So…how many ways can we tackle the issue of feeling like the industry is taking the piss out of us?
It is, I must admit, getting tiresome being the squeaky wheel. I’m sure it’s equally irksome to hear it all the time. Some, like Saint Serge over at Whiskyfun.com, seem to have struck a nice balance between saying what needs to be said and still having fun at the same time. Serge is an anomaly, though, and his access to whisky is unprecedented. That certainly changes the game. Ergo, his issues are not necessarily ours. Having said that…even Serge buries a lot of his criticisms under humour and plenty o’ words. It’s easy to gloss over the underlying message if one sees fit.
But I digress.
I’ve shared these thoughts a few times over the past year or two, but the situation seems to have become even worse of late. We keep looking for the bubble to burst, and it continues to defy both logic and past trends. I say this from a point of being days away from closing up shop. Disillusion is rampant lately. And running a site like this only perpetuates the machinations of an industry mad with power. I’ve reached a point where I no longer want to publicly promote products that only continue to increase in price and, in turn, price me out of the game. At some point we have to recognize lunacy. Twice this week alone I nearly put up a post saying ‘I’m out.’ It remains to be determined if that will happen.
I took a bit of a smackdown last week in which it was suggested that if I was one of the ones who had helped the industry reach this point, I needed to either swallow it all (marketing/packaging/etc) or walk away completely. Fuck that. I love this drink. I’ve given a lot to it. Financially and otherwise. In other words…I’ve paid for the right to have a voice.
Anyway…before I get heated and nasty…let’s move on.
I’m wondering if anyone else if eyeing grain whiskies lately with as much cynicism as I am. I keep seeing more and more of them on the shelves. Independents, mostly, but all sorts, really. Let’s be clear about what we’re discussing in grain whiskies: spirit made in continuous stills, in vast stringently controlled conditions (i.e. no room for personality-development), generally poorer cask policies (multi-uses, dead barrel syndrome, etc), cheaper component grains (i.e. corn), etc etc. It is as much a blank check as non-age-stated whiskies, when you think about it. If these drinks don’t sell for grossly less than malts, there is something seriously wrong. Just you wait, friends…this is the new NAS.
Appreciate the ongoing dialogues here, as always. Forgive my lack of enthusiasm of late. Perhaps we’ll find it again.
I can’t deny I’ve felt the ebb of the enthusiasm. A site needs the owner to flourish, and the days-long pauses between posts are a result. This is not a criticism, just an observation. You’re in charge. If you look to your left in the margin you’ll see as we all do how much you’ve given to those who visit your site. You owe nothing. I know there are other things that need your attention, and I’m really looking forward to reading more of your work, for example.
Saying that, I would hate to see the demise of Canada’s best source for good information on whiskies, and what has been a great place to kick around (sometimes hard) some ideas. Sure, we all have lives outside of ATW (we do, right?) but this is a nice place to stop and visit a couple of times a day when the attention wanders from patient charts or whatever we do in real life.
But it’s a lot of work to keep the momentum on your own. What about letting others help? How about rethinking letting others do some guest reviews, or commentaries of interest?
As to the grain phenomenon, could you go into more details? Other than the loss of numbers on some bourbons I haven’t noticed anything, but to be fair I haven’t had a lot of time to shop around for spirits since January. Sounds like something I want to learn more about, especially if I DO run into them on a shelf.
Can’t imagine I will ever hand the reins (even in some part-time or modified capacity) over to anyone else. The reasons are multi-fold.
A couple, just so all understand…
First…the site has been built on a platform of one reviewer with a specific scoring system, weighting, and palate. If I allow others, who’s to say their scores will be even close to what mine would have been? Or their notes?
Second…I would always have to be a moderator of all content, as I simply won’t allow anyone else’s agenda to supercede my own.
Third…I would never give ‘write’ privileges to others and have them going in the back door to upload or adjust content. hat means I would still be on the hook for all formatting, publishing, etc.
I could go on listing things, but ultimately it negates the central premise stated above. Why would I want to continue helping an industry that isn’t helping us? The more we talk about it and point out the positives the easier it is for them to continue jacking prices.
As for grains…more to come. Probably.
Fair enough, it’s your site, it’s your call, but:
1. It is a lot less work to screen a review, format it to fir your site, especially if someone sends a photo, than it is to research and do your own review.
2. You already let us put forward our “agendas” in the comments. If we’re talking reviews you can set the format, choose whose reviews you accept, and make sure there are no subliminal (drink coke) messages in the text.
3. Other sites, like Connosr, get by just fine with different subjective scorers.
The thing is, I don’t think David is suggesting you abdicate as supreme ruler of the site. I think he would agree that we’re grateful for what you’ve built and like what you do here. And I would point out that in the past you’ve hinted, teased, suggested you might bring in a guest review here and there, so it’s not like the suggestion is coming from left field.
The issue here is self care and momentum. If you have a lot on your plate it’s right to focus your attention elsewhere, and you should. But the site is definitely losing momentum, and though you built it, you have a lot of people who want to see it stay healthy.
It’s true that I have a drum that strikes about three sad notes:
1. NAS doesn’t have a rational leg to stand on in terms of what it says about the influence of age on whisky;
2. Most whisky pundits, in ignoring the above, not only show how much they toe the industry line but also how little they care about whisky and the people who buy it;
3. Most consumers, in ignoring both 1 and 2, are acquiescing to being treated like mushrooms and to promoting industry interests over their own.
Yes, it’s repetitive. Yes, it’s discouraging overall – but I find the reality sometimes discouraging in a way that puts me at odds with the Buddha and the idea that “we only make the world with our minds”. No, the message doesn’t have all the “new and improved” pizzazz of the latest NAS release or what someone thinks of something that they just bought/opened/tried/finished/replaced (pick your marketing info trope). But the real question that should concern whisky consumers is “is there a fight here that we should be fighting instead of observing?”. I think it goes without saying that there’s far more internet than there is sensible commentary, particularly whisky commentary, to fill it, and no one person can fix that – but ATW certainly does its part, recognized/appreciated or not.
And is it all hopeless? Maybe not – https://www.masterofmalt.com/whiskies/the-macallan/the-macallan-12-year-old-double-cask-whisky/ – a new age statement from Macallan under $200? From Macallan – without a “colour statement”?! I see that and then listen to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbeLFG6Lglo
So keep up the fight. No, it’s not the most important thing in the world – and fight for that thing, too, whatever you feel it to be – but nonsense must be opposed or it will take over completely if the few voices left fold up their tents.
I just read the latest reviews batch 88 at scotchwhisky.com this morning and thought this odd, 3 grain whiskies. You are right, grain is the next NAS!
I’ve almost totally gone to bourbon, at least Wild Turkey 101 and Rare Breed, EC Barrel Proof and Bookers. I’ve been opening my stashed scotch and I’m now down to only ten bottles. I’m about 50-50 AS and NAS. The scotch I do have open includes Ardbeg Ardbog, Glenrothes Vintage Reserve, Glenlivet 16, Dalmore 15 and Craigellache DE 1992 (2005). I still love scotch but tired of the endless game. I’m gonna pick 5-10 and make that my cabinet, dropping anyone that has a price hike.
I’ve turned to bourbon too, but not for the same reasons. I started out with scotch because that was what I was introduced to. I started out with premium scotches (A’Bunadh, Bruichaddichs, etc..) because I recognized from the beginning that I don’t drink enough to evolve from rotgut to the top stuff.
Then I met people who liked Canadian and US whiskies. They encouraged me or introduced me to some of the best the industry has on offer, so now I have some Canadians and some bourbons in my cabinet.
Each is good for a different mood. When I want a dram I always want something good and I turn to what calls to me.
But I don’t choose bourbons or Canadians because they are cheaper. I may acknowledge a great deal for a great spirit (Old Granddad 114 for $25 – as good when I want it as a $100 single malt can be), but I would much rather go without alcohol than drink something that falls below my taste standards, regardless of how much it costs me.
I can’t drink crappy booze either. I watched a couple of “Jesse Stone” TV movies recently on cable and cringed each time he would pour two fingers of JW Red. Ick! Same reaction for Jack Daniels and Beam. Actually the bourbon I do drink costs $20 (WT101) to $60 (Booker’s), so basically the same range as most scotch I drink ($30 for Glenmorangie 10 to $75 for Corryvrecken and Glenfarclas 105.
If you can find Corry in Ontario it’s $180, and I’ve never seen a Glenmorangie for $30.
You live in a very whisky friendly part of the world…
I feel with you. Like you I have given a lot of time to whisky and whiskey not as a blogger but as a reader of blogs and forums. And the odd dram of course now and then.
It is part of my job to keep up with whisky developments so I read a lot via the internet.
You remember last year when sku was (is?) at the same point and many other bloggers voiced their frustration and concern along the same lines as you do.
If it helps you any – from where I sit the picture is even worse. Forumwise there is much less traffic than there once was in places like whiskywhiskywhisky.com or the forum of Whisky Magazine. There are less participants and there is less enthusiasm to take part in discussions or to start new threads. I could name more but the song remains the same.
Sku’s doubts and the chiming in of other bloggers made me write a little piece in German where I asked if the critical voices that are a counterpoint to the whisky industry died out on the internet.
I hope not. They are needed and if you have doubts… they are noticed by the industry. They don’t care most of the time but they notice. Because there is much power in the hands of the customers and even if we whisky lovers and buyers are not organised in a Trade Union you and other bloggers are neccessary.
As to grain whiskies… I remember a time when there were two or three grains around and that was all. When Duncan Taylor began to release IB bottlings of grains they were 30 to 40 year old and cost around 50 to 60 Dollars a bottle. Times long gone.
I see here a bonmot at work that was coined by Ian Buxton “The dirty little secret of the Scotch industry is they’ve become addicted to high prices, but they’ve run out of old whisky“.
Old grain whiskies are a treessure trove if the customers are stupid enough – and I mean stupid – to pay up.
My two cents and I hope it can motivate you a little bit to keep up. Where should the likes of me turn to if you quit? 😎
Appreciate the kind words and candor, as always, mate. You’re a voice of reason and logic in a sea of…well…less than that. Hahaha.
Kallaskander: I’ve found that the scotch board on Reddit is one of the few places online anymore that still has plenty of good chat going. You might want to check that out. It’s more sarcastic than the likes of Connosr, or whiskywhiskywhisky, or the more prolific blogs like this one, but it’s good fun. Lots of newbies looking for advice, tons of new reviews every day, and the not-too-rare discussion topic that gets many responses.
(Or have you already? I don’t think I’ve seen your name over there, and I know you’re one of the whisky people who thankfully uses the same screen name on different sites.)
thank you I’ll have a look.
For me, the frustration with whisky is related to skyrocketing pricing. It is near impossible to buy an entry level scotch for less than $90 in Ontario outside of a handful of options. Anything beyond entry level is into the stratosphere. Balvenie 15 yo single barrel – purchased for $140 in Alberta a year ago – is $279 in Ontario. 14yo Caribbean cask is $140. NAS from Ardbeg? $190. I make good money in a stable job. If I’m being priced out of the scotch industry. It’s not as if Ontario offers the same opportunities for whiskey tasting that are available in Alberta either. The LCBO might host two tastings a year in Toronto and Ottawa. That’s it.
If I’m being priced out, I can imagine scores of others are too. In the 3 years I have been an avid whisky drinker non entry level malts have gone up at least 50%. Glenfiddich 18 went from $108 to $155 for example. Canada’s horrific import taxes make getting anything from overseas impossible. I saw a 1.75L bottle of Macallan 12yo Sherry in Florida for $120. I just can’t bring it back because it exceeds my personal allowance of 1L. The whole thing is a constant source of frustration that makes it easy to consider other options for my drink budget.
Yes, although being priced out probably isn’t unique to Ontario by any means, it’s certainly true in Ontario – the hikes in many things 15+, say HP, Glenlivet and Glenfiddich 18s, are good examples – and 50% is probably a pretty good figure. It’s not that what’s left under $100 is bad whisky, but it’s just a shrinking set of options made far smaller if you don’t go NAS. The problem with the LCBO is that it’s a monopoly with a mark-up mandated as a percentage of landed price, so even “one of the world’s largest buyers and retailers of beverage alcohol” has no real motive to use its weight to negotiate lower prices that can be passed on to consumers.
Although I don’t doubt that whisky sales remain strong – even in the absence of any real promotion that I’m aware of – the net effect is placing a lot of higher-end stuff beyond replacement for me in terms of value. By the time I’m through my current HP and Bunna 18s, they will likely also be my last in terms of QPR, and ‘Fiddich 18 is already well past the event horizon. Prices on Balvenie and Oban in particular seem pretty stiff and Macallan and Dalmore are largely in a world of their own – again, all respectable in terms of quality, but the objective seems to be to make all scotch at all age levels into a luxury product, period.
Bourbon’s an option, but a limited one in Ontario and, although the profile’s OK, I just don’t find the variation in it that can be found with scotch – by comparison, it all just seems like minor tweaks on a very common theme (virgin barrels are virgin barrels, so casking’s sort of out of the equation at anything like buyable age levels). So it goes.
So, what are you left with in scotch as we continue our ascent? I’m sipping on an HP 10 as I write this – decent enough, but no stellar standout in the grand scheme of things and no surprise in terms of the results of its age/casking (nobody, despite the “magic” of wood management, “reinvented” whisky with this one). 10 y.o. and sub-10 stuff at $75+ will probably become the norm and, at that point, I’m probably out of the market and just drinking up what I have now – exploration and chance taking officially over. There’s good stuff still in the library (such as it is) and very little new under the sun or on the marketing deck that I’m both interested in trying and that anyone will let me buy for anything under nosebleed prices.
I agree Jeff.
Pointing out a few excellent sub $100 Scotches with ages, like Bowmore Tempest, just highlights that there are so few left that we remember them.
I wish I had become interested in Scotch when I received my first bottle in 2008. I waited until 2011 to really start my journey, and refined my acquisition approach only 2-3 years ago.. I could have filled my cabinet with some great stuff at a fraction of what it costs now.
Luckily I have enough stuff I like to last me decades, because most stuff I would like to buy is now out of my reach. I would still like the experience of tasting them but I prefer paying off my mortgage.
My purchasing is at a pace to be about 10-15% what it was last year, and absent some freak lottery win (Lotto max or BTAC) I can only see it declining….
It speaks to a good point – and one that many people find hard to accept – but most of us really either missed the Golden Age of Whisky or, just because of where we lived, never really had any chance to experience it in the first place. I think that we’re now on the cusp of surrendering the resistance represented by the Heroic Age and resolving ourselves to an Iron Age of Hype which, in the long run, the industry might not find so bankable and most consumers might not like either.
I agree whole heartedly. If I had gotten into scotch 3-4 years earlier my collection would have included some incredible bottles. I’ve still managed to cobble together a pretty substantial range of bottles, but, like my compatriot above, I can’t justify replacing my bottle of Highland Park 18yo because $215 for a bottle of 18yo makes me shudder – especially when I paid $135 for it 18 months ago. The fact that people seem to be losing their minds over the arrival of Macallan 12yo Double Cask that has been released to mediocre reviews for $100 tells us all we need to know about the current state of scotch. An age statement and under a $100 by 5 cents is all of the sudden reason to scramble? Crazy.
I haven’t tried Double Cask – and I didn’t find much to write home about on the old sherry 12 either – but what I find encouraging about it is, quality aside, that Edrington might be getting the message that this “colour coded” nonsense is wearing thin for some people – somehow somebody can “certify” colour but nobody can provide you with age info? Like Dalmore, I don’t mind what I find in Macallan; I just don’t find enough OF it to really justify the rarefied pricing. It’s like the two brands are in some kind of competition to see which can do a more frugal job of dispensing quality with a 40% ABV eyedropper.
WTF? I don’t understand all the malaise here. Did they stop making Ardbeg 10 and Talisker 10? Or Laphroaig 10, 10 CS, and QC? Did the latest shipment of Lagavulin 16 sink in the Atlantic? Did all the Caol Ila 12 get diverted into a vat of JW Red?
Did Glendronach stop using sherry casks?
Did Aberlour, Highland Park, Old Pulteney, Oban, and Bunnahabhain drop their age-statement lines?
Did Bowmore, Clynelish, and Mortlach stop selling to the IBs?
Did Glengoyne start “tainting” their whisky with peat?
Did Springbank buy computers?!?!?!
There’s PLENTY of high-quality, affordable whisky out there to be excited about. I for one am still excited about it.
Let’s set aside the price grumbling from the (seemingly) many Canadians on this site. Prices in Canada suck. Got it. I don’t see that this is a complaint against the greater whisky industry.
So what’s all the complaining about? There’s plenty of perennially good whisky available—of which my examples above are only a few obvious examples. In addition to THOSE being tasty, readily available, and affordable (to non-Canadians), are people ALSO expecting quality from latest shiny new thing being pumped out to satisfy demand from those who require shiny new things?
Are you bored with all the great standbys?
WADR (with all due respect),
Prices are going up outside Canada as well, quality expressions in all genres are falling off (Canadian, bourbon, Scotch), and for crying out loud, Laphroaig CS has NEVER been available in my memory in Canada, at ANY price.
Sure there are some quality age-stated ones, and some may even be affordable (apparently Benromach 10 is < $60 in Ontario), but they have risen in price and "reasonable" is much more expensive than it used to be.
And I believe Mortlach is now going OB, priced up and dumbed down, so it my dry up in the IB market.
Even I, who have challenged (to put it nicely) Jeff all the way, can see that Scotch is accelerating to a state of mediocrity (with some high priced exceptions).
While I can always sneak into David's stash of Amrut single (young but age states) casks, he can no longer afford to buy them, and the future looks bleak for those who didn't plan ahead and anyone who, like me, didn't develop a taste for older whiskies before they skyrocketed.
Sure, prices have gone up outside of Canada too. But that can’t explain the “sky is falling!” vibe everyone here has.
And if ya’ll will excuse an idea from Econ 101: If you choose to buy a bottle (assuming it doesn’t significantly disappoint your expectations), you have by definition come out on top. (This concept applies to all purchases. Google “buyer’s surplus” if you’re not already familiar with it. But basically, you wouldn’t pay the asking price for something unless you value that item at MORE than the asking price.) So, unless you’ve totally stopped buying—which I guess some folks have, so fair play to you—then you’re still a winner in the current market. The producer’s higher price might have claimed some of that surplus over to their side, but you’re still a winner.
Mortlach: Yep, we used to have virtually no OBs.and plenty of IBs. Now, we have some stupid OBs and still plenty of IBs—at least from what I can tell.
I don’t see any loss to us whisky enthusiasts in that story.
“Scotch accelerating to a state of mediocrity:” Really? I gave lots of examples in my original “WTF” above that still taste great to me.
Sure, there’s plenty of garbage. But are we holding out for 100% universal excellence before we appreciate what we DO have?
Do music lovers stop enjoying their favorite songs because Michael Bolton exists?
Yeah, that would suck to have no Laphroaig 10 CS. It’s my favorite whisky, and you have my sympathy.
On the other hand, I wish I can easier access to Talisker 57. So it goes.
what I meant to end with, but I tried to use the HTML tags below without knowing how, was:
“So, THAT’S TF”
And what does “So, THAT’S TF” mean?
WTF = what the fuck.
That’s TF – that’s the fuck
I still fail to see TF.
Good translating – must be a Canadian thing!
I think “the fuck”, roundly speaking, isn’t that there aren’t any decent whiskies at decent prices left, even in Ontario; it’s that decent whiskies and decent prices are both generally in decline for many consumers at many spending levels – that basically values aren’t really even static; they’re in rout.
Not that these guys can’t, and don’t, outspend me multiple-times-to-one on whisky – and that might be what makes it so telling – but the comments from the guys at LAWS on why the “Latest Must-Try Whiskey” box is usually empty could be revealing:
“This box has been mostly empty for a long time now. In today’s market, finding an excellent, readily-available whiskey is a rarity and a challenge. We’re talking about truly great whiskies, not ones that are good, or okay. Just a few years ago, you used to be able to walk out and buy one. But due to the whiskey boom, it’s immensely harder now.
We’ll probably replace this feature with something else when we get a moment to rework the code.
It was July 2013 when “Nada” first spent a lot of time in this box. Some comments below remain from then.”
“I love me some great whiskey.
Even in my pre-LAWS days, I would watch this section turn over with regularity and shop against it. What’s it been lately? Balvenie 1401/3 (long gone and now fetching almost 2x original asking price when you find it) and Longmorn 20 (an excellent pick by K&L but LONG gone)?
Unfortunately, there’s just very little these days that arrives without Royal-Baby-level hype, no matter how mundane the bottle contents are. And unfortunately, the “value for the money” thing has been out of whack for ages.
I doubt we’ll see another value along the lines that the Balvenie provided, and the IBs are pricing high lately (one need only follow K&L to undersand that). Distillers and bottlers: I love your stuff; no way in hell am I paying what you’re asking these days for too-young or overoaked stuff, and by extension, absolutely NO WAY am I paying what’s being asked for the non-young or non-oaked stuff. Maybe there are enough saps out there, but I question how long it can last.”
“Another sign of the end of the golden age of whiskey. There isn’t much great whiskey out there, and the little there is carries a hefty price tag. I’ve written “decent but not worth the money” more times than I can count. Check this space again in ten years when the next glut hits.”
The issue, right now, might not so much be the reality as much as the overall trending. Right at the beginning, if one jumps from a great enough height, falling can seem a lot like flying.
So the narrative is that whisky used to be “up there” (let’s say at a 10, but whatever), and now it’s slipped “down here” (at 8?—again, whatever).
And everyone’s complaint is that it’s no longer a 10?
I’ve only been into whisky a few years, not decades like some (since around 2009). So maybe I don’t have the long perspective of everyone else here to realize that whisky today sucks and I should forget about it?
Yes, that’s a little facetious. And of course, I would love it if old glories were to be had for a song like they seem to have been ~10 years ago. But I look at today’s market and still find PLENTY to happy about.
Has anyone out there grown disinterested in whisky lately who’s not (a) Canadian, or (b) a blogger always on the hunt for the latest new thing to blog about?
No, the issue, I think, might be that EVEN IF it’s still “a 10” or whatever, and not slipping in quality (a debatable issue these days), prices are climbing in fairly crazy fashion (not so much a debatable issue for many) so that values/QPR are in overall, and rather rapid, decline – and I don’t know that that’s so much “a narrative” as “a fact”.
Having tried a number of whiskies that I would put at “8+”, there’s still only so much I would pay for them, even if their quality isn’t really in doubt.
But, if a whisky WAS once a “10”, and is now only an “8”, what kind of cause for celebration is that? I really don’t think that Talisker 10 is everything it once was, for example.
I guess I really only look at QPR and product information… because I never believed in all the “whisky re-imagined/reinvented” hoopla anyway.
Jeff, I didn’t say a “10 to 8 slide” would be cause for celebration. That’s a straw man. And besides, that arbitrary numbering thing I introduced above was an attempt at describing “whisky”—not “A PARTICULAR whisky.”
I’m trying to nail down what everyone’s so gloomy about when it doesn’t match my experience at all. Some old glories aren’t spilling off the shelves like they supposedly were a few years ago, and many prices are going up faster than inflation. That’s all I see.
At the same time, I see some stuff that seems to be getting CHEAPER (Ardbeg Ten) and nothing that fails to deliver the expected quality—of course, from my necessarily limited experience. Thanks for giving a concrete example, though; I’ll keep that in mind next time a get a new Talisker 10, which I plan to buy from K&L for $50 next time I order from them.
I’m glad that we’re at least on the same page that declining quality (where found) isn’t anything to celebrate – hence my “if”, but only as a comment on the scenario/interpretation you seemed to be putting forward – not that you were saying declining quality was something to celebrate but that, if you were right in thinking that declining quality was what was principally being complained about, it should be readily “understandable” that consumers would be unhappy about it.
Furthermore, if what I said about “a whisky” could, in theory, be applied to any whisky, in what way could it not also be applied to “whisky” in general and thus not be consistent with your interpretation/scenario?
To be honest, I never knew exactly what (if anything) you are celebrating or “didn’t get” from all of the above. The guys from LAWS are, of course, in California, and I think that they made the case as well as anyone.
But, to recap:
No, the issue, I think, might be that EVEN IF it’s still “a 10” or whatever, and not slipping in quality (a debatable issue these days), prices are climbing in fairly crazy fashion (not so much a debatable issue for many) so that values/QPR are in overall, and rather rapid, decline – and I don’t know that that’s so much “a narrative” as “a fact”.
Your “faster than inflation” is putting it rather mildly (a bit of a “narrative” in my book), but we at least seem to agree on the general mechanics and values trending there as well. Your Ardbeg 10 is “getting cheaper”? Mine just went up – not by much, but it went up. As for Talisker 10, the proof’s in the pudding and the eye of the beholder (I’ve said my bit), but I don’t think it’s improving in any way.
Give Driscoll my regards after you give him your love of his methods. We’re old friends.
Jeff, the goal of my posts here has been to (1) nail down what the heck people are complaining about, so that (2) we could discuss whether it’s true. Quickly:
•Is it prices? OK, I get that prices in Canada suck. And they’re up elsewhere too. But I still see plenty of good values.
•Is it quality? OK, I get that some whiskies have surely slipped. But some have improved. And I still find plenty of great whiskies.
As you can tell, I’m still not convinced there’s anything to be gloomy about here beyond some higher prices. Allow me to repeat the challenges I made at the top of this chain:
“Did they stop making Ardbeg 10 and Talisker 10? Or Laphroaig 10, 10 CS, and QC? Did the latest shipment of Lagavulin 16 sink in the Atlantic? Did all the Caol Ila 12 get diverted into a vat of JW Red?
Did Glendronach stop using sherry casks?
Did Aberlour, Highland Park, Old Pulteney, Oban, and Bunnahabhain drop their age-statement lines?
Did Bowmore, Clynelish, and Mortlach stop selling to the IBs?
Did Glengoyne start “tainting” their whisky with peat?
Did Springbank buy computers?!?!?!”
I guess what I’m “celebrating” (to use your word) is that all these standards are still great. And still available. And for the most part, still affordable.
What’s the deal with your Driscoll comment? Is that a dig on my intention to buy a Talisker 10 from K&L? I don’t get it.
Looks like price increases across the board at the KGBO… A’Bunadh, Redbreast 12 CS, Ardbeg 10… all by a few dimes. Curious..
Sorry, I don’t take your “challenges” any more seriously than you do, because they really had nothing to do with what people were talking about – which also sort of undercut the idea of trying to nail anything down – but I do, sincerely, give you credit for undertaking a deeper exploration of these issues, particularly in a climate where they are largely ignored in order to clear the decks to hype the next big release. So, props to you before we continue.
If you (now) get that it’s a combination of prices rising FAR above inflation and “steady-state” quality (and, to me, only steady), and that the combination is leading to a pattern of rapidly declining value/QPR overall, then I think you get it. I know the guys at LAWS get it.
The outlook for the average whisky drinker with an average budget, to me, is not good: production information itself is being premiumized now while the (sometimes, somewhat) cheaper NAS choices only really offer pig-in-a-poke options; yes, you’ve bought whisky, but what is it, and what is it now compared to what it was last time? It doesn’t matter what it is in terms of age, so long as it comes from this distillery with those casks and has that label? Sorry, I’ve never seen the combination of distillery, casks and labels for which that was true – and neither have producers; it’s the reason they have warehouses and put whiskies to sleep for decades.
Or, maybe, it only matters that it’s “good”, or that someone can convince someone THAT it’s good, or that someone says that it’s good? OK, but is any level of complexity, as opposed to just big, bold, oaky flavours, still any part of what’s considered “good” at purchasing levels that are affordable for most? It’s less and less the case. If the industry can simply constantly REDEFINE “quality” (what’s “good” and “great”) in terms of just what it’s offering at any given time (and/or at very different levels of purchasing) then we’ll always be in some perpetual state of “whisky celebration”, won’t we? And, according to all the marketing crap, isn’t that already the case? “Bright times ahead for whisky!”, etc., etc., etc.. S’all good man… sure, by definition… if you constantly move the goalposts, everything’s a touchdown. “Another triumph for Ardbeg” – thank God for that; I was so worried about Ardbeg. Many of the whiskies made today wouldn’t have previously been considered even mature, let alone “good” or “great” but… move the goalposts… touchdown! And the crowd goes wiiillllddddddd! “Whisky reinvented”? – guess again.
I guess we’re mostly agreed on prices, but I’d be interested in hearing about whiskies that have improved in quality in recent years. We might also, predictably, have somewhat different ideas as to what “great” as opposed to “good” whiskies are out there – and the problem isn’t helped by the fact that “great” and “good” seem to get used more and more interchangeably. I think this might have to do with the marketing pattern discussed in the previous paragraph, but let’s move on.
What do I understand could be daunting, or certainly confusing, however, is that all of this gloom and doom might seem to being coming from people rather suddenly or “all of a moment” – like whisky suddenly tanked – but I think that it’s really the pointed articulation of factors that have been building, and that some have been feeling, for some time.
And it’s also looking beyond the, yes, not–so-completely-horrible present and into the future somewhat (as per the thread name); I’ve not given up on whisky completely yet in terms of new purchases, but I can see the point where I will without a market correction – beyond the transparent bullshit that now passes for whisky “expertise”, pricing alone is now telling me that whisky won’t always be for me (and not out of any lack of personal interest or enjoyment). Knowing what many of these whiskies are, there are also prices that I simply won’t pay for them.
As for Driscoll, we encourage the kind of business models that we support with our dollars – and Driscoll supports both lying and the kind of Eli Wallach “if God didn’t want them to be sheared, He wouldn’t have made them sheep”-anything-for-a-buck-is-justified retailing that I could never support. So yeah, please give him my regards when you give him your support – it’s probably the only way he’ll get those regards as no one can comment directly on his blog page and I wouldn’t give him my business even if it were an option.
Jeff, I don’t disagree with most of what you write above, but:
1. Benromach has improved its game in the last few years. The newly branded 10 YO and for sure the 100/10 are a step up from before. (You said you were interested…)
2. I don’t think that the position of goal posts have a bearing on touchdowns, more like field goals and conversions. Unless you make the argument that when the NFL moved the posts to the back of the end zone it discouraged longer field goals which may have resulted in more attempts to score touchdowns.
1. I would agree that Benromach has improved its game with the distillery reboot – and I support it on that basis. Would you say that any of its whiskies since the reboot have been on the upswing?
2. If that’s what passes as criticism of the point, then I take the point as safely made; constantly change the standards for declaring a success and you can declare a success anywhere.
1. I don’t have enough personal experience to say what has happened SINCE the reboot, only that the reboot did raise the bar.
2. I agree, and I infer you took the “criticism” in the way it was intended.
1. Fair enough, and no fault on you, but I’m still interested in any and all products that have improved as part of a continuous chain of production.
2. Fair enough again – I got too tied up in the “moving the goalposts” phrasing and lost sight of the rest of the analogy – but the point, such as is, still stands pretty well; if only judged by its own shifting, and contradictory standards, the industry will NEVER make a clunker. Whisky isn’t being reinvented; people are being brainwashed.
Jeff, I don’t have enough personal experiences over time to demonstrate upward trends for any given product, but popular opinion seems to be that upswings are being enjoyed over the past few years by Benromach, Ledaig & the other Burn Stewart malts, Glendronach, Irish as a category, and Amrut. Good stuff coming from Kilkerran and Kilchoman. Super-newbie Wolfburn is supposed to be good too (no personal experience yet).
And in general, all those standards I mentioned above continue to deliver.
Ahh, so you hear that things are getting better and better, but you have no personal experience of it; no harm, no foul, but you and I have that in common.
I’ve heard about some nice new products that people support with those distilleries and styles, and I put the Burn Stewart reboot equal to the success of that for Benronmach but, again, it’s not the same thing as the quality of any established product improving while in continuous production; people can proclaim every Amrut product a triumph, for example, but has any individual Amrut product improved?
For all the touted benefits of “wood management” by itself in the whisky world, why isn’t every long-established whisky noticeably better for that alone?
What I’m getting at is that I just don’t see products that I’m buying/replacing under the same product labels getting better. “Good stuff” coming from anybody isn’t the same thing as improving stuff coming from anybody, and continuing to deliver isn’t the same as a quality upswing.
But, to play devil’s advocate, If you have an expression that merits a 95/100, it’s hard to improve on that. Amrut has, from what I have seen, increased its use of age statements, and also consistently put out good products. It’s hard for one person to try batch after batch, but I’ve tried 3 batches of the CS ranging from 2007 to about 20112-13 and all were good. Aside from saying it would be best if Amrut put ages on all their new bottlings (I don’t see it feasible to ask they add them to already shipped product) what more can we reasonably expect?
IF you have an 95/100 expression like that, that’s fine, but it still changes the story, in that case, from one of “things are getting better”, to one of “things can’t really GET any better than they are now” – whisky now isn’t being improved; whisky’s essentially been perfected – and with modern whisky, I find the second story even harder to believe than the first one in most cases. Where are all the 95 (pluses)?
Right, I’ve heard people who drink far more Benromach and Amrut than I do say that they’ve gotten better. I can’t personally say.
Just like I’ve heard people who drink far more Lagavulin 16 than I do say it’s slipped. I can’t personally say.
I hope you’re not taking my personal inability to prove an upward trend as evidence for the claimed grand slide that everyone is complaining about here.
Bottom line: I don’t understand what motivation or enjoyment people find in all this complaining. Again, from what I can tell, it all comes down to “prices in Canada suck and we’re now living in only the SECOND best-ever whisky era.” Apparently things were incredible a decade+ ago after the big glut, but I’m pretty sure no period before that offered anything close to what we enjoy now. At least those of us outside the few whisky Meccas that might have existed way back when.
Quick—and this isn’t directed at Jeff specifically: Imagine yourself transported back in time, say to 1987, living wherever you live now (yes, even outside of Canada). How would you even find out about 1960s Springbanks, 1970s Ardbegs, and all the rest? Assuming you climbed the pre-internet mountain of whisky insider knowledge sufficiently high to discover them, how would you get them? Ask your local store? Write a letter and send Springbank a check, hoping they’ll mail you some? Travel to London?
Bottom line: I don’t mean any offense to anyone, but just saying something is good, no matter how defined, isn’t the same as saying that it’s either great or improving – the terms good, great and improving (much less essentially perfected) aren’t interchangeable.
You personally claimed that some whiskies have improved but, like me, can’t name a lot of products that have done so (and just what ARE all those producer “innovation” departments doing if there’s nothing to improve on anyway?).
And if you don’t understand the issues of declining QPR, getting less product information about what you’re buying on expressions that cost more, and the industry trying to redefine “quality” to just match whatever it happens to be putting out, I think it’s a self-correcting situation – because you will understand it, firsthand.
As for the time machine question: the people living in 1987 and later who were into whisky somehow knew about those expressions; they bought them. It’s true that access wasn’t the same for everyone, but it’s also restricted by laws, budgets, who imports what products and less aged whisky being produced today; it’s supposedly the reason for NAS.
Jeff, please tell me that the point of my 1987 time machine wasn’t lost on you: Even if there was an Incredibly Astounding Golden Age of Whisky that’s now over, today is still the second-best period to be a whisky drinker. Ever. In any previous period, 99% of us would, at best, be drinking Glenfiddich 12 from our local bottle shop, maybe rotating a Macallan 18 on special occasions, and asking our shop owner what makes that “Izz-lay” stuff taste so different. And he wouldn’t know.
Jeff, on the main point of this whole page here, you and I are just going back and forth now repeating ourselves. I’ll try to fairly summarize, AND ANYONE ELSE WHO’S STILL PAYING ATTENTION, I invite you to respond.
1. There was a post-glut golden age when incredible whiskies were pretty available.
2. Even so, overall availability and access to information today is way better that it ever used to be.
3. Many prices are going up. In some cases, by a lot. Rising prices erode our QPR.
4. Some whisky lovers cite declining quality in certain cases. Some cite increasing quality in certain cases. Your personal experience with the quality of stuff in your glass has been _____________.
5. There’s a lot of NAS junk and nonsensical sales messages out there, which we can all choose to either ignore or consume (literally and figuratively).
6. Many standbys continue to deliver quality at a reasonable value.
Is that fair?
If so, what do you all think—are you happy or sad in the world of today’s whisky?
Sure, except the old standbys that are no longer available:
Macallan 12 and 18
1. There was a post-glut golden age when incredible whiskies were pretty available. – Sure, I didn’t experience it myself but, looking at things like the Malt Monitor, I do take it as a given.
2. Even so, overall availability and access to information today is way better that it ever used to be. – I’d agree that, with the popularity of whisky, overall access to PRODUCTS is better, although the quality of the products one has access TO is not quite as good (see above) and the access itself is more constricted by the factors of scarcity and pricing than previously.
The question of “information” is very interesting because, although there are more reviews and more commentary on whisky than ever before, I’ve never seen so many products (and reviews) denying the overall influence of age and which literally substitute legends and fairy tales for production information. The fact that most “authorities” on whisky let the industry skate on this nonsensical trend also invalidates many of them AS authorities – if they don’t know that age matters to whisky, they really don’t know very much about whisky or they’re simply marketers. There’s a lot of people doing a great deal of talking about whisky, but there’s very few actually saying anything or who I trust in any real way.
4. Some whisky lovers cite declining quality in certain cases. Some cite increasing quality in certain cases. Your personal experience with the quality of stuff in your glass has been _____________. Mine? at least Talisker 10 and HP 12 in terms of slight decline. My point on this is that, while quality can be argued to be steady, I don’t see any upswing in any established product in continuous production – and I don’t know what the certain cases are where people are citing increasing quality.
5. There’s a lot of NAS junk and nonsensical sales messages out there, which we can all choose to either ignore or consume (literally and figuratively). – It’s your choice within whisky FOR NOW, because there are still available and affordable products that will still tell you what you’re buying. If people keep buying the line that “age doesn’t matter to what I’m drinking if I’m willing to help the industry ignore it”, however, everything that’s within the purchase range of many WILL go NAS, and then your choice is to either knuckle under or leave single malts.
6. Many standbys continue to deliver quality at a reasonable value. – Sure, but with rapid price increases, and only steady quality, those values are on the decline overall; it’s just math.
You might be happy for now, but I’m not happy with the trending; it’s not the current snapshot, it’s the film. Again, right at first, falling can feel an awful lot like flying.
Jeff, I just placed an order from K&L. And as predicted, I did indeed tack on a bottle of Talisker 10 for $50.
My guilt level is at a steady 0%.
Salesmen try to sell stuff. I get that, I write it off, and I continue to buy good products from sellers who offer them at good prices.
That’s OK – it doesn’t change the fact that no one should trust Driscoll as far as they can throw him in terms of what he says (and doesn’t say) about whisky; his pricing (and it was never an issue to me) doesn’t change the fact that Dave thinks it’s literally “OK” to lie to customers if it helps sales.
People could easily draw a bigger analogy to current whisky marketing at large on this point, but it makes things messy and uncomfortable for many, which is one of the major reasons it simply isn’t done (“liars have mouths to feed, too”, etc.). So much for truth in commentary and, apparently, for the desirability OF truth in commentary.
For what it’s worth, my guilt level in saying the above is at a steady 0%.
Jeff, my local retailer has a sign by their heaping pile of Talisker Storm claiming it’s an awesome 93-point whisky.
It didn’t stop me from buying some Highland Park 18 there.
The criticism that there seem to be a lot of Canadians on the site grumbling about price is hilarious – THIS IS A CANADIAN SITE. There are, as mentioned in my earlier comment, entry level drams available in Canada. BUT, even those are expensive. Talisker and Ardbeg 10 at $100 each, for example. That’s frickin’ expensive!
Noting the Canadianrificness of this site isn’t a criticism. It’s setting aside one local variable that applies only to fraction of whisky drinkers.
(And is this really “a Canadian site”? Am I on the “Canadian Wide Web” here? Is My Annoying Opinions “a Minnesotan site”?)
what Canadian? I can only say that I am glad that I live in a place without state monopol – as far as sales of alcohol are concerned.
About the future … I fear we will see more of attempts like described here
and we will probably have to fight to stay sane if things like described here go on
ATW, what exactly was the smackdown you took the week before this post? Was it somewhere on this site?
What was their line of reasoning?
See previous reply. 😉
Oh—OK. Since you brought it up in your post, I thought there might be some interesting ideas there we chould chew on.
Guess not… I’ll move along… nothing to see here… 🙂
But why did they do it?
See previous reply…
Eyes to the future……
“And, if we want the industry to thrive, we must move forward! The new age whisky drinker doesn’t believe in this shit; yes, they respect tradition and heritage – they are so important and a huge part of what makes Scotch whisky special – but they want to bring into their world brands that represent who they are – and we don’t want to be known as bigoted, sexist, boring old men.”
“….I know it’s his regular routine, but it’s wrong on so many levels and painfully anachronistic. Sadly, it’s also representative of the views of too many people in the broader whisky community too.
(Is that Nick Morgan speech?)
This thinking – and this preaching – has to stop. And, when it comes from someone like this individual, it just reinforces more of these stereotypes that we must (and, for the majority, are) shake off as an industry, as they’re just not true.”
This thinking an preaching has to stop – because it is in the way of many further highly profitable sales of whisky. Do away with old concepts and any trace of tradition. We must destroy the whisky category in the name of progress and total flexibility. Anything goes as long as it sales is the new credo.
Jeff will love this. Is it only me who thinks this “insider” has had an overdose of company marketing? Or a case of successful re-education and re-orientation?
The lady’s arguments are sophomoric and her writing skills well below Pulitzer level.
If single malts are no better than blends there must be some other reason why they cost three times as much. Ditto if age is no longer relevant.
Yeah, I was underwhelmed. Curt’s short story was better.
Ummm…thanks, I think. ??
“We all want whisky to be inclusive, fun and enjoyed by as many people as possible in all its forms.” – well, no; while I’m not REALLY against it as an idea, I have to confess that “inclusiveness” was never on my consumer radar as any kind of primary objective. Sure, “industry insiders” are probably all VERY concerned that no one EVER feels “excluded” from buying a whisky that, ironically, paying customers aren’t “entitled” to know the age of but, for me, the second part about that lack of entitlement is FAR more a problem than worrying about whether the industry is currently reading its demographics correctly. That being the case, I’m not sure who “we” are in this context, or whether I’m really one of “us”, even from the get-go.
But again, look at, and worry about, whisky as the industry does and from its POV, and you’re a least half co-opted into placing its concerns above your own as a consumer. Poor industry… poor people in the industry.. it’s all just terrible.
By the same token, I can’t lose sleep over “messaging that will just do negative things to the industry and its acceptance among those who aren’t at retirement age” because, as a consumer, I think the industry is long OVERDUE for a serious shit kicking right now and I won’t ever worry about its survival UNTIL that shit kicking puts it in mortal danger.
“And, if we want the industry to thrive, we must move forward!” – maybe but, again, who are “we” and is the industry’s success, with its current agenda, really the best thing for consumers or for whisky? It’s a real question, but not one our writer is concerned about here.
Should industry “empathy” for the consumer principally consist of wringing hands over “inclusiveness” rather than providing more information as to what the consumer is actually spending more and more money on? And these worries over inclusiveness are placed in the context of saying “our main role is education” while most prominent “educators” preach that the influence of age on whisky can essentially be turned on and off like a light switch with an uninformative label choice to boost sales!?!
And people write this while, somewhere, comedians are living in poverty? How’s that for empathy?
“That a single malt and a blend are both a marriage of casks – that one is not ‘better’ than the other.” – it’s true that they’re really different products with different composition, and that quality is in the eye of the beholder but, in a neat drinking experience, many people place value on flavour and balance. Although there are exceptions in both cases (essentially “bad” single malts and “exceptional” blends, however defined) single malts generally provide more prominent flavours though their malt content compared to blends, and many blends have their balance relatively compromised through (over)use of column-still grain spirit, which is why many people prefer to drink single malts neat while using blends for cocktails. Both are “a marriage of casks”, but what the casks hold does matter. Regardless of all the “excitement” industry talking heads now want to generate around the world of blends, they have their work cut out for them because most blends don’t generate much excitement by themselves.
My buddy, the Whisky Guru, keeps threatening to buy me a bottle of Red Label for Christmas (even “just” the 1750 ml, to say nothing of the 3000 ml MOAB) and I WOULD get very excited about that; but not for the reasons this lady would like.
And, on empathy, I’m not defending sexist stereotypes or behaviour by any means, but I also refuse to confuse this lady’s problems as a professional within the industry, real as they doubtless are, with mine as a consumer outside it.
“I thought the world – and whisky – had come further than this.” – you thought that while, elsewhere, only worrying about industry sales and messaging instead of the consumer? Nah, you know EXACTLY how far the world – and whisky – have come because, from my perspective as a consumer, you’re just as much a part of the real problem as anyone else: people think that they can dump their silly bullshit on others and that no one on the receiving end is supposed to mind. You just don’t like to be on the receiving end – no one does; join the club.
From what I can see, the writer knows exactly as much about whisky as her professional male counterparts; the problem isn’t that it goes “unrecognized” – the real problem is that the shared level of knowledge, and truthfulness about it, isn’t, itself, a compliment. Even if she was treated as well, or better, than Charlie MacLean, it still wouldn’t help consumers because Charlie MacLean and HIS “messaging” about whisky isn’t helping consumers either.
Since when is “inclusiveness” a trait of whisky marketing? I far more often see things touted as “exclusive.” (I think sometimes people forget what “exclusive” means.)
The point I tried to make was that worrying about “inclusiveness” – as if there’s some current “crisis” in it – serves the industry in distracting consumers from their own issues. People aren’t being “shamed” out of whisky shows, they’re rapidly being priced out of products and being “excluded” from knowing what they’re paying for.
But just like “age both does and doesn’t matter to whisky, depending on the label”, there is a doublethink to the industry message on inclusiveness and exclusiveness with regard to whisky; whisky is supposed to be inclusive enough that everybody can find something within whisky that’s “for them”, but exclusive enough to allow everyone to be able to think that most other people are drinking stuff that’s either substandard or overpriced. Whisky’s only in the business of being inclusive when it isn’t in the business of being exclusive.
Hey Jeff. My comment about “inclusiveness” and “exclusiveness” was probably misplaced or badly framed. Or both.
Point being, it wasn’t a response to what you said; rather, it was just attached to the place on this page where the “inclusiveness” idea first arose, which was in your quoted bits. Sorry if that was unclear.
That said, I think your second paragraph here—especially the quip “Whisky’s only in the business of being inclusive when it isn’t in the business of being exclusive”—is spot on.
I took it to be a question about if, or how, Broom was supposedly (from my view) serving industry ends with his piece – and I thought it was a fair question that deserved an answer. Thanks for the comment.
from the same source but in the category “From the Editors” quite a different tone.
Dave Broom refers to the same elitist whisky show or whatever that was but he manages not
to praise the brave new world of NAS-ty whiskies and he avoids the traditonalist vs. new whisky requirements subject.
Funny though, that both the “expert” article and this is published under the same umbrella.
Broom’s piece in response to the “elitist crisis” is another good example of the industry friendly crusading against self-defined industry problems in order to stay oblivious to consumer problems.
The issue here, apparently, is that someone is doing or thinking something that does violence to the idea that “whisky is for everyone”:
“‘Don’t get worked up Dave, it’s just a few rich guys.’ No. It’s more than that. If the universality of whisky is not key to education, then we have all failed. If its qualities aren’t actively demonstrated through talk, and action, laughter and fun, then this ‘elite’ will own the narrative, one which declares that ‘old is good’, ‘single malt is the best’, ‘price is a determinant of quality’, and ‘it is for us and not you’.”
Well, Dave, the elite continue to try to own the narrative, and you’re as much a part of that elite, and that narrative, as anyone. Whisky never really “belonged to everyone” except in the most extended sense; it always traditionally belonged to the very few who largely drink on the cuff while telling us “it has to be this way” and all the others who, while hearing the industry malarkey, still very much always had to buy their whisky themselves. On that basis, “whisky education” failed a LONG time ago or, perhaps, never even existed as a sincere effort. And your failures are your own, not “all of ours”.
Whisky isn’t becoming more elitist based on what somebody did or didn’t say to someone else at some whisky show that was never for the great unwashed anyway; it’s becoming more elitist based on the fact many people are simply being priced out of it because no level of profit is enough.
“Reject elitism: Whisky is not a commodity reserved for rich men.”
Sure, prices be damned, attitude is king, ONWARD! When he comes up with this stuff, it’s painfully obvious that Broom does a LOT of drinking on the cuff… and that he will do a lot more.
Much as I wouldn’t be allowed among all the terrible people at the terrible whisky show, I’ll say one thing for them: they apparently understand that age matters to what they’re drinking. While age isn’t the same as quality, someone acknowledging that age DOES matter is refreshing, considering how I used to read the folks at Whisky Advocate defend NAS to the skies and then talk about how they would be resorting to their bunkered whiskies until the era of “nothing worth buying” – that THEY were helping to create – blew over.
“What the whisky industry can do, however, is stop pandering to them, stop saying something to one group of people and something else to the rest of us.”
Apply the above to what labels and NAS paradoxically say about whisky maturation (age is important here, but not over there) and reflect upon the following from Broom:
“There is nothing inherently wrong, evil or nasty about No Age Statement (NAS) whiskies. The reason that there is an increasing number of them is driven primarily by the fact that there currently isn’t sufficient stock to match global demand. This situation will ease, but at the moment producers are faced with this dilemma.” – https://scotchwhisky.com/magazine/from-the-editors/6812/nas-whisky/
So industry double messaging on age is somehow “justified” by the industry’s problems, if Broom says so? Broom understands what’s good for Broom, but it’s in a world very removed from the truth and that of the average whisky consumer.
Why would a rich guy want to drive a Camry when he can afford a Bentley? Why wear a Timex if you can afford a Rolex? Why drink J & B if you can afford Macallan 30 year old? Of course it’s elitist and the rest of us are in at whatever level we can afford. Why would anyone expect that all whisky should be available to all people? Capitalism doesn’t work that way. You pay to play. Let’s face it, whisky shows are not set up to promote JW Red.
The female whisky professional with the spectacular legs (a fact she managed to slip into her anti-sexist, ageist rant) attributed a lot of dubious comments to “the old rich guys”. I find it hard to believe that even they could display such a lack of class. I suspect that the author took some liberties with the acts. I noted, too that she didn’t see fit to put her name to the piece. (see Kallaskander’s link to the article above).
Most pay to play. A few say (what it takes to help the industry) to play. All this egalitarian stuff that pretends that Johnnie Walker Red Label or Ballantine’s Finest is really King George V or Ballantine’s 30-year-old just writ in smaller economic terms is a good case in point, and I doubt Broom has been seen drinking too much of the former whiskies with “the common folk”. The coupons for “my fair share” of Macallan 30 must have gotten held up in the mail. If who does or doesn’t get priced out in the current single malt market isn’t an issue, Broom can just stop with pretending that whisky “belongs to all of us” in any tangible sense. But Broom’s approach here is also very industry friendly; it says “we don’t care if you get pushed around by pricing, so long as you still buy something from us, at some price level, somewhere”. Remember, we’re all “in this together”.
As for the lady, I thought she worked a backhanded self-compliment into the recount of her “outrage” as well, but I don’t really doubt the incident itself happened. I’ve met a few rich guys in my travels and I wasn’t always convinced that they ever got rich by acting particularly classy – in fact, I often got the impression that one of the reasons some sought out wealth was for the social license it could lend to their behaviour; that they were essentially looking for a life where the rules no longer applied to them.
What did the Donald ever do to you?
Nothing on a personal level but, by his own account, he might be a good case in point.
Good point, I’d forgotten about the President of the United Tweets of America.
FYI: Anyone looking for a good example of Serge’s only-a-little-sly criticism style, as noted in ATW’s original post here, could do no better than today’s WhiskyFun run-down of some Glenmo NAS things:
Yeah, Serge is sly and clever – and I sometimes think that being sly and clever is the real point – but he isn’t going to do any real damage to NAS with his level or intensity of NAS criticism (compared, say, to Ralfy).
But Serge and I are on different whisky planets anyway; if everything that I can currently afford went NAS tommorrow, he would still never be forced to drink any of it or leave single malts (even if he cared about NAS a great deal more than he does) – he could still kick back with some 30+ unobtainium and review it for the few thousand that could both find and afford it.
Speaking of Serge and Ralfy, they both actually drank and enjoyed the whiskey I am sipping, Wild Turkey. Specifically the Rare Breed. Wonderful stuff with a bit of water. Does that make you guys want to actually open a bottle instead of discussing ad nauseum?
Strangely enough, I do my discussing on discussion forums and do my drinking in person.
I have to be in the mood for bourbon. When I am it’s very tasty, though I haven’t tried WT. I prefer Booker’s and Old Granddad 114 (or BiB). Or a number of other high proof and high flavour options.
I drink whisky sparingly, less than I would like (with rare exceptions) but this prevents me from drinking more than I should.
I have to have time, no other obligations (like being on call or looking after kids), and then I have to have the inclination. From April to October I have allergies and when they are bad there is neither inclination nor sense of smell. Today is such a day.
But the favourable conditions for discussing, reading or writing about whisky are a lot more frequent, and while it may result in overbuying, it does not lead to any other adverse effects.
And when you say “open a bottle, do you mean a new bottle or any bottle. Because I have so many open bottles I’m not inclined to crack any more at this time.
a bit off topic or spot on… decide for yourself.
A few minutes ago I came across this feature from another – Canadian – website.
It was not so much the topic itself but the picture that is provided.
A case of unintentionally speaking out the truth?
What the two guys are carrying around is the state of whisky summed up in a few words. IMO.
I think it says something about the future in more ways than one.
The sign on the left is spot-on; change the sign on the right to “It’s time to think info/age/like a consumer…. period” and you’d have something, but it’s not the kind of thing you’d see from “WhiskyIntelligence”; they’ve been big NAS boosters for a long time now. That being the case, it’s not surprising that you get a song and dance from them about “flavour” instead of product information – like the “debate” over “inclusiveness”, the debate about flavour, whatever that means, is, to me, just a distraction. After the “world of flavour” has been “explored” – whatever that entails and however long it takes – I probably still won’t know any more about what goes into the next industry release than I did about the last one.
What’s happening to the whisky isn’t quite the equivalent of what happened to the Titanic, but what many people are saying about whisky is the equivalent of rearranging its deckchairs.
You’re far too cynical. You probably have no kids (or not recently) – wait – let me explain.
When I took my kids for their early vaccinations they cried and it made me very upset to see them cry. Their paediatrician explained to me that I just didn’t understand – the children “crying” were saying “Thank You Dr. XXXX for protecting me from dangerous diseases”.
Similarly , I wonder if you misunderstood the photo.
One sign says the end of whisky tradition is nigh – It is. It used to be, in terms perception, 80% Scotch, 10% Irish, 5% American, 3% Canadian, 2% everything else. Now quality whiskies are coming from non-traditional places like India. So yes, the traditional view of whisky is at an end.
Second, indeed the time has come to think Flavour. It doesn’t matter how or how long a spirit has been matured. What matters is if it tastes good. Now I know this may trigger a visceral response from J–f, but he actually agrees.
I know of 8 YO whiskies that have better flavours than 16, and an old whisky in too good a cask can over-mature. So really it’s about bottling the right product in the right way at the right time.
Does that mean I support NAS? No. Just because flavour is the most important factor, it doesn’t mean information isn’t needed. Especially where you can’t try before you buy, knowing the cask, the ABV, the type of and length of maturation can help the consumer make buying choices. And also, knowing the age can let you decide whether the price is reasonably set (ie: $250 for a 8YO or a 25 YO represents very different profit margins, potentially).
New sourcing doesn’t change the physics of whisky; the idea that whisky is being reinvented because some new distilleries are opening up is just marketing jabber.
“It doesn’t matter how or how long a spirit has been matured. What matters is if it tastes good. Now I know this may trigger a visceral response from J–f, but he actually agrees.”
OK, now all somebody has to do is show that how long a spirit has been matured has no effect on how it tastes or whether it tastes “good” – regardless of how “good” that taste is or isn’t assessed to be – and you actually have an argument… except you don’t; in fact, you kill it yourself in your next paragraph.
“So really it’s about bottling the right product in the right way at the right time.” – exactly, which doesn’t jive, at all, with the idea that “it doesn’t matter how or how long a spirit has been matured”; calling a whisky good, bad or indifferent – or, indeed, redefining each of those terms to suit whatever the industry happens to be producing – TOUCHDOWN!!! (thanks, Veritas!) – doesn’t change the fact that maturation itself is an important time SENSITIVE process, and so, age, by definition, matters to each product. Which is why I want to know it. QED. Calling any whisky “good” – whatever you judge that to be – DOESN’T make its age irrelevant.
“It doesn’t mean information isn’t needed” – except, evidently, where people buy products anyway where information, conveniently, isn’t rendered. Not coincidentally, people’s support of NAS through their purchasing is feeding the trend of removing said age information. Make no mistake, you “support” NAS if you buy it; the idea that you “support” production information “in theory” is irrelevant while you undercut it in practice. The industry really doesn’t care what, or if, people think; it cares what they buy.
Jeff, I’m not gunning to get into an argument with you. I support your position. I’m trying to use my powers of language to show you why those two people with the signs are sending a message that you can agree with.
Read what I wrote again, with the following as a guide:
The fact that people are embracing non-Scotch spirits is proof that the end of “traditional whisky” as the gold standard is coming. The two-faced SWA and marketers are indeed sowing the seeds of their own destruction.
You will, I suspect agree, that some whiskies taste better young, and others taste better older. Or if you won’t agree, than at least accept that some people like certain characteristics in older whiskies and others like the younger ones.
The most important thing in the enjoyment of whisky (unless you buy for an investment only) is the flavour.
I hope you’ll agree that even a 50 YO whisky, if it tastes like crap, is not good.
So from a consumer point of view, to be a good quality whisky, it has to taste good.
With so many NAS whiskies being churned out at meagre ABVs and with little to recommend them, it is in fact time for the consumer to embrace flavour, and pick out the quality spirits, wherever they may originate, that provide quality, flavourful experience.
Am I advocating that the sign be interpreted to say NAS is good as long as it tastes good? No
I am advocating that the industry message be turned on its promoters – that we should look elsewhere for FLAVOUR – to those producers that provide us with a quality product with the information we need to make a proper choice.
I am unapologetic about my previous post. If I have anything to apologize for, it is that my skills as a satirist are not immediately obvious.
I’m not saying that there’s one perfect age for whisky that fits everyone. I’m not even saying that “older is better” – even though real complexity, if valued, is usually found primarily with older whiskies and their tertiary flavours and that, these days, the danger of getting a product that’s overoaked compared to getting one is underoaked is minimal. Some people are so brainwashed that they don’t think a whisky CAN be underoaked, and I leave the near-new make to them.
EVERY whisky – whether called good, bad or indifferent by some but not by others – is a product of its AGE, not the Gaelic and other crap that is or isn’t found on its label. Rip the label off and the Gaelic’s gone… but the effects of its age remain.
Age is a large part of what makes whiskies what they are; it’s the labels applied TO the effect after the fact – whether “good”, “bad”, or “indifferent” – which are immaterial. Call something “good”, call something “bad”, the product is what it is, in large part, because of its age not because of what you call it after maturation.
Most people want to be able to find the whiskies that they assess as “good” – whatever that means to them – while avoiding the whiskies that they assess as “bad” – whatever THAT means to them.
If someone doesn’t know what profiles they like or don’t like in terms of their age – in conjunction with what distilleries, finishes, strength, etc. – then they are buying blind in the absence of the “try everything before you buy” dreamworld that most people simply don’t inhabit. Age affects these profiles PROFOUNDLY – although that point’s largely lost on a lot of people who will never be able to afford anything beyond a 15 in a few years.
Information, taken in context of experience, informs the consumer about what they are buying in terms of profile; more information, like more experience, BETTER informs the consumer about what they are buying. Thus, more information IS better – and less information is worse for consumers.
Information OF ANY TYPE is an indication of content, not of a “guarantee of quality” – no bottle can read your mind, and tastes, to know whether you will like it or not – but information helps you find more bottles you like.
If someone generally prefers a distillery’s offerings between the ages of “A” and “B”, but not between the ages of “C” and “D”, they don’t need their tastes, and purchases, changed to just whatever the industry happens to want to put out today with age unstated; they need to know the age of what they’re paying good money for, full stop.
“Embracing flavour” is just knowing what you like – which isn’t exactly rocket science – but knowing what went INTO the whiskies you like in terms of their production information is becoming FAR more difficult because, in buying NAS, consumers are killing valuable age information.
Furthermore, the distilleries OUTSIDE Scotland who try to sell the “age doesn’t matter” message through THEIR NAS are JUST as two-faced as anyone else; these people aren’t “rebels” against the SWA – they’re its students. In that context, the “fight against tradition” is just more “whisky reinvented” new-and-improved bullshit.
David, you decide how much you’re willing to pay for something based on your guesses at the producer’s profit margin?
David said: “Second, indeed the time has come to think Flavour. It doesn’t matter how or how long a spirit has been matured. What matters is if it tastes good.”
Interesting notion. But let’s consider rum for example. I know a lot of people that like rum. They’ll drink it mixed or straight (rocks or neat). I too like rum and have for a very long time. But rum isn’t necessarily rum any longer. Scotch whisky mostly contends with mystery aging but also is affected potentially by coloring and chill filtering altering the original product. Does that make it taste bad? Nope, not always. But most view it as an adulteration of the product. In the rum world the battle is quite a bit “worse” (depending on your perspective). Rums are “adulterated” with a variety of things: sugar, glycerol, vanilla. All of those items make the rum sweeter and “smoother”. But is it still rum? I still like the flavor of rum as it used to be rather simply distilled. It’s a fair bit more “rough” and not as sweet as the adulterated products and I actively seek out un- or less adulterated rums (harder and harder to find the former). Not unlike the whisky industry exciting names are attached, fancy bottling is presented and consumers are told this is premium and that is exclusive. But I can also tell you that something like Flor de Cana tastes “good” but it’s been heavily adulterated with sugar and the age statement is an actual age statement any longer. It may have been at one time but labels that used to say 7 years old for example now simply say 7. 7 what we don’t really know (actually the rep emailed back and said it’s an “average” of the ages (I asked if it was a weighted average but I think they were confused and haven’t responded in months)). So it’s tasty but is it a good or honest value? Well, that’s a subjective judgement ultimately.
Not looking for an angry debate here either, but I find the lack of honesty and integrity in the marketing world to be entirely too disturbing (no hormones in the meat at A&W, I don’t think so) these days.
Flor de Cana is “slow-aged” for (in this case) 7 years. I interpret it to mean that it takes them 2 years to age it one…? Maybe it’s a union thing…
“Second, indeed the time has come to think Flavour. It doesn’t matter how or how long a spirit has been matured. What matters is if it tastes good.”
He also said: ““So really it’s about bottling the right product in the right way at the right time.”
Bingo! What he left out was “in the right way at the right time… for you”. People have individual preferences on age effects in CONJUNCTION with other variables and there is a big interaction between age AND those variables, which is why the age of what someone buys matters. It doesn’t matter what someone calls “good” as opposed to “bad” because age affects them both, no matter what they’re defined to be.
Unless they let the industry define what’s “good” for them as “whatever we happen to be selling today” – and a lot of people are probably going that route because it keeps it simple.
Maybe, unlike whisky, age statements on rum aren’t for minimum age. For what it’s worth, although full disclosure would obviously be better, I think average age per unit volume would tell you as much or more as minimum age, but people wanting more product information won’t get it while choosing less with NAS.
If another point is that nothing on the label can be trusted anyway… well, now we’re not talking “marketing” any more; we’re talking outright fraud. As it applies to whisky, if producers were simply willing to lie on age statements anyway, I’m not sure why they didn’t skip resorting to NAS and keep the age statement selling point.
I’m really not angry; I usually use caps because I don’t have access to italics.
I’m sipping on two fingers of Booker’s, which is 6 years, 4 months and 4 days. I’ve decided that if a whisk(e)y distiller can’t put the number of days on the bottle, I’m out. I’ve got to know such vital information as it is imperative to determining the quality and value of the whisk(e)y. So no more Lagavulin 16, as it has to state it’s 16 years, 4 months and 5 days or it’s shit. Without such detail, it might as well be NAS! And no more rounded off ABV’s. Gotta have strength to at least one decimal. My Booker’s is 64.5 %, so loud and proud!
Just tell me the whisky that, whether you call it good or not, can have its age cut in half or doubled and still be the same. People readily accept that distillery, peating, casking and ABV matter to what they’re drinking, but the industry’s been very successful in brainwashing them on the topic of age – and there are a lot of warehouses to explain.
I get jokes.
Well, sure, everything’s a joke when there’s no real answer for the point anyway – and, I have to admit, that IS what makes it funny to me.
another glimpse of the futures past – an example how whisky is constructed nowadays.
It started when demand grew.
just-drinks: Why do you feel the time is right to re-launch Highland Park?
Jason Craig: Highland Park was lacking emotion. It’s a brilliant product in the single malt category, but it didn’t have a soul. I was tasked with putting some of that back into the brand. The consumer we’re looking at – 30-40 years old, probably male – they’re interested in back stories.
They want to know if we are authentic or if we are faking it. We’ve got authenticity but we didn’t really have an emotional story.
So, we looked at the stories that gave us the most roots.
We decided on Vikings: The Orkney islands were under Viking rule until 1468 and one in three residents has Scandinavian DNA.
Deliberately, it’s not for everybody. It will annoy some people. Good. If we wanted everybody, we’d be mainstream, beige and bland.
Not sure how long this is freely accessible as it is just-drinks.
For me an example of how deeply marketing concepts and marketing speech have penetrated the reality of whisky making.
Buy our story the bottle of whisky with it comes free!
That is a dangerous future we should keep our eyes on.
Highland Park was a down to earth quality malt with expressions ranging from 12 to 30 years old. It was honest reliable constant and affordable. It did need no stories. Then marketing took over and look at it now.
This is interesting:
Jason Craig: The core of 10-, 12-, 18- and 25-year-olds are the bedrock and will not be touched. That’s where all of the premium liquid is going. We took out the 15-year-old about a year ago, Dark Origins will come out later this year and 21 came out last year.
If that’s “where all of the premium liquid is going”, was that made clear to those who bought Dark Origins NAS?
Yeah, the whole “we’re so Scottish, we’re Norse” thing will tick some people off – which will generate conversation – which was the intention.
HP “decided” on the Vikings, but it’s rendered here, pretty nakedly, as just a marketing motif choice to remedy the “we didn’t really have an emotional story” problem. So, to “be authentic”, HP decided to spin some Viking yarns – which would be one thing if the DISTILLERY went back to 1468 – but all I see on my bottles is “Estd. 1798”.
I guess we have different ideas about “authentic”. I don’t see any real difference between telling Viking stories and telling stories about the loch out back or the whirlpool out front, however; if not for Ardbeg’s bullshit marketing, we probably wouldn’t be seeing this from HP today.
Well, Edrington can fark themselves. They’ve priced Macallan way too high for the quality, and it’s only selling on its past. Plus they dropped the CS (a true crime!!). Kinda done the same with HP, so I have passed on the 18 for years now (always liked the 15 lots more than the 12, also). Now I hear they bought back the Glenrothes single malt rights, so I’m assuming an immediate 50% price hike and a lot of farking with the offerings. And people wonder why I’m buying WT 101, Glenmorangie 10, and other such inexpensive but good whiskies. I’ll switch to gin if those go up.
I agree with you on Macallan selling on its reputation – and if Dalmore is the wannabe Macallan, Glenrothes is “well positioned” to be the wannabe Dalmore. Everything is “premium” just through pricing and self pronouncement and, in that way, it sort of means the same as “small batch” and “single cask”.
It’s kind of interesting that Edrington went the rebel “story” route with HP, as opposed to going “whisky establishment cornerstone”; if HP goes back to 1798, that makes it MORE of a “standard-setting pioneer” than its sister. I wonder if Craig would describe Macallan as “mainstream, beige and bland”?
I’m not sure Macallan makes a beige, but somebody’s probably working on it.
I don’t know if I agree with the concept of turning to another beverage just because they are more reasonably priced.
I have never really enjoyed gin enough to buy any of my own, though recently apparently there was some accidental 77% Bombay Sapphire I wish I could have bought.
I do like bourbon, but not as an “alternative”. I have to be in a particular mood.
So if it’s too expensive or below my standards, I’ll just go without.
Well, our pool will be open soon, so G & T’s will fit in. My problem is that I have to watch how much I’m drinking much more closely. I do generally prefer Scotch to bourbon, but the high quality bourbons we have now make it a pleasant option. As long as a certain someone is still in office, abstaining is not an option.
Mmmmm. Try further south.
Don’t know that person. Tonight’s top news item may be a clue.
Oh, that Jason Craig. What a scoundrel! 🙂
It’s a pretty refreshingly frank admission of how thin the marketing veneer is that enfolds our products.
I really don’t understand this part: Their target consumer, a 30-40 year-old male, is supposedly “interested in back stories” and “want[s] to know if [they] are authentic or … faking it.” Who ARE these people who supposedly crave this juvenile storytelling? Actually, it’s hardly even stories—it’s just vague ideas. Really, I wonder sometimes whether the marketers are telling themselves a story about their customers so they can tell their bosses a story about the necessity of continued story-based marketing budgets.
more of the same…
“At a time when stocks are still relatively tight, the elimination of certain age-stated expressions – the 15- and 21-year-old – is viewed as a necessary sacrifice to protect the integrity of the core age-stated range.
And, more broadly, the Highland Park revamp suggests a step-change in the way single malts of this type are being marketed.
Previously, establishing that metaphysical connection with consumers was the preserve of premium blends, or marquee malts such as The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and Macallan – while so-called ‘discovery’ malts like Highland Park focused almost exclusively on what was in your glass.
Now that’s changing.
Shipments of single malt Scotch broke through the £1bn barrier for the first time last year, accounting for 25% of the entire category. As they grow in scale, selling these products isn’t just about the liquid any more. To paraphrase Craig, it’s getting emotional.”
Sure, when emotion can be used to displace reason.
“The clear mission now is to put the core range first, before getting creative with the special editions and NAS bottlings. In order of importance, says Craig: Highland Park 12, then 18, 10 and 25.
In line with this, Motion’s brief is to prioritise the main age statements, then ask himself: ‘What stock does that leave me with?’ The answer might be some heavily peated malt, which finds its way into Valkyrie, or a big parcel of ex-Bourbon-matured whisky, destined for Full Volume. ‘We’ve got that stock, so we can start using it for something special,’ says Motion.”
So NAS isn’t really about “flexibility”; it’s about how to market leftovers.
Isn’t nearly all marketing about emotion with little consideration for reason these days? From a reality standpoint “organic” is much more about marketing and telling people what they want to hear than any sort of toxicologically based discussion. Never mind smaller yields and inexplicable price discrepancies.
We need to start running “house hippo” ads for adults.
seems it is a global strategy we see at work with Highland Park.
“Differentiation and storytelling are two key pillars in our strategy to build Highland Park, and this exclusive bottling epitomises this approach. We are delighted to collaborate with World Duty Free and Heathrow to bring Highland Park’s unique heritage to life in the World of Whiskies stores.”
And what about whisky one feels inclined to ask…. never mind seems to be the answer.
Yes, “differentiation and storytelling” are clear objectives for the industry. Whether, or why, they should mean anything to the consumer, as opposed to what actually goes into the product, remains a mystery – but many people have a great, and encouraged, confusion over “differentiating” what’s good for the buyer as opposed to what’s good for the seller anyway. Even in the context of this story, there’s no real telling whether the whisky was entirely matured in one cask or simply bottled from one cask.
Does it matter? As long as it tastes good. Or, as long as it sells out, more likely.
Right, and what goes into a whisky has no bearing on whether it tastes “good” – however that’s defined. Everything that’s on the label should just serve sales, regardless of what truth it does or doesn’t reflect about the product.
Does it matter? Well, wouldn’t there be a difference, regardless of who labelled what result “good”? The only way process can’t matter to the result is if the result is seen as some kind of foregone conclusion anyway – and, if that’s the case, there’s no need to consult product reviews to begin with; “it’s all good”.
As I said, many people have a great, and encouraged, confusion over “differentiating” what’s good for the buyer as opposed to what’s good for the seller anyway – why does the buyer have any concern over whether this stuff sells out or not as opposed to knowing what they’re buying?
I was being sarcastic…or ironic. I don’t know which term is correct here. English is my third language.
Oh…well, earlier (above), saying much the same thing, you seemed you were being serious.
I was being sarcastic then too, but my reply got lost and I was too busy to retype it…
musing or enhancing marketing story? Interesting timing anyway…
What a bunch of flowery blah-blah-blah.
the future has just become a little more bleak.
Sad, but not surprising.
As I’ve said before, mustering the enthusiasm can be difficult. There are ups and downs.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Or as Talking Heads said: “Same as it ever was.”
The whole vibe around the whisky industry is a bit disheartening lately, but we have to continue to seek out and take the best of what’s on offer and disregard the rest. You could drive yourself nuts worrying about something that is totally irrelevant to most of the planet’s inhabitants most of whom have far greater issues to deal with. It’s just a drink, a nice luxury paid for with discretionary funds. Nobody needs, nor should they be getting anxious and stressed out over whether or not they will be able to get the next great overpriced, over hyped offering from whatever legendary distillery.
That being said, I will continue to enjoy a good dram, I will continue to follow blogs like this one, and if prices continue to escalate I will, with help from a few trusted bloggers like Curt, seek out the best bang for my buck and carry on.
Curt, I hope you won’t get too discouraged and be the next good guy to leave us. Keep the faith, brother, we need you.
It’s true that it’s been disheartening lately, but I’m tempted to think that’s necessary as part of the waking up/maturation process of a lot of whisky consumers in general. It’s sort of like Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke applied to single malt: no, things aren’t the way many initially believed them to be, but that’s not entirely a bad thing.
The point about “it’s only whisky” is interesting to me because it’s a bit of a double-edged sword in that
1. It’s only whisky, so there’s no need to be stressed about it, which is indisputable in the largest sense and;
2. It’s only whisky, so there’s no need to guild the lily about it either – if it’s worth writing/talking about, it’s also worth shooting straight.
“We’re here for a good time, not a long time” – Trooper
“Who are you that I should have to lie?” – Bob Dylan
Es ist nur ein Kornbrand – it’s only a grain distillate.
True. But what made it great is the passion we and many others put into and behind it.
That passion has been exploited by the whisky industry and still is. Perfecting this exploitation process they call premiumisation they left us behind. And don’t give a damn for our passion.
It is not about passion anymore but about many other things.
To me sku’s capitulation – maybe too hard a word and whatever the motivs are they are valid and I do not critizise – and more and more other signs in the www is something like the symbolic first steps towards the end of the passion for whisky.
Which is a double shame if it was because not only is there passion involved at the consumers end – there is a lot of passion where the spirit is produced.
It is the go betweens like marketing and company head outrages for whisky or some such that spoil the fun.
They will spoil their business as well. Again.
I was once told (in the context of an attention to tradition and process in a particular group) that where some care too little, I perhaps care too much.
When my niece was young, she didn’t want anything to do with me, no matter how much I tried to interest her. hen she was about 2 or 3 I decided to “ignore her”, and nothing worked better. Now she runs and jumps into my arms when she sees me.
I think maybe this approach is needed. The more we complain, the more attention the marketers see they are getting, the more ordinary consumers say “hmmm what is this about and where can I get it?”, and the cycle continues.
Maybe if we all decide to sit on our caches, and shut down the chatter, the industry will then stop taking the attention for granted and actually try to woo us.
We’re own worst enemies (even the ones who only go for age-statements).
I’m not my own worst enemy on the topic of age statements; I refuse to buy the products that don’t give me the information that I want. Other people, strangely enough, usually say that they want the same information, then support the marketing that denies it to them while commiserating about industry trending in product information.
Overall, there’s a rather predictable preoccupation with what many of these people are buying and drinking at any given moment at the expense of thinking about how they’re contributing to the trending they say they don’t like in the big picture. Folks should stop ignoring the fact that they’re contributing to the problem and start helping with a solution. But, I know, that’s inconvenient and takes effort. Far easier to say there is no problem, not having information is the same thing as the information being irrelevant, they’re not being wooed enough, etc..The problem’s with “ordinary consumers”? You can preach to a relatively well-informed choir for a long time as well and not see any action too. At some point, people have to get off their asses and take action if they want change.
There might be some truth to the idea that “all publicity is good publicity” – certainly I believe that’s true in the general review/promotion of NAS products, where the overall message can be taken to be “sure, the marketing is utter bullshit, but let’s forget about that for a moment”, which, in turn, can be seen as a variation on the “there are some good ones” argument where unrelated quality is seen as the excuse for the marketing.
If some think the problem is too MUCH attention via criticism, however, criticism as a whole is already on a serious downslope. Looking at the blogs that are going silent, they haven’t been of the “where never is heard a discouraging word” variety. Sku’s blog WILL be missed. I sometimes thought that Klimek didn’t go far enough, but he certainly wasn’t asleep on the topic of the things that the industry was doing. Oliver’s blog isn’t gone altogether, either, but it’s not what it was. With the exit of Hansell, Advocate has really just become a selling/support site for the magazine and its blog, while not lately a hotbed for debate anyway, is now gone entirely – instead, you now just get crap about the Jim Beam barber shop. MAO’s level of whisky criticism has declined as well and some teeth seem to have been pulled at LAWS also.
And sure, the critics are tired.
“It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” – Johnny Cash
Yet I don’t follow the logic of how the industry will care more about the consumer when the critics and criticism are gone and only the cheerleaders remain; if I was in the industry, that’s exactly when I would declare victory. If 50 cheerleading whisky blogs suddenly rolled over and died, I think THAT would send a message that might make it to some boardrooms: “Yes, our research shows that even our least critical supporters can no longer find anything to cheer about; we may be in trouble”. Alas, that’s not likely to happen; there are a fuck of a lot of shills out there and they aren’t going away anytime soon. And we’re not dealing with the simple reverse psychology that can work on a child anyway; that was covered in the first of multiple psych courses that a good marketer takes.
As it is, if anything, people need to be more vocal, FAR more vocal and reduce their tolerance for all the nonsense that gets by because “well, so and so’s in business” – the modern panacea for every cut corner – and realize that, as consumers, they have to stick up for themselves and each other.
I know the feeling… hopefully there ar only ups in places like this one.
Or the downs only short alternatively.
Upon reflection, to address at least some of what Kallaskander said about passion – well, he’s right.
Yes, it was the passion of single malt enthusiasts which helped to build single malt into what it’s become, and it’s true: that passion, if not exactly misplaced (who could say that?), was poorly rewarded by the industry that benefited from it. It’s some of the issues around the premiumization of Mortlach – http://www.dramming.com/2014/03/05/mortlach-blues-how-to-offend-those-who-made-it-possible/ – now written far larger.
While it might be somewhat accurate, I think it’s also almost dismissively cynical to simply say “yeah, but it was always just about the money, not about anyone’s passion” because the money, in many ways, came FROM the passion, and promotion, of the hobby that many people expressed and supported. The industry took the accolades and the advantages OF the passion where they were offered and left the criticism, much of it initially constructive, on the porch – and then said that the same people who complimented their products knew nothing about whisky when it came to products’ shortcomings.
In the process of chewing that bitter pill, consumers swallowed a lot of industry malarkey too, much of it that remains with us to this day: we’re now STILL(!?) “debating” whether mere labels can make all those maturation warehouses temporarily and selectively “obsolete” if it helps someone’s bottom line, and whether whisky’s actually been “reinvented” because someone came up with the term “wood management” and opened up some distilleries in warmer climes. What’s more, many of the people who sold us that malarkey or continue to intentionally turn a blind eye to it are still in positions of relative consumer trust.
With regard to consumers, many still don’t recognize that they ARE consumers and not part of some vast, general (and mythical) whisky collective that “just wants good whisky” (and that’s all) and which supposedly includes everyone under the sun who ever bought, sold, made, drank or heard of whisky. The reality is, the world of whisky is now, as ever, filled with competing agendas and the Web has often proven to be a murky place to recognize and sort them out. I don’t know if I’m alone in it, but I certainly DON’T trust that everyone who writes or comments on various whisky blogs is necessarily JUST Joe Consumer as opposed to someone intentionally running interference for industry messaging in some capacity. In that sense, I actually like Nick Morgan because his colours are declared, particularly in a whisky world that’s shaping up to look as if stress between producers and thinking consumers will greatly increase. It’s nice to know who everyone is.
Yet it’s also true that the industry ONLY ever fundamentally cared about consumers’ interests as a means of satisfying its own (and vice versa) – and, while it’s not inherently “nice”, the tensions from that relationship and the agendas it creates are inevitable. I blame the industry for the some of the underhanded ways in which it PURSUES its agenda – in that, if the ends simply justify the means, when, if ever, does that bottom out? – but I don’t blame the industry for HAVING an agenda different from my own: the industry IS made up of sellers, not buyers like myself. If consumers are currently being run over, it’s because they currently refuse the industry nothing, even on the basis of physics and common sense, and have just drank too much industry Koolaid. I don’t blame the other team for beating us, because our offense is lacking and our defense is non-existent. We need to pick up our game.
Consumers, in general, get the market they deserve (much like countries, in general, get the presidents they deserve) – we are currently losing, deserve to lose, and WILL lose until we change things.
Yup…. we brought it on ourselves.
But the alternative is not engaging in a hobby we enjoy to the fullest degree.
No, I think the alternative is simply to stop bringing it on yourself – and consumers have the power to do that; simply reject nonsense marketing that undercuts consumer interests and don’t take the products that use such marketing to the checkout – instead of saying that working against consumer interests is all just somehow necessary to “engaging in a hobby we enjoy to the fullest degree”.
Consumers somehow “can’t” do that? Sure, just like producers “can’t” give you transparency on what you’re buying because of regulations that are currently “fit for purpose” and that almost none of them want to see reformed in the first place. Everyone’s “hands are tied” – it’s the ultimate excuse for the status quo and for doing nothing… and it’s buying into it, not the reality of it, that keeps things the way they are.
How much cover for NAS in general has been generated by Uigeadail and A’Bunadh over the nonsensical ideas that they “couldn’t” be made/survive with age statements when Octomore can, or that quality (however defined) is somehow related to “secret” ages? How much nonsense in other contexts have consumers put up with on the basis of “cut this or that guy/company some slack, they have a family to feed” as if wanting to have a rational approach to whisky somehow makes someone somewhere starve?
Consumers aren’t victims in the cases, and to the degree, where they are willing participants, and they need to face that fact because the slippery slope that whisky is now on was CREATED by the thinking that said the present slope was somehow “necessary” to “engaging in a hobby we enjoy to the fullest degree”.
But it’s not that consumers weren’t HELPED along the way toward that thinking. Let’s be frank: consumers didn’t SAY that they wanted less product information; it was an idea that was sold TO them to help the industry premiumize young whisky and which they then acquiesced to – much like the idea that thinking less about what you’re buying will somehow result in better products.
Whisky has, quite intentionally, been dumbed down to the degree that “experts” are actually shy/frightened to say whether maturation and its duration “matter” to whisky now – or whether that can now be selectively, and magically, determined by a label on a bottle-by-bottle basis if a marketer says so.
It’s the reason that I think most experts, regardless of how refined of their palates, aren’t really worth a shit when it comes to telling the truth about whisky: they “don’t know” what all the warehouses are about or why whisky is aged in the first place any more; imbeciles or liars, neither help me.
Anyway, consumers have to understand – regardless of how we got here – that it’s only consumer action that will result in any improvement. If this is about looking to future, consumers should be looking to the future that they’re creating.
Drink more bourbon! Thumb in the eye of Edrington, Whyte & Mackay, and other distillers that are trying to rip us off. If you don’t like bourbon, buy Ardbeg 10, Glenmorangie 10, Laphroaig 10, Bunnahabhain 12, Arran 14, or other good entry level scotches and skip all Macallan, Highland Park (esp the new entry, Thor’s Mighty Testicles of Thunder, lovingly aged 3 years and 2 days in Dr. Pepper casks), and definitely anything Dalmore.
Nice thought, but:
1. Bourbon is good, but nothing like Scotch.
2. There are as many NAS bourbons as a percentage of the whole as there are NAS Scotches.
3. Bourbon prices have started to climb (Bookers, ECBP….).
4. I’m not going to buy specific Scotches just because they have an age statement. Some of the ones you list are overpriced where I live, and others don’t suit my taste.
Yeah, they’re both good neat experiences, but one isn’t a substitute for the other – even though some folks are saying armagnac is an alternative to both.
And while bourbon might well be ready to teach the scotch industry a thing or two about “ageless” marketing, that might be because it’s already cleaned house on age statements itself: http://recenteats.blogspot.ca/2014/02/the-bourbon-fountain-of-youth-dropped.html
Sku to the rescue again – no one will ever pay anyone to write this stuff; it’s too valuable.
You guys seem to only whine about things. Get the f#ck over it. There’s lots of alternatives out there. I mention two and you still bitch. Reminds me of an old roommate who couldn’t find a date, as he could find “flaws” in every female. I told him all those women were a hell of a lot better looking than him. Maybe these whiskies you bitch about are better than you are able to discern. Oh well! As a wise man said, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”. There’s plenty of good, affordable scotch out there.
You’re welcome to fool yourself into a loveless marriage if you like, and you’re welcome to engage in what a colleague of mine calls “cognitive override”, thinking you enjoy a fresh crisp apple better than warm apple pie.
Personally, I would prefer to be single than married to someone I don’t love. I’d then be available if “the one” turned up.
Similarly, whisky is not something we consume for sustenance. I will not turn to a whisky I won’t enjoy just because the ones I like are either unavailable or priced out of my range.
Listing a few offerings because you happen to like them is of no use to us.
In my line of work I would not perform well if I dismissed my patients’ symptoms just because I didn’t feel that they applied to me in the same way.
Sure, these are first world problems, but the problems are real none-the-less, and you may be sheltered but that doesn’t make them go away.
And yes, you can apply the last statement to many of the things that ail North American society. Would you agree, Curt?
As with the discussion I had with Ol’ Jas, I think that it’s true that whisky ISN’T totally broken yet, but the trending ISN’T very good and consumers need to take action to reverse some of it. A lot of people knew, even from the get-go really, that this idea of “relax, if you don’t care about x, then x doesn’t matter” was hogwash because it simply doesn’t apply in the rest of reality.
For “x”, substitute the following:
the low fuel warning light on your dashboard
gravity while standing at the edge of a cliff
hair of an unusual colour suddenly found around the bedroom and bathroom
blood in your urine
your mortgage payment
and, yes, the age of whisky
They’re not all equal in importance by any means, but the principle IS the same: some things have a reality and a consequence of their own, regardless of who does or doesn’t make a buck saying differently. The industry did a brilliant and, apparently, very thorough job of it, but this “typing makes it true, create your own whisky heaven, even a paradoxical whisky heaven” might need to be reined in, even if people find it difficult to do.
As for “maybe these whiskies you bitch about are better than you are able to discern”, maybe so – I don’t claim to be a whisky expert or to be able to smell sulfur in a sherry cask at 100 meters – I only claim that all the time, trouble and expense involved in all those warehouses worldwide was undertaken for a real, not theatrical, purpose. It’s true that it’s a very sad comment on the current state of whisky expertise in general, but my knowing and saying that puts me ahead of what most whisky experts are willing to say in public. It doesn’t matter HOW you define quality, age matters to what you’re drinking.
You’ll have to trust me on this but I have a humorous come-back for all of them except the blood in the urine. I can’t think of a “don’t worry” scenario for that…
But as for the hair of unusual colour… in my home it just means we’re getting older…
Oh, sure, I can think of all kinds of ways that people CAN laugh this stuff off – and it’s a lot easier when it’s someone else you’re talking about – I’m just saying that the substitution of humour and nonsense for rationality hasn’t done whisky or its consumers any good and that tolerance of it should stop – because the jokes, as far they exist, are on us. Take industry messaging at face value and you’re “well informed”; contemplate industry messaging enough to see how it’s self-contradictory and just a con job and “you’re thinking too much”.
As for the hair scenario, if it’s red. blonde or black and there’s no one matching that hair colour at home, maybe all it means is that someone thinks that YOU’RE getting older.
But good response anyway.
In my household, age doesn’t matter…only quality.
It’s true the virtues of youth are different from the benefits of experience but, as for saying age simply doesn’t matter, well, we’re back to fantasy again.
Speaking of not worrying about age, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying a bottle of Sazerac rye, which cost me $28 plus tax. Took a week to settle after opening, but has been excellent since. It’s a definite repeat purchase. Very smooth drinker, even neat. Just a bit of water makes it a treat. Anyone else find a good one lately? BTW, found two Nadurra 16’s recently, for $82 apiece, so I’ve been sipping lots of good stuff.
It’s nice to find dusties at or near original price. I can’t say Nadurra is my favourite, because I’ve probably had it only once or twice a long time ago. I also found a couple of the last batch Curt reviewed and one came home with me (the other was found a good home). Also, at or near original price. In the past I used to favour sherry bombs but I think my palate is ready to appreciate the N-bomb.
Not rye though.
If the label didn’t say it was a rye whiskey, I would have thought this was a high quality bourbon with maybe 15% rye in the mash. Very smooth and very pleasant. I don’t like other ryes so this surprised me. This will now now be the fifth member of my American standards, joining WT 101 ($20), WT Rare Breed ($35) ECBP ($43) and Booker’s ($55-$60). RRSB ($45) is on the edge of joining.
I wanted to bring this to your attention
I know there are different points of view to the role and agenda of David in his role at K&L.
I just think that his turning to other fields of writing is one more sign of the enthusiasm that the whisky industry is so successful in killing of.
Or maybe not.
To be honest, my first thought was “maybe there’s more money in cancer”, but this development might change things a bit or, as you suggest, might reflect how things are changing.Yeah, I’m somewhat cynical, but I also learned the hard way who cared about me as a consumer.
In whisky, Driscoll was always primarily an adherent to the lyrics of Johnny Mercer in that it was clear that
You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
Enthusiasm does, by itself, have benefit and motivational value, but I think it also needs to be anchored in something beyond the need or desire to simply be enthusiastic, or to sell product. Some might have you believe that whisky just keeps getting better and better, every day and in every way, and it’s an easy perspective to take – particularly when the product duds and criticism just go unanswered. Unfortunately, I think it’s precisely a lack of enthusiasm with a lot of current industry products and messaging that’s going to be necessary to make a course correction – unless, of course, people are happy with the trending and then the market will decide anyway.
To me, it always seemed clear that Driscoll held that his ends justified his means in sales, as seen below in a comment about “booze companies”:
“Unlike publicly elected officials, it’s not their job to tell you the truth. It’s their job to sell you something. As consumers, it’s our job to decide whether or not to give them our money.” – https://myannoyingopinions.com/2014/04/19/jumping-the-driscoll/#comments
The consumer was just there to be fleeced, by methods foul or fair, the onus on the buyer, not the seller, to ensure a fair deal. I can’t feel bad that an example of this kind of salesmanship has moved away from whisky – but I can only express concern that it has moved to a new Silicon Valley health care startup focused on the battle to cure cancer and wonder what shit and shineola will be promoted there in the name of selling someone something. “Being in business” is currently held to be a catch-all license covering a lot of shenanigans.
On the upside, it still might be the best news honest dialogue about whisky has received in a couple of years.
look who is writing again…. and where…
Let’s see if they turn comments back on. 🙂