Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Musings on Master Classes and the 2012 New Brunswick Spirits Festival

'Master Class' . . . . Those two words can be intimidating.  They evoke memories of post-graduate existentialism classes held in a dimly lit university classroom, where the keener students hang on every utterance of  a greying/Harris tweedy professor, who speaks cryptically from a red leather, wingback chair.  There is usually one student, attempting to appear pensive, who is actually staring blankly out a window at the ivy covered, red brick, Georgian architectural style campus buildings thinking "I haven't gotta clue what that old fart is saying.  I must be stupid.  I'm a poser.  I don't belong here."

When I scan the promotional agendas of various whisky festivals, invariably there are 'master classes' on bourbon, scotch, Canadian whisky, etc, which trigger deep in the gut, flashbacks of college-era dread (but maybe not Kierkegaardian dread, as I was the student staring out that window, not understanding Kierkegaard.  Hell, I could barely spell the Danish bore's name!).

Davin de Kergommeaux delivering a 'master class'
Canadian Whiskies Master Class
Anyhow, at this year's New Brunswick Spirits Festival, the agenda identified several ostensible post-graduate classes in whisky.  One of them was on Canadian whisky and led by an authority: Davin de Kergommeaux

Mr. Kergommeaux has written a truly definitive book on Canadian whisky.  With great trepidation, I paid the grand sum of $10 to attend the tasting.

Let's cut to the chase.  I have been to a lot of "master classes" on whiskies and Davin's was the best.


Yes, he put me and the audience immediately at ease with his deft use of humour and charm.  But, all those brand ambassadors earning their salaries do the same.  What Davin (not a brand ambassador) manages to do, that others do not, is actually create a learning environment.

I learned a bit about Canadian whisky.  I walked out of that room a little wiser.  He talked about congeners.  He explained that those chemicals, in minute quantities, deliver nearly all the flavor of distilled whisky.  I learned about key differences between Canadian whisky and American whisky (principally bourbon & Tennessee whiskies) like when blending of constituent whiskies takes place.  In America, the blending of whiskies takes place before transferring the spirit to casks for ageing.  In Canada, the blending takes place after years of ageing various whiskies in a multitude of differing casks.

Appreciating the Distinctiveness of Canadian Whisky
I listened to a couple of Davin's great insights too.  The most important one pertained to appreciation of Canadian whisky:  Remember that Canadian whiskies are different from single malt scotch and American whiskies (bourbon, Tennessee whiskey).  In Canadian whisky oakiness is generally positive as long as it is not overly bitter, as it often becomes in old Scotch or bourbon.  It is more important that the oak be in balance and accentuate distillery character.

While he did not mention it at his tasting, I have learned from him an important consideration when evaluating Canadian whisky.  Most of these whiskies taste lighter than scotch whisky.  One must not assume that heavier more concentrated flavors are better.  Light flavors can be just as complex and nuanced.

Yours Truly paying for a copy of Davin's book on Canadian Whisky
Autographed Book
My thirst for knowledge of all things Canadian whisky got me thinking that I should pull the trigger and buy Davin's book.  I mean, I got the author's attention and if I behave myself, I can probably get him to autograph his little piece of Canadiana.  So, I forked over some dough, he made change and boom, I had an autographed copy of his book.

Davin autographing a copy of his book
So, the moral of this story is to be bold.  Go to whisky master classes.  Do not be intimidated because you feel your knowledge of whisky is practically nil.  You know what?  The brand ambassador or whoever is presenting will do their best to make put you at ease.

. . .

Whisky Dinner

The NB Spirits Festival takes place over three days.  Hence, there is something going on everyday.  For me, the highlight is not the grand finale where everyone joins in a hotel ballroom and samples hundreds of whiskies.  Nah.  The highlight is the whisky dinner that takes place on the first night.  It's expensive I suppose, but hey I think to myself, I will be dead a long time, and suddenly I can rationalize the expenditure ($140) for six courses paired with six whiskies and a final one to send you gently into that good night.

Like the master classes, it can be somewhat intimidating to sit down with total strangers.  Dining on cream of chestnut soup with foie gras and sip 21 year old Balvenie Portwood doesn't necessarily come across as comfort food either.  But you know what, as awkward as you may feel, you gotta push yourself.  I guarantee you that by the second whisky flight, the conversation will start to flow and that other couple at the table that did not seem all that friendly are warming up.  They are incredulous at how gorgeous that whisky pairing of 10 year old Ledaig is with black pudding.  You chime in and before you know it, you have made new friends or at the very least great acquaintances for the evening.

This year, I was not going stag.  I recruited a couple of whisky dogs from the SPCA, I mean whisky club.

As you can see, it was pretty easy to twist their rubber arms to attend.  The organizer seemed to strategically position my table far from the learned whisky celebrities who hosted the event: Martine Nouet and Sam Simmons.

Martine Nouet is a veteran whisky critic who wrote about whiskies and the wonderful possibilities when paired with food, long before it was fashionable.  So, back in 1990 when Sinead O'Connor created a stir by her classy move to demand the American national anthem not be played before her planned concert at the Garden State Arts Center in New Jersey, Martine was writing about food and whisky pairings.  Good to see there is a God, as Martine is still doing her thing and well Sinead is where?  Or better should I say who?

Sam Simmons was the first whisky blogger on the internet (click here).  He was at that time a PHD student in English at an UK university when he became enamoured with whisky.  His blog is aptly entitled Dr Whisky and a great resource for those readers searching for tasting notes.  His blog and passion attracted the interest of William Grant & Sons, and now he finds himself the global brand ambassador for Balvenie.  Nice work, if you can get it.

Ledaig 10 years & Blood Pudding
In any event, these two luminaries walked the crowd through various whisky and food pairings.  My favorite was the pairing of the pungent and peated Lediag 10 with pan-seared scallops with black pudding (a type of sausage).

Wow!  The stars lined up for that one.  The peated, salty and smoked kipper palate of the Ledaig was married with the fresh from the sea scallop, who flirted with the earthy bridesmaid, blood pudding.  Wow!

Bunnahabhain 12 years
Bunnahabhain 12 was a nice discovery for me.  Molasses, blackberries with some Maritime notes.  A lot going on, and I need to get a bottle of this for further study and posting a proper tasting note.  All I know is I liked it.

. . .

Martine Nouet, Davin de Kergommeaux, Jason Debly
So, in conclusion, the initial feelings of dread passed and in its place was a good time.  Toss your shyness, feelings of inadequacy aside!  Attend a whisky festival where you are and I bet you will meet like minded people and have a great time!


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve & Springbank 10 years

Whisky Dogs
The whisky tasting club, I and some other guys pulled together about a year ago, is called the Whisky Dogs.  We are mangy scruffs who sniff out the good stuff and bark at the bow-wow bottles.

The Whisky Dogs met this past Friday night at my house.  I set up a blind tasting of four bottles and served in the following order:

(1)  Johnnie Walker Green Label (pure malt)
(2)  Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve (blend)
(3)  Amrut Fusion (single malt)
(4)  Springbank 10yrs (single malt)

The order of serving was from slightest to most robust.

Only I knew what was being poured.  I conducted the experiment to see what the hounds would select as: Best? Second best? Dead last?

I always enjoy hosting blind tastings and noting the reactions of people to the mystery pours.  In my mind, I ranked the best to worst.  I'll let you know what I thought the ranking should be and whether or not the dawgs agreed, at the end of this post.

Johnnie Walker Green Label
We started off with this blend of single malts, and it showed well.  It's very good, but sadly being discontinued.  Enough said.  Tasting notes available: here.  The Dogs panted their approval.

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve
Diageo, the owner of the Johnnie Walker brand has been tinkering with its product line-up as of late.  Besides Green Label getting the axe, they introduced Double Black and  relaunched Gold Label as "Gold Label Reserve".  Both are without age statements and the speculation is that there is an insufficient supply of aged malts to continue to meet demand.  So, drop the age statement requirement, add in younger malt and grain whiskies, and presto, problem solved.

Of course, for you and I, the consumer, there is a potential problem.  Taste and quality of blended scotch whisky may be at risk.

Johnnie Walker Gold Label, up until last year, had an 18 year old age statement and was one of the very best blended scotch whiskies.  (I reviewed it here.)  An explanation is provided on regarding the reasoning for abandoning the 18 year age statement and moving to the no-age-statement 'Gold Label Reserve':

The existing Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18-year-old and Johnnie Walker Green Label will begin to be phased out in the U.S. market during the summer of next year (the phase-outs will begin this summer in most other global markets). In their place, Diageo will introduce two new labels that have tested successfully in Asia—Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve (selling for around $63 a 750-ml.) and Johnnie Walker Platinum 18-year-old (around $110).

Diageo’s head of whisky outreach Nick Morgan told Shanken News Daily the revamp was meant to spread out the Johnnie Walker portfolio’s pricing in order to better motivate consumers to move up the brand ladder. 

"As we reviewed the brand offering, we found that the range wasn’t meeting consumer needs and providing the best consumer journey through the range as far as taste profiles and price points,” Morgan said. “Another reason for this change is to try and have, as far as is possible, a consistent range of prices and options for consumers wherever they go in the world—which, to be honest, we haven’t had heretofore.” (Emphasis added)

The new Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve is based on the same Clynelish single malt as Gold Label 18-year-old, but it has a less peaty profile and will sell for around $20 less. Removing the age statement from the Gold offering also enables Diageo greater flexibility in crafting the blend. Platinum 18-year-old, meanwhile, has a more intense, peaty Speyside character. The two new variants will sit between Black Label (around $40) and Blue Label (around $210) in the portfolio. “You can see how the ladder then stretches out,” Morgan said."

I do not agree with Mr. Morgan's statement underlined above.  Gold Label 18 years met mine and a lot of consumer's needs.

Let me tell you something about Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18 years.  It had a nose that was among the finest of any whisky.  Yes, any!  Single malts included, regardless of age or distillery.  The nose was incredibly floral in an amazingly realistic fashion.  Close your eyes and it was flowers, roses and peonies.  Fantastically well done.  Diageo must have spent a fortune to get those heavenly scents to rise up in the glass just so.  A lot of time and experimentation must have been spent to achieve such remarkable olfactory perfection.  

The axed Gold Label 18 years did not disappoint on the palate.   Luscious wild honey, English cream, cinnamon, interesting peat & smoke hidden amongst exotic spices just floored me.  This dram was interestingly peated. 

I bought several bottles in the past and they were all consistently excellent.

So, with that memory, I thought I would spring on the Whisky Dogs a real treat that would leave them salivating for more.

Nose (undiluted)
The glorious floral notes of the 18 year old predecessor were nowhere to be found.  In its rightful place was an unremarkable impostor serving up thin, faint tendrils of chopped mint, sea air and what passed for peat but more reminiscent of a pine tree air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror of an airport cab.

Palate (undiluted)
Sweet. Matter of fact. Let there be no confusion. Horribly, sticky Danish sweet. This is like a bag of sugar donuts that your local cop polishes off in his squad car, with a triple cream & sugar coffee, while secretly hoping he does not get trapped in morning rush hour gridlock before getting to the station to do his business. This flavor profile is a travesty that evokes childhood memories of Honeycomb and Corn Pops cereal while watching Saturday morning cartoons.  I am really disappointed.

Finish (undiluted)
Short. Like Danny DeVito short. Somewhat grainy like your satellite TV reception in a snow storm. A little warmth, malty/oakey, a puff of cigarette smoke and a cheap shake of pepper.

General Impressions
Well, I was embarrassed to have included that in the tasting.  None of the dogs raised their paws.  Instead, they rolled over and played dead when I offered to pour more.  Needless to say, they were totally unimpressed.  The best one of them could come up with was that it was smooth.  Hmmm, so is lava as it oozes out of a volcano.  

Price Point/Suggested Alternatives
You know how I feel? Robbed! Robbed I tell you. I paid $79 ($62 in the US) for this bottle of sweet honey, Halloween candied, marmalade glaze concoction. I really am ticked off.  For that price I could have had a bottle of Dalwhinnie 15 that I consider to be in the same flavor style (ie. honey/nutmeg/cinnamon) and most definitely superior.

Diageo claims Clynelish is at the centre of Gold Label Reserve.  I am not tasting it.  What I do recognize is lots of Cardhu, which by the way is never a good thing.

Much cheaper and nearly equivalent renditions of this flavor profile are available. I am thinking Power's Gold for $22 or lets go cheaper to Cutty Sark.

Anyway, next up was a no-age statement single malt of India: Amrut Fusion.

Amrut Fusion Single Malt
Amrut Fusion is a single malt produced in India.  Some of the peated barley is sourced from Scotland and the remainder  is taken from Punjab.  When people learn this, I find they immediately turn up their nose.  

"India?  Single malt?" they say.

I know what they are thinking too.  Jason truly is out to lunch.  The rumours are true.

When I get this narrow-minded reaction, I try to convince them that Amrut Fusion is damn good.  But, it just falls on deaf ears.  I explain that this Indian single malt whisky is made in Bangalore. The distillery takes Punjabi and peated Scottish barley and makes an interesting single malt. Hence, the name: Fusion.  AND!!!!  It is good!  I also point out that single malt can be produced outside of Scotland.  Japan has been doing so successfully for many years.  Remember how 15 or 20 years ago people scoffed at the thought of Japanese single malt?  Well, guess what?  India is the new Japan.  At this point in the conversation, people usually peel away from me with lame excuses that they gotta make a call or it's getting late.

So, up against some single malt snobbery that I suspected had infected my pack of mongrels like a bad case of the fleas, I decided to include this Bangalore number in the blind tasting.

The reaction was wholly positive.  Everyone liked it and were taken aback by its huge flavor profile.  This is a big whisky.  Towering.  Tastes of saddle leather and mahogany.  Real old school.  Powerful horse kick of cedar, cloves, cardamon, spiced dark treacle, coriander. Dark chocolate that has a heavy weighting of cocoa. Some big peat notes reminiscent of Islay are also present.  At 50% ABV it is amazingly enjoyable neat.  Mind you, not for the novice.

When the tasting was done of all the flights, I revealed Amrut, and some were truly incredulous that India could produce such a quality whisky.  Nevertheless, the conversion process had begun.  

Springbank 10 years Single Malt
The last flight of the blind tasting was Springbank 10 years single malt.  

The dogs sniffed suspiciously.  They were unsure what to think of me any more.  I had started them off Green Label that they lapped up, but then did a U-turn and headed the wrong way on a one-way street with Gold Label Reserve, unleashed them in the park with Amrut Fusion, and now, they were going to splash around in the swimming pool.  Hopefully, there would be no Oh Henry! bar sightings in the water . . . .  Let's see how they made out with Springbank.

Nose (undiluted)
Heavy sea air, black smoke, thick peat, lemons.  Beautiful and unique.  Something very different.  Artisanal if you will. 

Palate (undiluted)
Brine, salty, lemon rind, green apple, Brazil nuts, an oily body, and sherry makes an appearance in a cloud of black smoke and sooty peat. 

Finish (undiluted)
Firm, drying oak, plenty of spiced balsa,  black tea.  There is a firm maltiness too on the finish that is very unique.  Enormously complex weaving of flavors.

General Impressions
All the dogs howled in approval at Springbank.  It's like the moon rose high in the night sky and we were going to croon to it all evening.  Wow!  Springbank 10 years is a great malt.  Not good.  Great!  A show stopper that commands your attention from the nose through the finish. Why?  Unique friend.  Very unique!

The magic of Springbank is how it can so deliciously present on the palate both peat smoke and sherry.  Very hard to do I tell you and rarely is it executed so well as here.  While the distillery employs mostly ex-bourbon casks to age this spirit, a few sherry casks are thrown in the mix.  The spirit is not surprisingly light in color, but don't worry, this is a rich, luxurious dram that displays the ying and yang of peat/smoke and a little sherry with great dexterity.  Make no mistake, this is greatness in malt form.  

Price Point
Not cheap.  A 10 year old single malt that costs nearly $100 ($98) to be exact better be good.  It is worth the high price of admission.  I have no regrets.  This is a memorable whisky that I will certainly be thinking about long after the bottle is long gone.  A classic if you will and living proof that age statements are not necessarily indicative of quality.  This 10 year old kicks butt, and beats the hell out of a lot of single malts that are 18 years.  In fact, as much as I like Springbank 15, I truly prefer the 10.

46% alc/vol
The higher than usual 40% or 43% abv doesn't necessarily mean you need to add water.  I like this neat, but some like water.  A matter of taste.  It is also non-chill filtered and no artificial colouring is added. 

Whisky Dog Rankings?
In my mind, I ranked the whiskies in order of greatness (#1 the most) as follows:

(1)  Springbbank 10
(2)  Amrut Fusion
(3)  Johnnie Walker Green
(4)  Johnnie Walker Gold Label

And the Whisky Dogs without my opinion came to the same ranking of quality.  They were quick to point out that Springbank was more complex than the Amrut.  But, they did love the Amrut too.  B-dawg member was really impressed with Amrut, and maybe I succeeded in showing him that great whisky is not geographically limited to Scotland.  He kept staring at the bottle after I unveiled it.

Another bit of wisdom I took away from the tasting was how a group of guys with varying preferences with respect to whisky nonetheless agreed as to the ranking of the whiskies.  This reinforces my belief that the discernment of great whisky and poor ones is not purely a subjective enterprise.  There are absolute truths in this world, and they apply to whisky too.

On the Look-out
I and the other whisky dogs are always on the look-out for other great malts.  We hope to report on many more shortly.  So, keep checking in from time to time!


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission. Photograph credits: (1) First photograph is entitled "Hurworth Houngs - going for a walk in the snow" by Amy Fair - Hurworth Photography, who holds all world copyright.  No reproduction is permitted without permission of Amy Fair - Photography.  Used here with photographer's permission.  (2) Various photographs of scotch whiskies and Amrut were taken by Jason Debly.  (3) Final photograph of German Shorthaired Pointer Dog taken by Yourdogtoday's Photostream, who holds all worldwide copyright and reproduction is permitted without obtaining this copyright holder's permission.  Note:  All images appearing in this article are for the purposes of nostalgia, education and entertainment.  Moreover, all images used are considered by the author to be significant in illustrating the subject matter, facilitating artistic/critical commentary, as it provides an immediate relevance to the reader more capably than the textual description.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: Smokehead Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Lately, I have noticed quite a few of my friends have found true love online.  I'm serious, they were not meeting anyone in their day-to-day existence, and so created a profile with some online company and they were struck by Cupid's arrow.  I bull sh-t you not!  I can think of three couples who are married that met online.  Good for them!

The online dating trend got me thinking.  I long for some love too.  Love of a good Islay malt that is (and maybe a grammar tutor who can teach me not to end sentences with verbs . . .).  Anyway, I and the lasses of Islay generally have very stormy relationships.  Few are serene and delightful conversationalists like Ms. Lagavulin 16.

Instead, I end up meeting wild and peaty Laphroaig 10 temptresses who would just as soon slap you as kiss you.  The waters of those relationships can be dark, choppy and white capped at times.  Her salty tongue and raw hicky bites can be a bit too much.  I struggle with her moodiness and temper tantrums when I date other malts like that Speyside babe, Ms. Glenfiddich 15 Solera, who is so much more easy going.

Of course, if you talk to the Islay ladies, they will tell you another story.  They will tell you how I do not listen, and that sometimes they are just venting and they don't want to hear a solution to their problems.  And no, she is not dehydrated!  She does not need water.  She doesn't want to calm down her fiery and wood smoking mood.  Why can't I accept her ashy and sooty character for who she is, and blah, blah and before you know it I am thinking about football stats.

Clearly, I need relationship counselling.   I can't make up my mind about the ladies of Islay.  I mean I would definitely enter into a committed relationship with Ms. Lagavulin any day, but she won't have me.  I just can't afford to date her on a regular basis.  She is too expensive to hang out with.  The others ones like Laphroaig and Ardbeg are so unpredictable.  I need advice just like people in the online love world.

But?  Do I really want to part with my hard earned cash and hire an online malt dating consultant?  Especially one who describes himself as my "online dating wingman?"  You know that anyone who describes themselves as your 'wingman' is anything but that.  Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

So, I decided to post an ad:

SWM seeking Islay lady malt who enjoys hikes through the hills, romantic seaside camp fires,  has a taste for dulse, has a smoking body, and is not afraid to share it.

I got a response.

 Phone rang a couple of days later.

Me:  "Hello."

Lady Smokehead Islay:  "Meet me at the corner of Regent and Queen."

Me: "Who is this?"

Lady Smokehead Islay:  "You posted an ad right?"

Me: "Uh yeah.  Umm how did you get my number?"

Lady Smokehead Islay:  "I know someone in the police . . . or should I say I am 'known' by the police.  Be there! -click!"

. . .

I stood at the corner as directed.  It was a rainy Saturday afternoon.  Out of the distance I heard her first before I saw her arrive on a rumbling Honda motorbike whose exhaust had seen better days.  She skidded to a stop inches from my feet, clad in a black leather Barbour motorcycle jacket.  She motioned with a shake of her head for me to hop on.  The motorbike belched a little black smoke laced with sulphur, and we took off.  I held onto her tight little waist as her black hair blew in my face.

Scent/Nose (undiluted)
I nuzzled into the nape of her neck, as she leaned the bike into a turn, kicked it down a gear, while I took in scents of black tea, tar, fresh asphalt, peat and black sooty smoke.

We drove for the better part of a wind and rain lashed hour without speaking.  I had no idea where the hell we were when she braked to a stop by the side of the highway.  Below the guardrail, following her lead, we scrambled down the rocky hillside to the beach.

As we talked, she gathered some branches, some wet driftwood, and set it afire by the sea with a scratched chrome zippo lighter that she pulled out of the chest pocket of her jacket.

Ms. Lady Smokehead:  "What kind of music do you like?"

Me: "I am a bit of an insomniac.  Late at night I read and usually have some melancholic/pensive music playing, stuff like REM's Bang and blame or Drive while trying to figure out what the hell Michael Stipe is saying."

Ms. Lady Smokehead:  "I listen to Bowie's All the Young Dudes.  It sums up who I am."

I nodded, not really understanding what she meant, and unsure if I wanted to hear her particular existential explanation.  I suspected it might be painful for her to relate.  Some things are better left unsaid.

She reminded me of a youthful Francoise Hardy.  Fragile, slightly damaged, but rub beneath the surface and there is a hard, unyielding and beautiful diamond of a soul.  I was attracted to her like a moth to a flame.

She leaned in, like a black cat stretching, for a kiss.

Palate (undiluted)
A kiss of sweet peat, but thin with a hints of water, chimney smoke, soot and ginger root.  Young.  Not complex. Pleasant nevertheless.

Finish (undiluted)
A dusting of pretzel salt, seaweed, brine, drying, warmth before the bonfire smoke takes over.

Expensive Date
We got back on her bike and rode to a gas station.  I paid for the gas.  $50.  She dropped me off at the same street corner, and I never saw her again.

Ms. Smokehead was hard to explain.  I like her, what little of her I got to know.  She was an expensive date and left me somehow dissatisfied with her or was it with me?  But, for someone new to Islay courtship, Ms. Smokehead provided a smooth and intriguing introduction.  I like her.

Not sure, my friends agree.  They mostly think her Islay girlfriends like Ms. White Horse and Ms. Black Bottle are a lot more fun and lot less expensive to date.  For me, sometimes I just don't believe the geography of the heart can be broken down in economic terms.  I like her and will probably call on her again.


Jason Debly

P.S.  Unfamiliar with the music of Francoise Hardy?  Check out Tous les garcons et les filles on You Tube.

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission except for photography not by the writer.  Photo credites: (1) image belongs to owners of; (2) My Online Dating Consultant image uploaded by Flickr member Mike Muson; (3) Smokehead bottle pic by yours truly; (4) "Close-up of a lit 1968 Slim Model Zippo lighter" photograph taken by David J. Fred and is made available by him via a Creative Commons licence; (5) Photograph of Francoise Hardy astride a mid-60's Honda.  Credit: Hulton Archives: Getty Images;  (6) Another close-up photograph of Smokehead bottle and packaging taken by the author. . Note: All images appearing in this article are for the purposes of nostalgia, education and entertainment. Moreover, all images used are considered by the author to be significant in illustrating the subject matter, facilitating artistic/critical commentary, as it provides an immediate relevance to the reader more capably than the textual description.