November 30, 2014 - Have you heard people
saying “the more things change, the more they
stay the same”? More often than not, the people
saying stuff like that SEEMED like idiots to me,
but then again appearances can be deceiving.
Anyway - after giving this issue a lot of thought,
I’ve come to the conclusion that this saying is
actually complete and utter nonsense...
Or so they say - but people say lots of stuff...
in reality, it’s precisely the opposite; things either
change, OR they stay the same. One might even
say that both conditions are mutually exclusive...
What? Have I suddenly changed my tune? Well, no; as a CONSUMER I still think that most malt
whisky prices are far too high at the moment. But as a SELLER of some excess bottles in my
reserve stock, I had a different perspective on things. When the prices of some of my ‘antique’
bottles had grown higher than the ‘value’ I personally felt they had, I set some of them free...
What? Yeah, the fact that values like ‘authenticity’ & ‘tradition’ are being gradually
replaced by values like ‘luxury’ and ‘exclusivity’ might seem like a bad thing. However,
as luck would have it, this development also alleviated one of the costliest symptoms
my ‘malt madness’. As long as I felt that I could learn more about Scotch malt whisky
by sampling more of them, I felt a constant desire to buy as many bottles as possible.
These days, very few newly released whiskies inspire me to actually spend my money.
Granted, there are plenty of downsides to globalisation, but for whisky lovers around
the world it has generally meant they got growing access to a wider variety of whiskies.
Japanese whiskies are hardly new, but there’s now room for whiskies from countries
like India and Taiwan as well - and things are happening in Ireland and Canada too.
2014-10-23 on Twitter via @Forbes
The latest #whisky from Macallan doesn't
have an age statement, is simply called
'Rare' and is announced in Forbes.
Sure, there are downsides to growing older - but you grow wiser too!
The state of constant confusion that is a symptom of the early stages of
malt madness lasts beyond the intoxicating effect of one or more drams.
It can last for many years, but I can report that it subsides - eventually.
When I was still a young and innocent webmaster in the 1990s,
the whisky industry hadn’t discovered the web yet and there was
very little actual whisky news. So, my blog moved along at a slow
pace for years. However, this changed in the 2000s - and I chased
pretty much every ‘whisky news’ story like a young, dumb puppy.
As a result, I ended up drinking and discussing whisky every day.
Once you take a few steps back, you realise that the whisky world comes
with its own bubble - and that it’s easy to drink TOO much in that bubble.
In the long run, you’ll be able to enjoy whisky longer by drinking less...
But that doesn’t help you right now, if you have just gullibly wandered
into the wonderful world of single malt whisky and want to learn.
Well, not to worry. The Beginner’s Guide and old part of my liquid log
should satisfy your curiosity for now. Meanwhile, I’ll be working with
renewed enthusiasm on fresh expansions to this website.
By the time that your own ‘madness’ reaches a new phase, I should have
some stuff ready that lets you benefit from the wisdom of my hindsight.
The problem with authenticity is that one
can’t simply pick up where one has left off
after the decision to ‘modernise’ a proces
has been made. Especially when capital
is borrowed, de-investment is unlikely.
A lot of the ‘personal’ opinions about whisky that you find on the
web (or even at whisky festivals) are actually ‘professional’ opinions.
Brand ambassadors and advertising agencies are actually paid to
tell the public that they should buy a certain whisky, so that’s fine.
However, there is a growing brigade of ‘unprofessionals’ as well.
And we have benefitted from the whisky bubble in different ways.
And based on this picture of football player David Beckham with a
tumbler of Haig grain whisky, I think it’s safe to say that the whisky
world has changed quite a bit since I discovered malt whisky.
There’s plenty for an ‘angry old man’ like me to rant and rave about,
but that doesn’t mean that there were no positive developments.
On November 11, 2014 the Scotch Whisky
Association (the lobby club that helps sell
as much Scotch as possible) said that
the promotion of alcohol free whisky was
(and I quote) “irresponsible marketing”.
But whisky consumers should not be
as concerned with this as they should
have been one or two decades ago.
There are good alternatives now...
There’s plenty to complain about - but that just gives us something to do while we drink.
The current state of affairs is that the market has spoken to the whisky industry - and
for the past decade it has been saying that it wanted to buy more malt whisky than the
Scotch industry was making - and that it wanted to pay more for ‘premium’ whiskies.
No, no - not at all! (Well, at least not as far as I can tell...)
One of the most important things I’ve learned so far is that changing your perspective on the
facts of life is usually much easier than changing the facts of life themselves. One or two drams
of malt whisky can actually help with changing your perspective - if only for a couple of hours.
And when push comes to shove, an affordable ‘bastard’ malt or even a blend will do as well...
There are now conflicting reports about whether or not the market has changed its tune,
but the fact that Diageo has recently cancelled some ambitious expansion plans for new
and bigger distilleries in Scotland indicates that the forecasts have indeed changed.
Japanese whiskies tend to be pricey, but there now are fantastic
whiskies coming from Ireland, India, Taiwan and Tasmania as well.
So, the whisky world is much bigger than Scotland these days...
Even though some people say that 2014
was the warmest year in recorded history
the weather in Holland is turning shitty now.
The bright side is that working behind my
desk becomes more attractive that way.
Sure, growing whisky prices can be blamed, in part, on the growing demands of managers and
shareholders of a few large whisky companies. But all the free whisky samples and press trips for
guests, journalists and bloggers are not really ‘free’. The costs are part of the marketing budget.
Ultimately, those costs are shared among every single customer that buys a bottle of whisky.
Which reminds me: thank you! (if you bought at least one bottle of malt whisky in the past... ;-)
So, in 2012 I decided to retire as editor of the Malt Maniacs community.
This has made my life much simpler - and it allowed me to adopt a slightly healthier lifestyle.
So, I can now allow myself to spend some more time behind the keyboard working on this
website. And dramming of course - even though I’ll show some more moderation now...
Meanwhile, the grey area between professionals and amateurs has been growing steadily.
This also means that the borders between business and pleasure have become a lot blurrier.
Mixing business with pleasure is fine if you can manage it, but I prefer to keep things simple.
In upcoming blog entries I will also look at topics like flavoured whisky, the effects of market
forces on distillery equipment choices, score inflation, the deflation of the concept of ‘luxury’,
sample tampering and tax evasion. (That’s right, I’ll be in full on ‘Grumpy Old Man Mode’ ;-)
But the issues I’ve mentioned so far are just
tiny ripples on the surface of the whisky world
and personal issues. On a much larger scale,
issues like global warming and the growing
income gap could have a lasting impact on
the production and sales of malt whisky.
But wait. there’s more...