It’s Back. But Legal.

Months ago I alluded that John would be resurrecting his Spice Tree Whisky. That time is now.

If you are new to the world of Whisky you may be saying “The Spice Tree“? What the hell is that?

Read my original Story on The Spice Tree: The Spice of Life (October 2005)

The original Spice Tree created quite a following due to its flavour profile, so after the Scotch Whisky Association forced us to stop making it, I was determined to find a more “acceptable” way to achieve the same style,” explains whiskymaker John Glaser. “It’s taken almost four years, but we’ve done it.

Continue Reading >>

Tempest in a (tea) pot (still).

According to a story in yesterday’s Telegraph US urged to boycott Scottish products after Lockerbie bomber’s release there is a movement afoot to “boycott Scottish Goods”

“US citizens are being urged to stop buying items ranging from Scotch whisky to kilts and petrol sold at BP-owned outlets as well as to cancel planned holidays in Britain to register their protest.”

I must point-out the obvious – that BP is based in London – a city which is NOT part of the Scottish empire. Yet.

While the large global Haggis conglomerates are worried, the Scotch companies aren’t phased at all.

And they shouldn’t be. I haven’t heard ANYTHING about this boycott movement – until I read it in a UK newspaper.

Is this a manufactured story? They point to an obviously amateur single page web-site called BoycottScotland <>.

And best I can tell, THAT domain is registered out of Canada – So maybe this is simply ANOTHER Canadian plot to drive a wedge between the UK and the US.

I’m pissed about the guy being released, but i don’t see the usefulness of calling for a boycott – and have no expectation that this one will in anyway be even remotely successful. But it’s obviously a slow newsday around the world with the pick-up rate of the story  – but no evidence of any impact of this boycott.

Disclosure: I went to Syracuse University and had friends and acquaintances who died in that bombing – including a good friend from High School, Denice O’Neil.

Scotch as Investment

Today’s story comes from a today’s – The Toronto Globe & Mail.

They were doing a story on the new Glenfiddich 50 year old, currently selling for $16,000 a bottle, apparently William Grant is taking a different approach and not marketing this to the whisky drinker or even the whisky collector – but instead to the investor.

I was asked my opinion for attribution I told him that I feel now the same way that I did back in December of 2005 “World’s Most Expensive Scotch” when I said:

While I understand that positive exposure and free press are a great thing, in this context, and in my estimation, it simply reinforces the widely held misconception that Scotch is for silly old rich men, Dot Com millionaires or Traders with expense accounts.

I wonder if there is a correlation between the release of the “most expensive” stories and a noticeable increase in sales? I also wonder if such stories have the effect of solidifying any “for the old & stodgy” perception that Scotch may have amongst the general public.

All in all, I would really like to know if these stories are a net positive or a net negative. Both for the companies mentioned as well as the sector as a whole.

I’m guessing that the short term bump in brand recognition is not worth the long term effect. But I’ve certainly been wrong before. So lucky for me (and for you) I have access to people in the industry who can and will share their viewpoint with us…

I finished up that story with the opinions of a view industry friends and they are still interesting reading.

From the Globe & Mail story:

An acquired taste, smooth returns
Makers of Glenfiddich release 50-year-old single malt that will sell for $16,000 a bottle – though it could be worth more in a few years on the ‘whisky market’

From the story:

“Like any investment, it’s only worth something if someone else wants to buy it at a later time,” said Kevin Erskine, a Virginia-based author who runs The Scotch Blog and has written a book about single malt Scotch. “And whisky drinkers aren’t usually investors. They’d buy it to drink it. So it goes back to these generally being publicity stunts. And you’ll see the distilleries argue over who has the most expensive bottle, like it’s some point of honour.”

I was immediately proven correct by this Twitter and Blog Post from Whyte & Mackay’s Richard Paterson (@the_nose):

“You call that an expensive whisky? I’ll give you an expensive whisky…

Read the Full Globe & Mail story here

It’s got to stop

The always outspoken Mark Reynier turns his ire towards the plethora of Spirits awards…

These events, masquerading as consumer advice, are an out and out revenue earner for the associated magazine behind the event. With each entry being between £100 and £250, the bigger companies flood the entries with a pallet loads of samples to ensure winning something.

And Mark doesn’t stop there.

Competitions and festivals are sprouting up everywhere – they are big money – and sums that are eagerly paid by a crazed industry addicted to squandering vast amounts for more worthless medals than an African despot.

Funny. And becoming sadly true.

I think the most prestigious awards have got to be the ones handed out by the Malt Maniacs – though the Maniacs do gravitate toward more esoteric tastes – or our own Drammies…which have become the “People’s Choice awards” for the Whisky world – yet neither awards get played up as much when a single “expert” declares his favourite – usually, I think, directly associated with advertising dollars.

Eh. It is what it is.

Read the rest of Mark’s rant at the Bruichladdich Blog.

"Ruin" Scotch Whisky? I Don't Think So.

Almost 3 years ago, someone asked me about the requirement to bottle Scotch Whisky in Scotland.

I told them that there was, at that time, no requirement for Scotch Whisky to be bottled in Scotland. That was a true statement then and it is a true statement now.

Even at that time, the SWA was working on some legislation to ensure that Single Malt Scotch Whisky would have to be bottled in Scotland, but that would not affect the bottling of other categories of Scotch Whisky overseas. That legislation has never made it to law.

David Williamson of the SWA expanded:

As you are aware, there has never been a requirement in the legal definition of Scotch Whisky for it to be bottled only in Scotland. As Scotch Whisky has grown in popularity around the world over the last century, we have therefore seen Scotch Whisky, principally Blended Scotch Whisky, shipped for local bottling in certain export markets.

Over the years, overseas bottling developed in some markets because it was the only way in which imported spirits, such as Scotch Whisky, were allowed to operate on a level playing field with domestic spirit drinks. In contrast, bottled imported spirits would face tariff or tax discrimination, distorting competition in the market and denying local consumers choice. In other markets, Scotch Whisky has been imported in bulk for blending with domestic whiskies.

While it is likely that there would therefore be considerable legal difficulties in requiring that all Scotch Whisky now be bottled in Scotland, the situation is very different for Single Malt Scotch Whisky, as only very small quantities have been exported for local bottling in the past and any requirement to bottle in Scotland would only impact on trade to a limited extent. SWA members are therefore supportive of introducing such a requirement as part of the wider package of proposals that are currently being brought forward.

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

But all of a sudden, Diageo’s VERY REASONABLE, if not happily accepted, plan to move bottling operations from Kilmarnock to Fife is being attacked.

Yes, jobs will be lost in Kilmarnock…But new jobs will be created elsewhere. And Fife isn’t exactly China, is it?

In this economy*, lost jobs are not often replaced in other areas of the same country, are they?

When written as “DIAGEO’S plan to end Johnnie Walker’s historic links with Kilmarnock could be the beginning of a process that will destroy the Scotch whisky industry,” it sounds quite alarmist, doesn’t it.

“A spokesman for Diageo accused the MPs of overreacting. “We fully appreciate that emotions are running high, but we reserve our right to have undertaken a major review of our business in Scotland,”

I whole-heartedly agree.

As Douglas Fraser, business and economy editor at BBC Scotland, correctly states

Already, between 10% and 20% of Scotch Whisky – leaves Scotland in bulk rather than bottles. Diageo sends less than half that proportion.

So articles such as Diageo plans ‘could ruin Scotch whisky’ are alarmist and unnecessary – and fueled by a political over-reaction to the necessity of consolidating jobs in a down economy – which is ANY employers prerogative.

I am sure Diageo has been dreaming of moving more bottling “off-shore” and has a perfect excuse In this economy*. And nothing in the existing OR PLANNED law prevents them from doing so. But they aren’t doing that here, are they?

The politicians got caught with their pants down and the people whom they represent who may be losing jobs will not be happy – but when the only argument the opposition has is that Diageo is laying the ground-work for ruining Scottish historical significance of a whisky brand, they’ve already lost the battle.

When will people realize that Diageo isn’t a foundation of Scottish culture – it’s a large multi-national company – that exists to bring share-holder value. And while I have been an outspoken commenter against a number of their marketing practices, as a Diageo shareholder, business consultant and MBA, I understand and accept operational review and elimination of redundancies.

That’s Business, folks.
* Vastly overused term.

The Whole Scottish/Canadian Situation

I’ve basically stayed out of the debate over Glen Breton, because I think it’s silly and was a dumb fight for the SWA to pick.

My gut feel is that they had to see it through simply because they could not afford to appear to be picking on India over their use of Scottish sounding names, whilst letting the Canadians off with a free ride.

The biggest downside for the SWA is the potential for the Governments in countries where they are bringing action basically tell them to bugger off…which is what happened here. This reduces their moral high-ground and reduces their ability to pursue in other countries. These start to look like “nuisance suits”.

My friend Mark Reynier at Bruichladdich always has his own view on what is going on in the world of Whisky and, in this case draws the very keen connection that you can’t say you are attempting to save the world from confusion over names, while, at the same time creating additional confusion with the use of the unfortunate term “Blended Malt”. A term to which I have been a staunch opponent.

Pot Kettle Black
by Mark Reynier
The owner of The Glenora Distillery in Cape Breton is celebrating the end of a long legal battle with the Scotch Whisky Association.

Glenora Distillers International Ltd., won a major victory when the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal by the SWA that could have blocked the company’s trademark Glen Breton Rare. For nine years and through four levels of court challenges, the Scotch Whisky Association has fought to protect the Scottishness of he word “Glen”.

“We have no objection to the production of single malt whisky in Canada,” said the SWA’s David Williamson. “What is of concern, though, is any product that tries to take unfair advantage of Scotch whisky’s international reputation by adopting a Scottish-sounding name.”

Unsurprisingly the word “Glen” figures in an area colonised by Scots. Glenora, whose main product Glen Breton Rare single malt takes its name from its hometown of, er, Glenville, a small hamlet just south of um, Inverness – in, er, Nova Scotia.

Williamson said: “We’ve been working to protect Scotch whisky around the world for many, many years. There is evidence that the market was confused by [Glen Breton’s] trademark. Consumers thought they were buying a Scotch whisky, but they were really getting something else.” So really no different in principle to the SWA’s own blatantly deceptive title ‘Blended Malt’ where consumers are apparently not at all confused as to whether they are buying a Single malt or a Blended whisky.

The legal costs have hurt the small company (no doubt an intentional tactic) and more costs may be on the way as the SWA sourly seek to continue the affair: “We’ll be opposing applications to register the marque in any country where confusion is likely in the future.”

Of course Glenora Distillers International Ltd does not need to register its trademark in every country that it wishes to trade in. Perhaps the company’s owner should trademark his own name instead – now THAT would really cause consternation: Scotts Single Malt Whisky.

"Imitation is the sincerest flattery…"

… but it’s still fucking annoying.

Over the many years that this site has been in existence, I’ve experienced being quoted without credit; misquoted with credit; and innumerable times having entire stories reposted without any acknowledgment.

It’s the nature of the internet, unfortunately – the new media means that plagiarism is just a copy & paste away.

But I’ve noticed a growing number of sites that are glomming on to the arguably unique “The Scotch Blog” name.

So for the record:

“Scotch & Blog” have apparently become popular when paired together. “The Scotch Blog” is not associated with any other site which has adopted a variation on the name.

I don’t endorse them. I don’t support them.

I certainly didn’t create the concept of “blogging” about Scotch – but I strongly believe that if you can’t even come up with an original name, you are unlikely to have any other original thoughts.

To that end some quotes:

“Imitation is Suicide”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“No man ever yet became great by imitation.”
– Samuel Johnson

“Posterity weaves no garlands for imitators.”
– Johann Friedrich Von Schiller

“Imitators are a slavish herd and fools in my opinion.”
– Jean de la Fontaine

“Get your own fucking name.”
– Kevin Erskine

Whose Next?

If you aren’t already reading “What Does John Know” (and if you’re not you should), there’s an interesting discussion going on with input from all sorts including Tim from The Whisky Exchange, the mysterious “Whisky Party“, Serge Valentin from Whisky Fun, Beer Guy Stephen Beaumont, John himself and of course me (because I can’t keep my mouth shut).

John asked:

Now that he’s (Michael Jackson) gone, who is out there to pick up where he left off? Let’s just focus on whisky for the time being. Obviously there will never be another Michael Jackson, but is there a clear, emerging leader who whisky enthusiasts can gravitate towards and respect?

My initial answer:

The question isn’t “Will” someone replace MJ. The question is “Does someone need to”. The answer is “No”.

The discussion has now turned to new media vs. the old paradigm of the printed whisky guide.

The discussion has been great and is not likely to slow down.
Join the discussion

(Oh and WhiskyParty has a good editorial on it as well)

Cold as Ice

This past weekend’s Wall Street Journal brought another installment in the age old question…Should I or shouldn’t I add ice to my Scotch?

The story, by Eric Felten in his regular How’s Your Drink column, is entitled A Chill to Scotch Purists’ Hearts and includes a quote from yours truly:

Mr. Paterson is hardly the only whisky purist to rail against the pernicious effects of ice in Scotch. Kevin Erskine, who writes about whisky at, says that when drinking Scotch neat “I may add varying amounts of water depending on the whisky, the weather and my mood — but never an ice cube.

As anyone who regularly gets asked for quotes can tell you…that is NOT exactly what I said…It’s NOT a misquote, but I think he left the important part out.

This is the full quote…

Personally I never drink straight whisky of any sort on the rocks. (And by straight I am talking about without a mixer – not the American
ATF designation of straight). When I drink it neat I may add varying amounts of water depending on the whisky, the weather and my mood – but never an ice cube.

I will drink whisky mixed in cocktails – and for those cocktails that call for ice, I happily accept it. But I never drink it “straight” on the rocks. I’m not against anyone doing it – I just don’t see the point.

I only want to clarify, as the edited version gives me the air of Scotch Snobbery – something that I rail against frequently.

Eric goes on to explain why “purist” are ag’in it.:

The purists’ complaint is that whereas a small splash of spring water seems to open up a whisky, releasing its full bouquet and flavor, ice tends to do the opposite. The tongue is anesthetized by the cold, and the whisky itself acquires a smoothness that glosses over the deeper complexities of the dram.

This is my position – and it is not some silly machismo “Real Men Drink Whisky Straight” – it’s a practicality. As I have said many times…when “tasting” whisky (as opposed to “drinking”) – you want ALL the flavour to come through…and ice WILL dull flavours.

There’s a REASON martinis are served ice cold – a glass of Gin (or Vodka) at room temperature is generally not the most pleasant thing…Whisky, on the other hand IS (or should be) delightful when tasted at room temperature.

Bad beers taste better cold, because flavours are muted…but great beers are generally consumed a little warmer – to allow you to get every nuance.

Such it is with whisky. But more so, I simply don’t want a glass of whisky-flavoured water.

BUT sometimes…you want a cold drink…what to do? I have 2 solutions.

1. Keep your bottle of whisky in the freezer. Cold without the dilution. QED.

2. But perhaps a more interesting way is to use “Whisky Stones” from an American company called Teroforma.

What the hell are Whisky Stones?

They are small, square soapstone cubes meant to be stored in your freezer and added to your Whisky when you are in the mood for something cold.

I first stumbled across the Stones on one of my favourite places to shop ThinkGeek…a catalog that sells crap for geeks..uh, like me.

The stones are nonporous, and will impart neither flavor nor odor. More gentle than ice, Whisky Stones can be used to cool down your favorite spirits just enough to take the edge off without “closing down” the flavors.

Designed by Andrew Hellman – as Teroforma’s co-founder, Andrew is not above taking credit for designing a stone cube…

It was his idea that we transplant an age-old concept from Scandinavia, where they have been making and using whisky stones for years, and have it made in the US, taking advantage of locally sourced materials and local craftsmanship.

Over 150 years ago, a Vermont farmer unearthed a sizable chunk of soapstone while tilling his field. Noticing the unique flexibility and thermal properties of the material, Vermont Soapstone was born. Still mined and milled locally under the watchful eye of owner Glenn Bowman, Vermont Soapstone was the perfect choice to make our whisky stones.

Chill them in the freezer for 4 or more hours and toss them into your whiskey instead of ice. They cool things down just a touch without daring to come between you and the dram of your dreams. Simply rinse after use and store in the freezer.

I tried them (in a nice glass of Maker’s Mark) and while they don’t transfer the cold as quickly as ice cubes would do, nor do they drop the temperature as much – they do work as advertised. And they look interesting sitting in a glass.

Cool. But not wet.

Available on the Teroforma web site they currently sell for $15 for a set of 8 until June 1.
After June 1 you’ll get 9 for $20.

I suggest you finally get your dad something he wants for Father’s Day.

"No-one at Diageo was available to comment last night."

This is not very cool.

Homecoming bosses slap ban on whisky to keep major sponsor sweet
Published Date: 14 May 2009
THE centrepiece event of Scotland’s Homecoming celebrations is under fire after being forced to ban whisky products from its food and drink showcase. Independent producers and distilleries have been frozen out of The Gathering, being held in Edinburgh in July, despite organisers promising to promote small companies and home-grown products.

But a sponsorship deal with the world’s biggest whisky company, Diageo, which is running its own showcase tent for its products, has led to the ban.

One whisky producer which had signed a deal to take space at the event has condemned the move as “a complete nonsense”.

It has also been described as “unfortunate” by the leading industry body Scotland Food and Drink, which is helping to organise the Scottish Produce Market. Officials insisted it was unprecedented for whisky to be banned from such an event.

Read the full story at the Scotsman