Death’s Door White Whisky

This story was recently published (in German) in the latest issue of Mixology Magazine.

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Let’s say I placed two glasses in front of you. In one glass I poured some vodka, and into the other, some newly distilled whisky.

Could you, without tasting, tell me which was which?

Of course you couldn’t – as all newly distilled spirits are colourless – a fact that surprises some. There are those who do not realize that whiskies (unless artificially coloured) gain all of their colour from the oak casks in which they are aged.

And interestingly, while the oak maturation is the main factor in creating the flavours of aged whiskies, newly distilled whisky (called “New Make Spirit” and often referred to as “White Dog” by American whiskey distillers) have flavours which are distinctive to the ingredients with which and process by which they were distilled.

New make spirits are often floral, fruity, slightly sweet and show a distinct graininess. Many are pleasantly surprised to find that new make spirits (when properly constructed) can be quite enjoyable – while often bearing little resemblance to the whiskies they will become.

In the UK, where whisky must be aged a minimum of 3 years before it is eligible to be sold as whisky, start-up distilleries often turn to bottling and selling new make spirit as a short term solution to bridge the gap between start-up costs and profitability.

These new make spirits are something of an oddity – rarely achieving wide distribution – often only available at the distillery.

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101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die

Ian Buxton’s new book is nigh!
“101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die”

A fun and accessible guide to completing an education in whiskey from a man who knows his hooch.

Avoiding the deliberately obscure, the ridiculously limited, and the absurdly expensive, whiskey expert Ian Buxton has scoured the shelves of the world’s whiskey warehouses to recommend an eclectic selection of old favorites, stellar newcomers, and mystifyingly unknown drams that simply have to be drunk.

This witty, focused, and practical guide is not an awards list or a list of the 101 “Best” whiskies in the world in the opinion of some self-appointed whiskey guru. It’s simply a guide to 101 whiskies that enthusiasts really must seek out and try—love them or hate them—to complete their whiskey education.

What’s more, it’s both practical and realistic as it cuts through the clutter, decodes the marketing hype, and gets straight to the point; whether from India or America, Sweden or Ireland, Japan or the hills, glens, and islands of Scotland—here are the 101 whiskies that every whiskey enthusiast needs to try.

Pre-order now.

Malt Whisky Yearbook – ‘10 edition

Jesus Christ. Is it almost 2010?

Weren’t we supposed to have flying cars and a female American president by now?

Well those predictions were wrong.

But I AM predicting that the 2010 version of the Malt Whisky Yearbook will be published on October 1st.

And THAT is a prediction that you can count on.

Ingvar Ronde tells me “I think I can safely say it will be the best edition ever!”

Considering how good all the previous years editions have been, Ingvar has set himself up with some high  standards.

I believe him.

Published by MagDig Media Ltd.

Publication date; 1 October 2009

Number of pages; 276

ISBN 978-0-9552607-6-6

Recommended retail price in UK; £12.95

www.maltwhiskyyearbook.com

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 <http://www.boycottscotland.com/>.

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… http://bit.ly/ivfCO

Read the Full Globe & Mail story here

Production over 25 years has been flat

According to a letter published today in The Herald the production of LPA (litres pure alcohol) of Scotch Whisky has not changed much over the past 25 years.

a total growth of 1.14% over the 25-year span, equivalent to an annual growth in physical volumes of 0.145%.

At least that’s what Donald Blair contends in a report published in September last year entitled The Global Scotch Whisky Industry: Hit or Myth – a 25-year study

I used independent research commissioned and published by the Scotch Whisky Association to estimate that, had the Scotch whisky industry matched general global economic growth during the 25-year period studied (conservatively estimated at around 1.5% a year in real terms by some researchers), there would have been around 16,700 new jobs necessarily created in Scotland to meet the increased global demand for Scotch. The jobs foregone through the industry’s minuscule growth in the past 25 years thus put Diageo’s potential 900 job losses in the shade.

"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.

Hans Offringa Reviews 99 Drams of Whiskey

Listening to people who are passionate about and understand the finer nuances of flavors and aromas is always an enjoyable pastime for me. When they write about it with panache and humor, taking you on a virtual tour in their perception of the world of whisky, it is even more agreeable. When you have turned the last page, you crave for more.

This is what I felt after having finished 99 Drams of Whiskey, subtitled The Accidental Hedonist’s Quest for the Perfect Shot and the History of the Drink.

Kate Hopkins is a celebrated food blogger and columnist. Her website Accidentalhedonist.com bears testimony to that. Time Magazine considered it one of their 50 Coolest Websites. I am glad she decided to dedicate an entire book to my favorite drink, instead of using her blog, releasing snippet by snippet over time.

On the dust jacket’s blurb Kevin Erskine, aka Mr. Scotchblog, nails down this book perfectly in one sentence, “part travelogue, part distillery guide, and part history book.” It seems the author slips in and out of history as easily as she and her spiky travel companion slip in and out of planes and cars on their quest for the perfect shot.

Seemingly, since the historical parts are very well researched. The avid whisky reader might recognize many facts, but the way in which the author intertwines Irish, Scottish, Canadian and American whisky history is unique and a dram good read.

The tasting notes, placed in separate insets throughout the book, illustrate Kate Hopkins’ vast knowledge about flavors and her experience in verbalizing what our senses discern. The way in which she characterizes the drams tasted is sometimes wickedly funny. The travelogue part of the book serves literally as a means of transport between places visited, history retold, people interviewed and whisky savored.

Any complaints? Well, due to tight planning and bad weather in Oban, the travel companions couldn’t make it to Islay. I would have loved to read about encounters with Jim McEwan and Mark Reynier or one of the other great storytellers on that tiny but influential whisky island. Kate, please go back, don’t limit yourself to Islay but visit the other island distilleries as well. Then write a sequel: Savoring the Scottish Whisky Isles. Oh, and don’t forget to take Krysta with you!
Hans Offringa


Whisky & Jazz

Hans Offringa let me know over the weekend that his new book, “Whisky & Jazz” has been released. I’m looking forward to picking this up…as it brings 2 of my favourite things together.

It could only be better if it were to be called “Whisky & Jazz & Pizza”.

Jazz was born in a whisky barrel. — Artie Shaw

The Charleston Mercury and its parent company, the Evening Post Publishing Company, are pleased to announce the publication of Whisky & Jazz by Hans Offringa. Mr. Offringa, an international whisky expert, wrote Whisky & Jazz in Charleston with the editorial assistance of Jack McCray, noted jazz historian, jazz columnist for the Post and Courier and author of Charleston Jazz (Arcadia, 2007).

Hans Offringa ingeniously connects ten famous jazz musicians with ten excellent single-malt whiskies. The result is a collection of ten unique blends, each carrying a blue note as well as a tasting note, presented in a “sippin’ and tasting guide. The historical context in which jazz and whisky are placed makes this a publication that will appeal not only to whisky aficionados but also to those who love history and (jazz) music.

The images in the book are primary the work of Gijs Dragt, an award-winning designer and artist from the Netherlands. Mr. Dragt designed Whisky & Jazz and took the photographs of Scottish countryside and several of its distilleries. He and Mr. Offringa have worked together as a team on books and journal articles. The collaboration is part of a 30-year-old friendship.

Gijs Dragt paints stories with his camera, whereas Hans Offringa uses words to tell the legends and myths behind distilleries that make the King o’ Drinks. Together they make beautiful books, matured in friendship like a single-malt whisky takes time to mature in the cask.

The book touches many cultures. In particular, it honors the Deep South’s African-American contributions to creating jazz as the American music. It also showcases the European connections to whisky and the artistic elements of the man who has captured all of this in photographs.

This is Mr. Offringa’s second book in a series on how the senses mix with whisky; the first was A Taste of Whisky. He is the author of more than a dozen books, most about whisky. Widely sought as a speaker, he and his wife, Becky, write a fortnightly column for the Mercury as “The Whisky Couple.” The Charleston Mercury is the only newspaper in the world to have a regular column solely devoted to the enjoyment of whisky, so it is most appropriate that the Mercury is marketing and publishing Mr. Offringa’s book.

Since the Atlantic Ocean forms in the cultural capital of the South, Charleston, shouldn’t the ultimate pairing of American music and European whisky be published in the Holy City? The Mercury thinks so, too. In addition to being available at many retail outlets in the Lowcountry, the book is for sale online via www.charlestonmercury.com.

Jazz is not background music, it sets the mood, it opens the mind. A glass of malt does the same. So does this book. Thanks, Hans!Dave Broom, whisky journalist

NYT WTF?

And for your reading pleasure, might I give you the stupidest analogy I’ve seen in quite some time…

Some Scotch drinkers like single malts, while others prefer a blend.

Leaf-eating insects had been thought to prefer a blend as well. Their olfactory receptors respond to a mix of volatile chemicals released by a plant and the insect moves toward it, a behavior called chemotaxis. But a study in Current Biology reveals that silkworms, at least, are more like single-malt lovers.

You COULD read the rest, but there’s no other mention of Scotch.