Unlearn

“Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us, but within that inch, we are free.” – Alan Moore (V For Vendetta)

 

A quick word of advice.  Do with it what you will.

“Get uninformed.”

Go back to square one and learn it all over again.  On your own terms and empirically.  Stop drinking the Koolaid the industry is pouring you.  We’ve all done it at some point.  But then again at one point everyone believed the earth was flat too.  Learning is not just regurgitating.  It’s using a critical mind.  Doubt anyone and everyone in marketing.  They’re not out for your interests.  Maybe their initial goals were pure but, like politics, you soon learn the way to the top does not include adhering to morals.

I simply cannot believe the tripe I am reading from ‘industry’ people, many of whom I formerly had some sort of admiration for.  I can’t believe they would intentionally dupe people who are now in the same position they were a few years back.  Others – newer to the scene – are even more dangerous, simply repeating what has been fed to them since day one.  Jim Murray acknowledged this very problem in the introduction to his 2014 Whisky Bible.

A second word of advice.  Also to be used at your discretion.

Love your single malt whisky.  Love it so much that you’re willing to defend it even if that means pissing people off.  Chill-filtration does serve only to increase marketability…at the expense of your tasting experience.  Artificial coloring is a bitter coloring agent that affects flavour and only serves to increase marketability…at the expense of your tasting experience.  Non age-stated whiskies exist to allow the brands to sell you younger whisky, at whatever prices they set, while not acknowledging that this is what they’re doing…at the expense of your tasting experience.  There is simply no other reason for NAS whiskies to exist.

I get that many whiskies that “suffer from these deficiencies” are in fact good whiskies, but that does not justify their existence.  Many analogies come to mind, but let’s choose a less offensive one.  This is all akin to saying “Well…at least these shoes fit beautifully” while watching a documentary about the sweatshop in which they’re made.

I repeat…”get uninformed.”

Vendetta

 

– Fearless Leader

10 thoughts on “Unlearn

  1. Jon

    I appreciate your commentary. As a relative newcomer, it took me awhile to understand NAS Whiskies and to muddle through what they were, why they cost what they did, age vs. quality, etc. Now for the most part I agree with your statements, I do at times feel like the industry is attempting duplicity in setting a premium price on NAS bottlings and attempting to create an artificial value on their product.

    Without a complete list of all of the different barrels that go into an expression like Ardbeg’s Corryvreckan (for example), it’s hard to discern whether or not I’m drinking very good and very young whisky, or that I’m getting a blend of younger and older barrels. What remains is that it does taste good to me, and I like it.

    I get that the older stuff necessarily costs more and therefore should carry appropriate prices. However, if a distillery doesn’t put information on the label, I’m stuck at either trusting them, or trusting how it tastes to me. I don’t buy Whisky for collecting, I buy it for taste and enjoyment. Some NAS stuff tastes pretty good, but I don’t have a measuring stick to decide if it’s actually a VALUE.

    We all like bang for the buck and it is fun to taste something new and exciting. So, on one hand, I’m all in favor of the flavor of some NAS Whiskies, but I don’t like being kept in the dark about what I’m actually getting, including no mention of artificial coloring, chill filtering, and age(s) of the single malts.

    So, I try to attend as many FREE tastings that I can, and generally if I like something, I compare it to something else that I like. If the price is in line with what I paid for something else, I’ll generally buy it. However if it comes down to something with an age statement and something without, I’ll buy the one with a stated age, (unless of course there’s chill filtering, colorant, etc).

    For the most part and my limited funds, I try to have daily drams and stuff for special occasions. There’s some tasty stuff in the 18 Year Old range, and of course the Ardbeg 10 is a bargain of bargains in my view.

    So, yeah, the Whisky Industry is doing itself some harm, and a disservice to customers. I’ll continue to be the judge of what I like AFTER I get a taste, and I’ll ignore the hype regarding scores, reviews, etc. I’ve watched a lot of Ralfy’s videos, and that’s as good a school as any. But as he so often says, “make up your own mind” and ignore the hype. Good advice for all of us.

    Keep writing, it’s good stuff….

    Reply
  2. Jeff

    Woooowww….

    Consumers should not respect their distillers. Distillers should respect their consumers.

    It’s pretty radical thinking – turning the whole “fan base” idea of whisky on its head – and the main point is well made: conventional thinking about whisky amounts to a well-worn path that someone wants you to follow to lead you to where they want you to go with your money. The best example, I think, is the industry’s flip-flop on the importance of age – or half flip-flop; age still matters where it’s discussed, just irrelevant where it’s not. Almost everything the industry tells you must be taken with a grain of salt, if only because, with a little research, you can usually find some other industry message which contradicts it, either currently or in the past. Is everything we’re seeing today really “demand driven”? Diving for Pearls convincingly argues “no”. Despite greater strain on both aged whisky stocks and quality oak, is whisky really in any kind of ascendance because of all the “discoveries” being made by industry experimentation? Not really… which isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot of industry experimentation going on, but most of it’s psychological in nature, a groupthink pushed by the industry and its friends. If these are indeed “exciting times for whisky”, imagine how much more exciting they’re apt to get when consumers start rejecting the bullshit en masse.

    Another central point made here is that the question about industry moves and marketing ISN’T whether or not they makes sense for the industry or its bottom line; it’s whether it does anything for you as a consumer. Reject that which does not work in your interest because you vote with your dollars and you can only ever expect more of that which you support, good or bad. Boycott NAS.

    Reply
    1. ATW Post author

      Let’s be clear. Respect is earned. And is easily lost when trust is broken. No one gets unconditional or unearned respect from me. Courtesy and common decency? Of course. Respect? Only when it is deserved.

      Reply
      1. Jeff

        Then, indeed, let’s be very clear (perhaps “respect” was a poor word choice so, with apologies to Alan Moore): Consumers should not be afraid of the decisions of their distillers. Distillers should be afraid of the decisions of their consumers.

        Reply
  3. Andrew

    Ouch, I can here the echo from that slap all the way up here in Edmonton…

    It never ceases to amaze me how easily people are willing to listen to every word those trying to sell them something are saying, without ever questioning the motives of the salesperson. This probably links to an overarching criticism of objections that people like Jeff raise, “It’s just a drink, why are you spending so much time thinking about it, just enjoy it!” This goes hand in hand with our salesman above, in that, why should I think so much about what I’m drinking, there’s an “expert” right there to tell me everything I need to know, pass the Distiller’s Legacy!

    Reply
  4. David

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. A combination of not feeling well enough to want to drink whisky (and I was really looking forward to a dram of the original Confederation Oak on Canada Day), and looking at how much I have and some of the bottles I’ve held for 5 years without opening and which I may never get to.

    Getting uninformed…. an interesting concept.

    On the one hand, it makes a lot of sense. By not following the hype of the industry (I cut my Scotch teeth on Ralfy videos then came to this site and Connosr primarily), I never really fell for the JW Blue, Jack D, etc… and discovered some gems I never would have known about, some now gone like Bladnoch, and others before fame priced them out of my league, like Amrut.

    But on the other hand, sites like this one and Connosr are also a problem. The problem is that your enthusiasm fuels uncontrolled enthusiasm.

    For instance, after trying A’Bunadh, and hearing Ralfy say he’d never had a bad Aberlour, I got excited and got a bottle of each, but had no time to try them even 5 years later. I’ve since tasted most of the range and I can’t see myself EVER wanting a whole bottle open in my cabinet. Similarly I let my enthusiasm, fuelled by those with no ties to the industry here and on Connosr (and Ralfy) who have access to and taste a lot more than I do, drive me to buy a lot of bottles that I thought I would like, at a faster rate than I could open them and try them.

    And since then my knowledge has increased, my experience has broadened, and I have at least a dozen bottles that I will never want to open, because I have enough and better so there is no need for them.

    So while it is good to avoid being informed by the industry, a word of advice to the newcomer would be to “curb your enthusiasm” and avoid (especially in this inflated market) buying ahead too much until you really know your tastes . Reassurance that there will always be special releases in the future and there will never be a time when you won’t be able to get something good.

    Reply
    1. Jeff

      I certainly hear you on this one: it’s really easy to get bottles ahead, even as experience can result in a sort of buyer’s remorse as tastes change and it begins to dawn – particularly in the current environment – that there’s really nothing all that new under the sun.

      I went at it, and still do to a certain extent, from a kind of “see for myself” approach, and experience of different whiskies told me as much about the veracity of reviewers and the nature of the hype machine as about the products. Even where quality was present but value was lacking and vice versa (say JW Blue Label and Black Grouse respectively), I didn’t really regret full bottle purchases because I chalked it up to the cost of education (and usually a lack of smaller sample options). Now neither I nor my buddy, the Scotch Guru, find that much new that demands a full, as opposed to a split, bottle buy – and not even that many of those. Christmas is still a good time to keep an eye out for the mini/value added/sampler sets, often with glassware of questionable utility as a bonus, but the LCBO “Whisky Rocks” push is over and a lot of minis dried up with it.

      The powers that be decided that it was a seller’s market long ago (about when they decided that 57 North was worth $175 and Oban 14 was worth more than Ardbeg 10). Add to the above the premium now expected to be paid on age statements while people are also paying ever more to NOT know what they’re drinking, and it’s fairly bleak going forward. There’s a lot of good whisky that I simply won’t replace at current prices (I like HP18, but not $200 worth), and between being priced out and not acquiescing to NAS, a many choices are being made for me. A lot of the potential value of the increasingly overpriced (and sometimes sketchy) new offerings just doesn’t match that of bottles already put away, so the temptation is to just watch the inmates run the asylum into the ground, which seems to be the consensus of their stockholders anyway. When the bubble bursts, Nick Morgan and the rest of “the experts” won’t have any problem coming over to the “hothead” camp to say they’ve “recently discovered” age has an effect on whisky – not that they’ll acknowledge that such was obvious from the get-go.

      Reply
  5. kallaskander

    Hi there,

    a bit off the topic perhaps… but then probably not.

    When I read this interview with Mr Beveridge today I had the strange feeling something was … strange.

    http://www.drinkspirits.com/interview/interview-jonnie-walker-master-blender-jim-beveridge/

    No NAS propaganda! And it would have been a perfect opportunity as most JW are without age statements.

    Than I looked at the date…. Oct 11, 2011

    It is so strange the way things turn…. so quickly.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

    Reply

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