest spots in Shoreditch, a freelancers dream. Their reception and workspace have a coffee shop and hot desks everywhere with two separate restaurants and the hotel is music-themed with vinyl, guitars and instruments displayed everywhere. I was in heaven. In my room was my itinerary and a beautiful bottle of Ballantine’s (I’m sure you saw my overly excited Instagram story).
Now’s where the fun starts, we head off and meet the rest of the South African crew including Simone, the SA Ballantine’s Brand Manager, who took us off to Pizza East where we met influencers, media, bloggers and publishers from over 30 countries. A great ‘ice-breaker’ before to the Ballantine’s tasting at the Britianna room at the Ace Hotel – a spot that head breathtaking views – a 2x 15m tables set up with a Ballantine’s tasting session. My mouth was watering.
Tom Elton from Ballantine’s global team took us through the partnership and explained the collaboration between the brand and the music and their goal going forward which lead to a 3 year partnership between the brands where they’ll be going through to emerging countries (including coming back to South Africa – cause they love us so much) and continue the Boiler Room True Music partnership – it’s really exciting to see brands like Ballantine’s showing such strong interest in the music scene and helping it grow and allowing world-class music brands like Boiler Room continue to do what they do best, live stream new and unheard alongside the world’s biggest musicians to the globe.
After Tom had taken us through the partnership, we were then given a breakdown of how the tasting Ballantine’s global brand manager, who really taught me a thing or two when it came to Whisky (and yes, I am calling it whisky cause it’s Scottish – see, I learnt something while I was there). We were taken through a tasting of Ballantine’s range, which 2 of the bottles are unavailable in South Africa and I am making sure that they do get some sent down here because it was some of the most delicious whisky I’ve ever tasted. We got to try the Ballantine’s 17 years and the Ballantine’s Barrel Smooth in the tasting and the 17-year-old was some of the smoothest, finest whisky I have ever tasted But here comes the fun part, the “blind tasting” which was supported by a different track, what they like to call the TRUE MUSIC TASTING.
Each person had to put on some earphones, get their pen and paper ready and listen to a specific song while they sip, taste and review the 3 different Ballantine’s glasses. Each song had a different beat, feeling and emotion to it which kind of threw me off but my answers still stayed fairly similar across the board, except for the second drink, maybe that was due to the upbeat nature of the song. Pens were put down, a couple more drinks were had and we got to hear the results of which Ballantine’s was in each glass. The room threw out various answers to each one but this is where I keep my mouth shut and allow you to go and do the tasting yourself and find out which drinks were which. But now it was time for Boiler Room…
We got to Corsica Studios and went inside a dimly lit room, with a Ballantine’s set up bar serving some Ballantine’s on the rocks all the way through to their signature cocktails. After mingling for 30 mins or so, the host for the evening and the host of the panel took us through a brief intro into Boiler Room & True Music and called onto the stage the representatives from various countries including Kid Fonque from South Africa. This session was incredibly interesting for me, it showed that no matter where you’re from, you’re all fighting for the same thing, freedom through electronic music. The hardships each promoter, artist, DJ etc had to endure within their country. We chatted to Olivia who is a DJ, promoter and music enthusiast for over 15 years in her home town in Krakow and she is resident of Unsound Festival.
Her role in the local music industry includes booking artists for the club Szpitalna 1 and hosting her own We are Radar party series. She mentioned how tough it is for a woman in her country to be respected as musicians and DJ’s, similar to here in South Africa, and that’s why she hosts her own events and festivals to drive awareness around these incredible female artists. Allan Nicoll, South Africa’s Kid Fonque dropped some seriously awesome insight into the South Africa house scene, providing the audience with a deeper understanding of our culture and our love for House Music. Kid Fonque really couldn’t be a better ambassador for the Ballantine’s True Music brand for South Africa. He showed the crowd we’re no joke down here and the hardships we face are a constant battle to show how strong our community is when it comes together.
We ended up dancing the next hour or two away at Corsica to Low808 (aka Ildar Zaynetdinov from Russia who is the mastermind behind Gost Zvuk, one of the most important labels in Russian electronic music. He’s also the music programmer of Moscow’s well-respected arts, and music space NII and responsible for booking a diverse array of artists. His events play an important role in bringing Moscow’s underground electronic music community together) who gave us a good lesson in acid Techno before heading back to the Ace Hotel for a nightcap or two but to be honest, I had seen, heard, and enjoyed more than enough music and Ballantine’s for one day and I was ready to head to dreamland.
This was a one-of-a-kind experience where music and brands collided in such a manner that everyone wins, everyone in the community becomes a part of something they deeply love. It was truly a special day and a day I’ll never forget. A big thank you to Tom Elton from Ballantine’s and Steve Appleyard from Boiler Room, your love and dedication to the electronic scene are astounding. I can’t thank you both enough for your contribution to what we’re all trying our best to grow every day. Never stop doing what you’re doing.