Let the shit hit the fan…
Let’s recap how things have been playing out of late:
NAS whiskies are still hitting the market with no signs of slowing. Our mate and stalwart voice of reason, Serge, has taken NAS whiskies to task time and again on whiskyfun via little throwaway comments that aren’t so throwaway after all. Glenfiddich – and in particular Ian Millar – had won me over big time by coming out in vocal support of age statements on whiskies in an interview with our mate Tabarek Razvi on The Malt Activist (until the recent Original 1963 NAS, that is). The ever-candid Dom Roskrow has offered loud and resonant disapproval of the NAS principal on his blog. Compass Box has locked horns (albeit rather gently) with the SWA again. And more and more individuals are utilizing the comments sections on reviews, features and social media to express their disdain for what is quite rightly perceived as industry interests directly contrary to their own.
And on the flipside? Well…here’s the thing…there’s an unbelievable silence from some of those that should be speaking out. Those that have a vested interest in seeing the spirit retain its integrity and quality. People who seem to have accepted the Matrix as opposed to the ugly reality of the machine that runs it. Instead of fighting the machine, so many seem scared shitless that the wellspring dries up and perhaps their spheres of influence will shrink. For shame, I say, as it is a disservice to themselves, us and the spirit.
Now, silence is one thing, but there’s more to it than silence. There’s an undercurrent of actual industry apologism that I simply can’t wrap my head around. I mean some of the whisky industry periphery (writers, bloggers, etc) who actually come out in defense of the industry in the face of criticism from the consumer. If it’s simply vitriolic amateur mudslinging, I get it, but time and time again we’re seeing eloquent, intelligent, reasoned and impassioned arguments made only to be rebuffed by those one would logically assume to be on the same team. Ok, so be it. We’ll make it an ‘us and them’ thing if need be.
So where does that leave us?
Well…I know this might disappoint one or two of ‘the resistance’ out there, but I have to change tactics. My initial approach was to talk about the issue as loud and long as I could, but to draw no attention to the whiskies themselves, either via reviews or purchases. A boycott, in other words. While I stand behind not giving the companies money for these whiskies that I stand in moral opposition to, I think I was wrong to stop talking about them. The proof is in the pudding, they say, and I see time and time again that debates and comments are rife beneath reviews of the malts themselves. So…can I have more influence by not talking about them at all? Or can I swing a heavier hammer by writing them up and using the opportunity to state time and time again why we stand in opposition? To me the latter seems like a more effective way of getting the message out there. It also allows avenue after avenue for you, the reader, to engage in debate and to allow the brands a window into what we truly detest in their M.O.
Is it almost like an sin of omission on my part if I don’t use my voice properly? Does it suggest I’m doing less than I should? Maybe. Think about the finale of Seinfeld. You can watch the shit going down and not speak up (and be as tacitly guilty as all the rest for the decline of our beloved blood of Scotland), or you can raise a voice and let the brands know we don’t cotton to this fleecing…and why.
They are listening. If you’re at all doubtful, have a hunt for the absolute horseshit that Diageo’s ‘Head of Whisky Outreach’ Nick Morgan spouted a while back. I refuse to link to it again here, as the last thing I want to do is give a voice to such utter rubbish. I’ve always disagreed with the idea that everyone is entitled to an opinion on any given subject. Instead I believe that everyone is entitled to an informed opinion, and the fact of the matter is that Morgan’s opinion is nothing more than brand propaganda and condescending ‘contrarians are simply ignorant’ hogwash. In fact…we’re done talking about him here.
Effective immediately, you will see reviews of NAS malts here on ATW again, but you can bet your ass they will not be politically correct little snippets that the brands will want to use for their marketing departments. Sorry. Such is. Even if the marks are fair (I have to do that) the commentary will not be an endorsement. It couldn’t be. I simply can’t agree with the philosophy that supports the concept.
There are simply too many NAS malts on the shelves nowadays to stay silent on them. Effectively we are giving the brands a pass to continue if we don’t speak out against them at every opportunity. Let’s face it…I cherry pick my reviews anyway. My silence on a subject means curious parties will find the info elsewhere. In which case they’re likely being fed press releases, distiller’s official notes and apologist drivel. I’d prefer there was a contrary opinion online somewhere than nothing touting the negatives, wouldn’t you?
As to how I spend my own money…no change. I won’t be stocking my shelves with Talisker Storm, Oban Little Bay, Pulteney Navigator, etc. This will keep me firmly in line with exactly what many of you are still doing. My money will be reserved for age-stated whiskies and brands I don’t feel are taking the piss. What I’m saying is that if some of these NAS malts come my way via tastings, friends, events, whatever, I may review them. I WON’T, however, buy them.
So has my stance softened? I’d argue not. My financial actions are consistent, my weapon of choice is changing. In the words of poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox: “To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men.”