Painter of badges and targets, hearts and stars, Sir Peter Blake is the great pioneer of British pop art, best known for his wrestlers and circus performers, brightly coloured collages, and iconic album covers for The Beatles and The Who. After growing up during the Second World War, Blake went on to study graphic design at Gravesend Technical College at just 13 years old. His natural talent won him a painting place at the Royal College of Art in 1953, and a balance of graphic art and fine art has been evident in his work ever since. Blake's love of rock'n'roll, movie stars and wrestling all found their way into his art, and by the late 1950s, he had established himself as the founding father of British pop art. Over six decades later, Sir Peter Blake has assumed national treasure status, and even now at the age of 88, Blake continues to work from his London studio, crammed with an extraordinary array of curiosities and artwork collected throughout his career. Describing himself as part of The Macallan family, Sir Peter Blake joins Lead Whisky Maker Sarah Burgess to discuss his 35-year relationship with the distillery, and the release of their most recent collaboration, The Anecdotes of Ages Collection. Sir Peter, you are known as the founding father of British pop art, with a career spanning over 60 years! What have been your main inspirations? SIR PETER: Over the years, I've had a mix of styles, from colourful lettering to likeness drawing and collages. I guess you could say I've drawn what I was interested in, with my work transcending across fashion, music and evolving art movements. Your childhood through the war is said to have played a part in the work you have created. How so? SIR PETER: I was born in Dartford, Kent, in 1932, so when the war started in 1939, a great lump of my childhood was taken up by being evacuated twice. Looking back on everything now, this has had a psychological effect on the rest of my life and the type of work I have created. Meanwhile, Sarah, you had ever whisky lover's dream childhood of growing up in Speyside. SARAH: I was born and brought up in Aberlour on Speyside, surrounded by distilleries, and whisky has always been a way of life. Until I was an adult, I assumed this is how it was for everyone. I didn't appreciate how special it was until then. How has growing up in Speyside shaped your whisky journey to where you are today? SARAH: I began my career in whisky as a tour guide. Through explaining the processes involved in whisky making to visitors, my knowledge grew and after university I began to undertake senior operational roles in distilleries. Over the years, my responsibilities started to include cask quality and consistency, site management, and supporting brand activity. After moving away for various roles, I was able to return to Speyside with an enhanced appreciation for the area. Now in the role of Lead Whisky Maker for The Macallan, working in whisky is the norm for me and I can't imagine doing anything else. Aside from whisky, my other passion in life is collecting art, and working on this inspiring collaboration with Sir Peter has allowed me to combine both. As an art lover, this must be a hugely exciting collaboration for you. Were you already a fan of Sir Peter's work? SARAH: It's been amazing to collaborate with Sir Peter - for anyone that has an interest in art, the opportunity to work with such a legendary artist is unbelievable. Before the collaboration, I was aware of Sir Peter's long-standing relationship with The Macallan and his more mainstream work that is embedded in British pop culture. Tell us about your visit to Sir Peter's London studio. It looks like a fascinating place. SARAH: I could have stayed for days! It's such an interesting setting and we spent time looking at the art and collectables he has in there. He showed me many of his captivating works of art, including a collection of pieces from an exhibition called Joseph Cornell's Holiday. These pieces were very inspiring for me, as Sir Peter was able to take the isolated life of this character and visually send him on travels through Europe. Through his art he facilitated Cornell visiting places he couldn't travel to in his own life. This work really gave an insight to the fun and colourful side of Sir Peter. I was also delighted to discover that Sir Peter is a fellow collector of unusual items - and that we shared a fondness for collecting miniature chairs! Sir Peter, you have collaborated with The Macallan before. What is the story behind this most recent collaboration? SIR PETER: Yes, I have. In fact, my relationship with The Macallan spans nearly four decades. The Anecdotes of Ages Collection will take the form of 13 one-of-a-kind bottles of exceptional Scotch whisky, each containing liquid that has been maturing in 1967 casks for more than 50 years. Each bottle will feature its own distinct original collage art on the label, based on unique stories about The Macallan's legacy. SARAH: This is an extraordinary collection of whisky and art; it's a collection of stories that pay homage to the past. While the thirteenth original bottle will be kept in The Macallan archive, a highly limited edition whisky featuring a duplicate label and the same rare 1967 whisky will be released as The Anecdotes of Ages Collection: Down to Work Limited Edition, and only a few hundred bottles will be available worldwide. Sir Peter, what is it you admire about The Macallan? SIR PETER: I've always been excited to have been involved with The Macallan. I suppose it's almost as if I'm part of The Macallan family now. It's clear The Macallan has built a legacy as they're doing things differently. Just look at the new distillery; it's a sensational building. Tell us about the whisky making process for The Anecdotes of Ages Collection. Did you choose the liquid together? SARAH: We sampled some expressions I took with me when I visited Sir Peter at his studio in London. Then we were lucky enough to host Sir Peter at the distillery, where we were able to explore the characteristics of the whisky in more detail. Sir Peter was very respectful of the whisky making process, as I was with the creation of his art. We stayed in our own fields but took inspiration in many ways from each other and there are many similarities in our processes of development. Sarah, how were you inspired by Sir Peter to create this collection? SARAH: For The Anecdotes of Ages Collection, I reviewed Sir Peter's career pulled out important dates that marked clear points in time that influenced his career. The year I settled on was 1967, which was a pivotal moment where Sir Peter transitioned from a key personality in the art movement into a pop culture icon. I then focussed my search on finding a single malt from that year. I wanted the whisky to show respect for both Sir Peter and The Macallan, highlighting their shared values. The whisky displays characteristics of a classic style of The Macallan, with the presence of oak and dried fruits, while elements of hazelnut and strawberry represent the colourful character of Sir Peter, showcasing his vibrancy and passion. Not only was I truly inspired by Sir Peter's artwork, but also him as a person - his energy and passion for learning. His genuine character and modesty are rare attributes that I really admired. His talent is phenomenal, and he humbly states he can "do a good likeness drawing." What does it taste like? SARAH: This exceptional 1967 whisky has notes of oak and fig, leading to a burst of hazelnut and strawberry. It's a truly special single malt that finishes with complex flavours of chocolate and lightly spiced peach. It is in many ways, its own work of art. It sounds amazing! We doubt these special bottles will be around for long... SARAH: Whisky lovers will also welcome the release of further special single malt, created to commemorate Sir Peter's visit to The Macallan Estate. The bottling, name An Estate, A Community, And A Distillery, is presented in a beautiful custom box inspired by Sir Peter's art. The whisky is the colour of cinnamon, with notes of dried fruits, cracked black pepper, treacle, vanilla and a rich cacao finish. Sir Peter, tell us about your artwork for The Anecdotes of Ages Collection. SIR PETER: It's been quite fascinating being able to watch Sarah and the team at The Macallan work, because it was as mysterious as me making a collage! Sarah would have a range of little bottles and mix about five of them before tasting. Then she'd add something else, and taste that. Sarah was just like an artist making a collage. I took those stories and began to map out my own journey to create these works of art, using the memories of my exploration around The Macallan Estate. My creative process is like a ladder: first starting with inspiration gathering, then thoughtful consideration, and finally creation. I've used crowd art collage to visually represent the heritage of The Macallan's character and legacy, bringing to life the unique stories about its history, community, and the beautiful natural landscape of the Easter Elchies Estate. You have a fascination with collage which is seen in a lot of your work, including your iconic album cover for The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. How did your love of collage begin? SIR PETER: My love of collage first began when I shared an apartment with an artist called Richard Smith. He knew all about collages, showing me a bunch by German artist Kurt Schwitters. It was sort of a masterclass; him telling me about collages and me picking it up. I've never looked back. Sir Peter, it sounds like you don't stop working. What's next? SIR PETER: I'd say I'm now at the end of my career. I think more or less anyone I would want to paint, I have. So, in a curious way, I have stepped into freedom! The original feature is from the Spring 2021 edition of Whiskeria, delivered to the door of W Club subscribers and also free with any Whisky Shop purchase in store or online. Click here to read the full Spring 21 issue of Whiskeria online for free.