“The Scotch Blog”

Unfortunately I let the URL www.thescotchblog.com go…

Worse someone registered it – and worse yet – his name is (or he calls himself ) “Kevin”.

I hope that no one thinks  that Kevin is me – or that The Scotch Blog is related in anyway to this The Scotch Blog.

It’s not.

 

 

A Modest Proposal Revisted

Driven by John Glaser’s “open letter”, I thought I’d revisit this “modest proposal” I made a few years ago.

In the body, you’ll see that I utilize the word Blend in my descriptions – but over the intervening time, I’ve come to agree with John – that the average consumer considers a whisky that is a “Blend” to be inferior.

As such I would happily change the proposal from”Blend” to a less distracting word.

In the end, I fear that the SWA’s original proposal was driven as a reaction to the Cardhu fiasco – and solely focused on protecting the term “Single Malt” to the extent that the other categories of Scotch whisky were hardly considered.

I am sorry to say that I suspect that, at this point, the parties involved may be sticking with their original proposal driven by an obstinate desire to “save face” – more than doing the ultimately correct thing. This suspicion is driven by the fact that both industry insiders and educated consumers have displayed a visceral dislike of the proposal. There has been vociferous response to the terms from these quarters – yet that outcry has been ignored.

At this point, I’m not really sure WHO, if anyone (outside of the proposing body), thinks this is a good idea.

Here’s the bottom line.

Consumers are confused by the whisky category across the board. Why make it worse?


Originally Posted July 17, 2006

Call a Spade a Spade

Back in August of 2005 (in a story called A Rose By Any Other Name) I talked about the SWA-proposed nomenclature for the whisky industry.

In that story I went over the pros and cons for the existing and proposed nomenclature:

 

There are several terms in play. Let’s look at them objectively:

VATTED MALT

There are those purists who feel that the term “Vatted malt” should be used. 

Pros:

This is the term that has been used for years,
and those familiar with Scotch whisky know that “vatted malt” means a
blend of single malts.

Cons: 

All whiskies (aside from single cask) are vatted before bottling.

More than that – The term simply sucks. We are
trying to minimize confusion among and attract new drinkers – who wants
to drink something from a “vat?”

BLENDED MALT

The Scotch Whisky Association wants to use  “Blended Malt”:

Pros:

It’s accurate. The products in question are comprised of a mixture of single malts. In my book, that’s a “Blend.” 

Cons:

Companies producing vatted whiskies feel that
this term demeans the blended malts in question and may cause confusion
among new drinkers through an unwanted association with “Blended Scotch
whisky” the term used when describing a whisky which is created by
combining single malt whisky(ies) with grain whisky.

MALT SCOTCH WHISKY

An alternate term, pushed by some of the vatters is “malt Scotch whisky.”

John Glaser (Compass Box Whisky) was quoted as saying:

“Blends are perceived by
many consumers to be inferior products. The potential damage of using
the word blend is far greater than sticking with vatted malt or simply
using malt Scotch whisky.”

Continue Reading >>

Best of: Different is good

Originally Posted – December 12, 2005

You are “Different than Average”

My
deep dark secret is that I grew up in New York. Yep, in the city — not
Long Island or New Jersey. I went to Saint Mary, Star of the Sea, a
Catholic grade school in the Bronx on City Island, and to the Bronx
High School of Science. I am a “real” New Yawker.

I know people move from all over the world to New York so they can
spend 3/4 of their salaries to live in an apartment the size of a
shoebox with three roomies. The other 1/4 is apparently spent on Banana
Republic, Uggs and subscriptions to eHarmony. But, no, I turned my back
on all that and left.

I’ve lived in many places, but I now call Virginia my home — and it’s great here — but there are drawbacks.

Forget about landing a decent pizza. Bagels? Puh-lease. And no one here has ever even heard of a knish.

But the biggest drawback of all is that Virginia is a “Control” state – which means it has state-owned liquor shops.

It’s not that they do a bad job, it’s just that unlike a Binny’s,
Sam’s or Park Avenue Liquor, they just can’t carry everything I might
want to get my grubby hands on. They tend to carry the lowest common
denominator.  And since its a monopoly, there’s no specialty Scotch
shop to give me choices (believe me – if this was an option, I’d own
one).

Imagine my surprise and joy to see a bottle of Bruichladdich 10 year
old on the shelves last week. I bought it for no other reason than to
prove there IS a market here.

Continue Reading >>

Best of: The shape of the bottle

Still on vacation . . .

I am NOT able to approve comments whilst gone.


Originally Posted – October 12, 2005

The shape of the bottle

I received an interesting question from a reader:

Dear Kevin/Scotchblog,

I have a simple curiousity about the bottle designs of the various
single malts. Particularly, why do most have a similar shape in the
neck area with a slight ‘bulb’? Is this just a design that developed
into a bottle trend or is does it have a technical/scientific reason?
Any light you could shed would be helpful. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Scott

I’ve never come across any
mention or discussion of the particular shape of the traditional whisky
bottle in any book, so I thought maybe, I’d missed something…

So, I thought I’d ask some of the experts to see if they knew of any
concrete reasons for this. Several experts simply said "Beats me." But
some others thought they’d take a whack…

Continue Reading >>

Best of: Through the Tasting Glass

Originally Posted – November 16, 2005

Through the Tasting Glass

I get a lot of suggestions from people for stories that I should write.

Kevin, how about a story on Irish Whiskey?

Hmm. Nothing wrong with Irish Whiskey. It’s great in a Car Bomb*, but it’s just not my thing.

But Ronnie Cox, the Director at The Glenrothes had a great suggestion:

Good
to meet you Kevin. I believe you are starting something very 
interesting with your Scotch Blog. One of the key subjects that needs higher profiling is the glass type. As in most countries the tumbler is associated with whiskey. Need to tell people that to really appreciate Malt Whisky we need some sort of tulip shape to take the image correctly from one of drinking to one of savouring.

I do briefly mention the use of the proper glass in my book:

Glencairn GlassThe glass favored by blended whisky drinkers is a short, cylindrical tumbler, usually referred to as a scotch or “rocks” glass. This type of glass is fine for tasting a blend with some ice, but is completely unsuited for the subtlety of malt whisky.

A tulip-shaped tasting glass is ideal for single malt, but if all you can get your hands on is a sherry or brandy glass, either will work just as well.

Continue Reading >>

Best of: New Drinkers

Still on vacation . . .

I am NOT able to approve comments whilst gone.


Originally Posted – December 15, 2005

Attracting new Scotch drinkers

Attracting new drinkers. That seems to be the new imperative for many distillers.

  • Bruichladdich introduces “Rocks” a single malt actually designed to be served over ice. HERESY!
  • Glenlivet sponsors a  loosely veiled ad in the form of a “debate” to discuss the merits of using single malts in cocktails.
  • Whisky Magazine sponsors their second annual competition at Whisky Live London for the best whisky-based cocktail.

Just what the hell is going on here?

Well, obviously distillers are seeing the potential for cultivating
a new market among the hip young bar crowd. You know them – the 20- to
30-somethings who frequent the latest trendy bar/club. They’ve been
weened from micro-brews and moved on to martinis.

But let’s face it, they aren’t drinking your father’s martini – they
scarfing down sickeningly sweet mixed drinks made with gin, vodka, rum,
tequila or another liquor of the month, served into a martini glass.

This crowd asks for Grey Goose, but couldn’t tell it from Popov. This crowd wants to drink as much as possible, but doesn’t really want to taste the alcohol.

Continue Reading >>

Best of: Bad Wall Street Journal

Still on vacation . . .

I am NOT able to approve comments whilst gone.


Originally Posted – December 15, 2005

Wall Street Journal, Tsk, Tsk.

I haven’t had the opportunity to pick on a poorly researched article from the New York Times in a while.

Unfortunately, the Wall Street Journal stepped right in, granting me a new target at which to “unleash the fury.”

The following excerpts (through the glory that is the fair use doctrine) are from an article released on Saturday, December 10, 2005 in the Wall Street Journal and written by G. Bruce Knecht.

One too many “e’s” in Whisky

Let’s start with the title – which immediately shows that the WSJ
has writers and editors who aren’t qualified to write on the subject: “Whiskey’s Risky MovesMakers of scotch roll out new twists on an ancient quaff.”

As YOU know, but the WSJ writers and editors obviously
don’t, when referring to a whisky made in Scotland, it is spelled
whisky – no ‘e’. But if only that were the least of the transgressions.

There are a number of small mistakes and stupid statements
throughout the article, but I don’t have all day,so I’ll stick to the
big ones. For example, the third paragraph:

The
appeal of single malts is based on a singular proposition. Each spirit
comes from a particular distillery and has been aged, generally for 10
years or more, a period that is usually specified on the bottle.

Silly me, I thought that the appeal of single malts was based on taste.

Continue Reading >>

Best of: Screw (Cap) This (Part 2)

A recent email from a reader asking about whether it was a good idea
to store his whisky on its side reminded me that we were due to revisit
this series….


Originally Posted April 28, 2006

Screw (Cap) This [Pt. 2]

Continuing our look at the cork and its place in Scotch…

I also got in touch with a representative from Amorim one of the largest manufacturers in the world, based in Portugal.
Deborah Guimaraens is the sales manager for Bar Top Corks also called ”T-Corks.”


My job is to sell a particular type of cork called bar top corks. These 
corks have a cork body/shank attached to some type of top that can be made of plastic, wood, metal and other materials.

What I can say, is that the main reason corks are used in whisky or spirits is because, in theory, no-one drinks a whole bottle at once. 

Hence, you need a special cork that can be easily reinserted into the bottle. Bar top corks are not compressed during bottling as in wine corks. Their diameter should be 1 to 1.5 mm wider than the bottle neck in order to fulfill it’s purpose as a closure, to ensure a good fit.

This means that the consumer can easily open and close the bottle using the same cork, without having to use a cork screw and without running the risk of falling particles into the spirit. Cork as a raw material also has the wonderful ability to deal with small bottle irregularities, very common in spirits – particularly in small producers who buy small bottle runs. For an irregular bottle a cork closure is by far the most efficient.

The other big reason for using a cork in a spirit is for consumer differentiation. If you look at the whisky market as a whole, the premium whiskies are all in cork, and the standard blends are all in screw cap. It’s an image thing. I am sure the marketing experts from any large whisky company can give you precise reasons, they probably have market studies to prove this I am sure.

Continue Reading >>

Best of: Screw (Cap) This (Part 1)

A recent email from a reader asking about whether it was a good idea to store his whisky on its side reminded me that we were due to revisit this series….


Originally Posted April 21, 2006

Screw (Cap) This [Pt. 1]

Jody Cairns asks:

How about an article behind the usefulness (or lack thereof) of corks?
Do they serve any practical purpose? Are they only a marketing gimmick? I
suspect it’s all about perception, but then you’d think why don’t the
bottlers of blends adopt using corks, too? Is there a marketing agreement
between single-malts and blend bottlers to permit only single-malts the
use of corks?

I look forward to reading any insight you can bring about the subject.

Ah,
the age old question of the cork. Corks have a long history with Scotch
- before the screw cap was invented, all bottles were sealed with cork.
Plus, there’s an undeniable, emotionally satisfying aspect to pulling
out a cork – as opposed to screwing off a cap.

But don’t whisky producers face some of the same issues faced by wine makers?

Continue Reading >>

Brandy Library – New York

This week, I’ll revisit some of the Whisky bar reviews I’ve done.


Mom, I’ll be at the library

(originally published February 20, 2006)

On my last trip to New York, I asked several industry guys about the
best whisky bars in the city. A number of destinations were offered up
for my consideration – but the one mentioned most often was the Brandy
Library.

If I were to imagine the perfect upscale lounge, Tribeca-based
Brandy Library would be it. The place oozes suave ambiance – the deep
woods, soft lighting, and rich leather made me feel under-dressed, yet
strangely at home.

But while the decor is nice, for the Scotch lover the draw is the
impressive selection. The Scotch collection at the Library numbers
somewhere around 270 different labels – second only to the selection of
over 290 brandies. I counted over 235 single malt expressions on the
menu. Nice.

Continue Reading >>