Bal Masque; the masquerade ball. | The Lakes Distillery Bal Masque; the masquerade ball. – The Lakes Distillery

Bal Masque, or the ‘masquerade ball’ is an ancient European celebration of masked dance, evolving from the Christian practice of indulging in feasts and festivities before fasting for Lent.

Originally associated with Carnival (or carne vale, ‘farewell to meat’), masquerade has always been a beacon of freedom, where people find an escape from the norm and respite from social rule and order.

Whilst a fairly common celebration amongst villagers hosting glamorous processions and pageants, they rose in popularity throughout France, and into Venetian Italy during the Renaissance period in the 15th and 16th Centuries.

The practice of a masked ball ascended through the classes, where rich and poor would mingle in extravagant costumes wearing a mask to obscure their identity; something that would become part of the game and mystery.

Draped in decadence, masquerade balls evolved to become increasingly elaborate affairs. They allowed those in higher social classes to carouse in ways society usually forbid, dropping the customary restraint and etiquette required.

Masked members of Venetian aristocracy would take full advantage of a scandalous night of anonymity, and in a world turned upside down with men dressed as women, and vice versa, all manner of desires spread, becoming rife with decadence, gluttony and lust.

These spirited events became so notorious, that an anti-masquerade ball movement was established, outraged at the immorality they encouraged. As the fashion landed on the shores of the English gentry, the ill-reputed masquerade ball was introduced as a more refined affair hosted in some of the finest dance halls in England, turning this raucous occasion into a more dignified event, full of British pomp and circumstance, enjoyed by royalty and high society.

Modern masquerade is now relived as a celebration of free spirit during festivals such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the Rio Carnival in Brazil.

A night where everyone can be a little mysterious, their risqué nature has evolved from the intrigue of what is behind the mask to the frisson of excitement found in the grand unveiling of the enigmatic characters.

Equally, the beauty of The Whiskymaker’s Editions – Bal Masque derives from the mercurial, not the obvious. With untold guile, wisdom, wit and panache, the whiskymaker has masterfully conducted enigmatic French oak casks to create a seductive, mysterious character.

Flavours and aromas mingle like masked revellers with featherlight touches, coquettish flourishes and always the promise of more. Of being transported to unchartered territories beyond expectations.

Complex and aromatic, forbidden orchard fruits abound and entwine on the tongue with sweet sensory spices, raisins, vanilla and nutmeg, with subtle background notes of toasted almonds and incense.

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