Some Stuff…part 1

A series of long-winded essays, or just a few lines to stir the pot and tiptoe back outta the kitchen before it gets too hot. Let’s go with the latter. Less words means less opportunity for me to stick my foot in my mouth. Though, I’m sure I’ll do so a few times anyway. Let’s see if we can’t blow up the comments section below…

First things first. Just a sort of “you heard it here first” bit for you. I am keeping eyes and ears open for the right ATW partner in crime. Finding an Angus (not in the literal sense, of course; I know one of them) is mighty tricksy. I’ve yet to come across someone who shares my stylistic leanings, literary trappings, palate preferences, etc. If and when this happens, these jottings will become a bit more frequent. I struggle more and more to extricate myself enough from life to be able to do this as regularly as I’d like. So…’ATW Angus’…if you’re out there…come claim your place.

So…about those undisclosed/undeclared malts. Sigh. What should we say here, other than stop…f*cking…doing it. Whatever happened to clever label workarounds, such as hints and clues (and insider secrets, oh my!)? I’ve seen enough $300ca bottles of ‘Undisclosed Speyside’ or ‘Unnamed Orkney’ or ‘An Islay Malt’ to last me a lifetime. If you expect me to pull out my coin purse (figuratively speaking; I don’t actually own a coin purse), I really do want some idea as to what I’m buying. How else are we justifying the price tag on just one more unproven asset?

We get it. The world is watching Campbeltown. Yes, Springbank is brilliant, and yes…Glengyle is really starting to show its pedigree. And absolutely, some Glen Scotia can really shine too. Just, y’know…slow down, folks. Share the wealth. Seeing FB or Instagram posts showing ten bottles of the new 12 year Cask Strength land on one person’s shelf really pisses me off. Especially now, when I can see behind the curtain and know how many others are missing out despite intense passion for the brand.

The ‘drinkers’, the ‘collectors’, and the ‘accidental accumulators’ I can deal with. The ‘flippers’ however…fuck ’em! I keep getting asked for advice as to which bottles are going to go up in value by people I know are looking to make profit off of them. Please don’t ask me anymore. This may be something we now have to deal with indefinitely, but don’t expect me to like it or play along. Start querying me about this and I guarantee I’ll extricate myself from the vicinity in a real big hurry. I wish a plague of medieval genital diseases to befall flippers. Bah. Humbug.

Cadenhead’s recent dumbing down. How we went from the generally exciting Small Batch range to this new dumbed down range is beyond me. Farewell cask strength. So long transparency. Adios to even the tasting notes. They’re not even telling us cask type anymore. Shame, Cadenhead. This is a true regression.

Is Elixir Distillers the future? I continue to be amazed at the depth and breadth of Sukhinder’s amassed stash of casks. Hopefully the well is deep and we’re not simply skimming the best off the top before seeing a stagnant puddle of young Caol Ila and such below. I have a feeling Mr. Singh is much smarter than that. As it stands, Elixir is as exciting as it gets right now. I’m loving where they’re taking us.

Gordon & MacPhail still really needs to loosen the purse strings a bit, and that includes anything to do with Benromach. Seriously. These 40% and 43% malts need to go. The days of Scrooge McDucking it are over, guys. Get with the times. 46 is the new 40. This has always been a problem with this company (or companies). They may have the best warehouses in Scotland, and a wood management policy that shames all others, but this incessant dilution is killing the reputation. Even the new Benromach 21 is at 43%. Why?

No…a revived Port Ellen or Brora will not be the same. And even if it somehow miraculously ends within spitting distance of the old distillate…let’s face it…it will be another 30 years yet before it reminds us of our beloved lost icons. And even ignoring changes to yeast, barley, etc, any chance of a recognizable DNA rests on what happens in a contemporary wood program. Don’t expect prices to get better on extant stock either. Ever. Not gonna happen.

Anyone else missing Not the editorializing, apologism, and opinion pieces (those were largely rubbish, anyway), but the data, news and one-stop-shopping aspect. The team that put this all together deserve their place in the whisky heavens. I miss my frequent visits, and am grateful that the site itself – dormant though it may be – still exists. It truly is a treasure trove of valuable whisky knowledge.

To the heads of the big ‘uns: your ‘brand’ is never going to be iconic if you keep rebranding to modern fonts, brighter colors and square-shouldered bottles. Hate to pick on these guys – two of my favorite distilleries – but Benromach and BenRiach…come on guys…you messed up with the new livery. It really is bad. You both had strong and recognizable images already.

Is Ardbeg clawing its way back to the top? Blaaack, Blaaack Committee, Wee Beastie, Supernova 2019, Traigh Bhan 1 and 2 were all good. Not just good, actually, but really good examples of what each was trying to be. Yes, even those pinot-casked Blaaacks. And yes, even that five year old. But more about that in a moment. In the meantime, can’t wait to try that 25 y.o.

Pandemic sample sharing and the rise of online tastings. I know, I know. It’s not the same as a pint and hug from your mates, but at least it’s something. Small victories these days, aye? And hey…drinking at home means no need to worry about safe travel arrangements afterwards. That’s a win, at least! Dunno about you, but I’m slowly coming ’round to these Zoom sessions.

Let’s get back to the idea of really low age statements. Quit nipping ’em in the bud! While at first I was impressed by the ballsy swagger of releasing 4 and 5 year old malts with age statements, we’re now seeing a couple too many 5 year old indies, etc. Sorry, guys. These are simply not ripe whiskies. A cask has work to do in both additive and subtractive capacities. And no matter how heavily peated your make, or how sloshy your wet-fill barrel is, nothing is hiding the fact that 5 year old whisky is just not ready. Good whisky shouldn’t be overly boozy or spirity.

Not all Clynelish or Ben Nevis is good. Period.

We’re starting to see a trend back to where color is king. Darker malts always draw the eye, but I’d argue shouldn’t always draw your wallet. I will concede, however, that most people falling into the color trap are doing so with the indies, which tend towards a more natural shading, at least. Just…caveat emptor.

The SMWS. Bless ’em. Love the Society, love the ethos (the original mission statement, anyway). But maybe it’s time to ask if the SMWS has abandoned its core principles. I mean, blended malts, cask finishes and $400ca bottles of 12 year old Ardbeg fly in the face of everything the Society once stood for. Namely, the purity of the single cask single malt. Read Pip Hills’s latest literary outing and you’ll see what I mean. Hopefully this new face is only a stopgap measure for dealing with depleted stocks, and one that the folks in charge abandon in short order. Otherwise…this is really, really frustratingly sellout-ish.

Anyone else missing the legitimate experience? Scotland is home away from home for me. I can’t lie…I’m about a month or two away from swimming across the Atlantic to experience the esoteric thrill of a proper warehouse jaunt at one of my beloved distilleries. Dear God, how I miss it all. The tours, my friends over there, the straight-from-the-barrel experiences. All of it.

So. About sherried malts. Man…empty those fucking barrels of their previous contents before filling ’em with malt! A five year old whisky should not be the color of coffee or Cherry Coke. And yes…one egregious example that just arrived in our neck of the woods is really setting me off here. Sherry itself is not that color, so tell me how a five year old from Glenwhozit ends up near opacity when it’s only spent a half decade in wood. I am being 100% honest when I tell you a couple distillery folks I’ve spoken to (and no…I won’t mention who, when or where) have explicitly conceded to wet-fill casking. (i.e. there is still stuff sloshing in the so-called empty barrels that are being filled). Not cool. You can’t hide underage malt behind wet casks.

Anyone else kinda miss the days of paxarette? Just how many of our beloved old sherry bombs were a direct result of the practice of paxing casks?

ScotchTrooper. This one touched me. I remained largely quiet on social media, as I didn’t know Brett personally, but what a devastating story of a man who seemed to have positive interactions with pretty much everyone he met. Hoping the family finds comfort and grace and healing.

Alright. Let’s save the rest for part two. Peace and love, mates. Do something kind for someone today.

32 thoughts on “Some Stuff…part 1

  1. Ben Romach

    ATW Angus: there’s probably a lot of AA sirloins, or chucks out there. Maybe ATW needs to considering a seasoning and aging program to get a couple of viable Angus candidates? You don’t always find an Angus the same way Serge might.

    Cadenhead’s recent move is an attempt to lower Springbank’s reputation as a whole because they’re too popular. You heard it here first. No disagreement on Elixir. But what will they do when their spring to success propels them to huge brand status? Can we bank on them being the same good guys?

    Yes, Ardbeg’s been pretty good as of late. For me, the annual Traigh Bhan release means I’m never going to need to buy their annual NAS (partially out of principle) so long as they release a large enough batch. Something tells me they do it just to have a bit of a moniker of being the blaaack sheep

    The content here is greatly enjoyed. Keep it up. We don’t thank you enough… so Thanks! I’m out of words…. a few drams will do that. Stay Healthy

  2. Jeff

    Folks complain about the lack of transparency (among other things) while giving endless passes for the lack of transparency (among other things) for the products and brands that they happen to like. So it was, so it is, so it will probably always be. If folks aren’t mad enough about these issues to change their purchasing over them, then they’ll get the amount of improvement that they have always received and, sad to say, deserve. Producers really don’t mind being the villains in people’s complaints if they’ll buy what’s on offer anyway.


  3. kallaskander

    Well then,

    Hi there,

    good to hear from you… reading is as welcome.
    I can agree to most of the points you made and let me make some remarks.
    BenRiach not only goofed with the new packaging. And why do they not simply make good malt instead of having to hunt the spirit through three different kinds of casks to give it a resemblance of taste?

  4. kallaskander

    To people who ask me about further value of certain bottles I always give the same answer: If you think I know how its done – would I still be here and work?
    Pricing everywhere with exceptions you can count on one hand is way to high. Everyone is acting like their stuff is manna from the heavens… while quality in the glass tells you it is not – after you spent the money.

  5. kallaskander

    I do not agree on Ardbeg. Wee Beastie An Oa Blaaack fell apart in my glass gloriously when I took my time to savour them… was not much savouring left after half an hour.
    Yeah, Pedro Ximenez is the new Paxarette and wet filling expalins a lot. Colour coded whisky buyers are ripped off and seem to enjoy the experience when you see how the Coca Cola ersatz flies off the shelves.

    1. Kirby

      Wee Beastie was not all that great for me. Blaaack however I really enjoyed. AnOa is fine but it’s the same price as the 10yr around me so I always reach for the 10.

  6. kallaskander

    More remarks most probably after your part two.
    One more thing and I repeat myself… whisky has become very boring.
    Perhaps you can lose another sentence on the money printing facilities camouflaging as young distilleries?
    As I said good to hear from you Curt.


  7. Mike. M

    Just my two cents: Reviewers who are fighting the good fight against crappy whisky concealed by new livery I understand where they’re coming from. I appreciate what they do for us as a community that likes good whisky. I hate being sold a consumable product that looks good on the outside but tastes mediocre at best on the inside.

  8. Mike. M

    Part 2.

    You can’t even give the new BenRiach and Benromach bottles and boxes a good review, cause they don’t look Scotland. At least in my opinion of what Scotland Bottle styles should look like anyway. They look like someone picked a general bold font off of Microsoft Word like ARIAL and ran with it.

  9. Mike. M

    Part 3.

    But, by bringing up the fact that the new bottle style or box was changed and therefore has a direct correlation with masking what’s inside the bottle. Are we not bringing attention to the idea of reviewing the marketing and packaging when we’ve said review after review, “but we’re not here to review the packaging, it’s about the spirit inside”.

  10. Mike. M

    Part 4.

    Lagavulin 12 year Is another example, it has a beautiful design, they put some time into it for sure. But you pull the bottle out and despite the eagle soaring across in nature on the label, it looks very empty cause it doesn’t have the vertical ellipse label, the square label below with all the small print and a hint of a sailboat in the ocean in front of the distillery, where’s the tax stamp?

  11. Mike. M

    Part 5.

    So, I’d rather have my old green box back and since 2017 they took the tax stamp off. Really?!! You can’t afford to give me my tax stamp?!! Come on!! You’re killing me here! So, maybe we include the packaging in the review now or we continue to not review the packaging as that’s not the focal point. Unless, the dram is so crappy we feel compelled to call them out on their marketing stunts to appeal to the masses who don’t know what a good dram tastes like.

  12. Mike. M

    Part 6.

    Since recent labelling has disappointed me and others, maybe we should consider mentioning the bottles, sleeves, boxes, etc. because the marketing is obviously part of the discussion now whereas before we said it’s not. Maybe not review the super expensive limited releases but for standard core ranges and single casks that use the core release designs.

  13. Mike. M

    Part 7.

    Lastly, Cadenhead and Sprinbank 10 have gone downhill. I use to love the Cadenhead releases cause you could get a really nice spirit from the mid 90’s that was 19 years old at cask strength for less than $200. Now, they’re pushing their product in a direction I don’t like. Springbank 10 is the only one I drink, and I have to say they don’t them like they use to. Up until 2015/2016 Springbank 10 was stellar.

  14. Mike. M

    Part 8.

    Flippers, I understand guys who flip so they can afford to get a bottle that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. But flipping for profit is just destroying the fun, whiskyfun as Serge pointed out. I’m well beyond the aforementioned part 2. Mentioned by the original author. In conclusion, I hope I don’t have to resort to dropping whisky and drinking “the king of beers”.

  15. Lord Maltmonster

    Finally a serious address to the issues of a self-destructive industry. Simple answer to effect change for low ABV / young age / NAS / undisclosed & undeclared malts, consumers need to STOP buying this product and let it sit on the store shelves, also writers need to stop writing about this segment of the market.
    “Springbank is brilliant” …. I believe Springbank still falls way short of producing what they once did, if you don’t believe me trade me your old Springbank 21 for the new 21, I would even pay you an additional $200 to make this happen. I believe this to be true about most distilleries, they should figure out what they were doing right in the past when they had use of direct fire stills, different yeast, barley, cut and malting. Why can’t we have another Black Bowmore? Please don’t make me try another sample of a perfume based Bowmore.
    I’ve never cared about flippers or collectors, sooner or later the whiskey spoils, get drunk or resells. I do still have a bottle of Mannochmore Loch Dhu from 2000 and would ask if you happen to know the current price of this?
    I’m always happy to see independent bottlers (yes this includes SMWS) release old malts, (do try or read before you buy) and I’m ok with them charging a reasonable price plus a large mark up to get access to these old beauties, but when they cross the line in pricing to the extreme they are only hurting themselves and the industry in the long run. The Irish taught the Scots to make whiskey and the Scots may rule right now, but unless they offer a good product at a fair price they will go the way of the????? . FYI, Both Macallan & Dalmore produce crap at an extreme premiumized price and try to make you believe they’re better than any other distillery, what a load!

    1. Jeff

      Unfortunately, the industry is only self destructive by way of giving the people what they either say they want or will evidently endure for fear of missing out, principle be damned; the industry is doing fine… it’s whisky that’s suffering. The most telling thing is that the two are no longer synonymous. We can have both better whisky and better product information, but not while we settle for worse.

      We occasionally talk as if this stuff matters, but maybe we should occasionally act as if it matters instead. An idea put into action is more important than one which remains only an idea, while the definition of madness is to constantly repeat a process expecting different results.

      Just in terms of simply internal consistency, people should either stop complaining about the things they support, or stop supporting the things they complain about. The situation doesn’t need serious addresses; it needs serious action that addresses these concerns.


      1. kallaskander

        Hi there,

        hi Jeff – remember the re-educating of customers? It was Macallan that started talking about that and the whisky industry was very successful as far as Scotch singlemalts are concerend.
        The sell a uniform optimised pruduct under different names in mediocre quality for high prices. And I am talking standard OB bottlings. The higher end is only overpriced but of good quality.

        Everything done right.


        1. Jeff

          Sure, but we’re talking about wolves providing free self-defense courses to sheep. I give Macallan credit for at least ACTING in its own interests, even if it does so by lying to customers that it’s acting in theirs as well.

          In fact, the silliest part of the current rush to vastly overpriced mediocrity in whisky exactly parallels the “difficulties” in fighting the current pandemic: the constant reference for the need to “educate” and then “debate” what to do. The facts are in, folks, and you’re not going to “educate” or “debate” your way to another set just because the current ones are inconvenient and you don’t feel like making an actual effort when it comes to buying and not just talking.

          Stupid people win stupid prizes because they’re stupid, full stop. Act or stop bitching but, either way, you’re not going to talk this thing away, much less by saying that somebody ELSE should do something or that producers should change THEIR evident priorities.


    1. Jeff

      Hi –

      I hope that it results in better whisky but, regardless, producers have always miraculously been able to provide the answers to every “challenge” – “how DO we balance time-honoured ways with cutting-edge technology to make for an exciting whisky future? Tell me how, dammit, HOW?” – that they define for themselves while things that customers would like to see get pushed to the back because “THAT was never really an issue anyway”. No issue is ever really on the industry’s radar unless –

      1. It already has an obvious profitable answer, ready for press release, and….
      2. Well, no, #1 is just about all that matters.

      Thus we can perpetually have “progress” – at least from the industry’s POV – while quality and value continue to decline… unless people refuse to play along. I wonder how traditional it is that one of the “side effects” of these changes will be being able to go into 24/7 production?

      Just in case this post manages to get through, there are big, and ongoing, problems in posting here.


  16. Brent

    Is BenRiach going to follow along with Glendronach and go down the path of chill filtration? That seems a depressing thought. Starting to look like the initial worry when Brown Forman took over may be showing itself as legitimate.

    1. Jeff

      Maybe… but, like age, chill filtration is “no guarantee of quality” – yak, yak, yak, blah, blah, blah. The actual “problem with whisky today” isn’t really with any particular process that producers want to embrace simply to enhance profits… it’s the acceptance of the fuzzy thinking that they use to sell their nonsense; what the industry does at any given time is just a symptom of its viral bullshit.

      To address the specifics, if people don’t make more noise about Glendronach’s move… when it’s, by far, the more established brand, why SHOULD other companies simply not follow suit? Again, if this stuff actually matters, consumers have to act like it does.


  17. Lord Maltmonster

    We were informed by the great and Powerful Wizard of Whiskey that there was to be a  “Some Stuff … part deux”, butt here we wait day after Covid Day with no direction or purpose to our passionless spiritless lives. 
    A call to action might be what’s needed here, maybe we fight the sound of silence with the threat of Ardbeg Regicide. Starting next week I will post a negative comment about the Ardbeg Distillery and would ask you all to join me until the braintrust at All Things Whisky relents and give us part two.

    1. ATW Post author

      Rest easy, Lord Dubba M. Probably not just Part Deux, but Trois et Quatre aussi!

      Some stuff coming together behind the scenes. 🙂

      1. Lord Maltmonster

        OK Then …………….The Ardbeg Bus was parked for a while due to poor ridership, butt in 1989 the Bus once again left the station with a new star driver & tour guide, none other than the Mythical Mr. Jimmy Murphy, saviour and soul of the Ardbeg Bus Company. The Ardbeg Bus Company was so successful due to its driver & tour guide that it doubled its Buses and doubled its prices to ride. In 2020 Mr. Murphy drove the Bus off the road while intoxicated on his own ego and whilst investigating his accident, Jimmy was suddenly & not so tragically propelled under the bus.

        So now to the first question: 1) Will the Ardbeg Company who willingly associated their Brand with Mr. Murphy suffer the same / shame fate as Mr. Murphy?

  18. Lord Maltmonster

    2)  Mo Ardbeg Questions. What is Ardbeg teaching us about ourselves? 
    – We have an insatiable desire to learn Galic and we are willing to learn about a small wind-beaten North Atlantic peat bog, butt only with the assistance of high strength alcohol (no wonder I did so badly in the conventional school system).
    – Ardbeg shows us the way and teaches us about young things (sure JM loved those releases), that finally having a an aged product to sell is a Renaissance, an Islay whiskey without or a small amount of peat is truly bla, charring levels can be fun and Ardbeg has space aspiration (maybe the first distillery on the moon).  
    – But mostly I believe we’ve learned about the power of marketing and how willingly people are to line up to grossly overpay for a product that isn’t that rare and is closer in age to Gin. 

    1. Jeff

      You can sell people on just about anything…

      – age maturation doesn’t matter, where it’s not discussed, even though age maturation is undertaken BECAUSE of the difference it makes.

      – one can taste the difference E150 and non-chill filtration makes far more easily than the effects of age maturation (maybe true, given that many people can now neither afford, nor drink, anything with any appreciable amount of age maturation).

      – nothing is a “guarantee of quality”, so wanting to know what you’re buying is actually an unfair imposition on those who no longer want to tell you anyway because you’re just so unreasonable.

      – we will eventually see better products, better values and better product information while buying worse products at inflated prices, packaged with Celtic and Norse fairytales.



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