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 Scotchwhisky.com? 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.