Death’s Door White Whisky

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

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.

Continue Reading >>

RIP: The Scotch Whisky Review

Today’s story comes from Ian Buxton and was originally posted on the foremost whisky community The Whisky Channel.

I very sad to have to report a death in the whisky family. The Scotch Whisky Review is to “suspend publication” — a fig-leaf of a euphemism for “close down” about as convincing as an executive and their employer parting company “by mutual consent” (read “he was fired, because his face didn’t fit any more”).    

SWR was originally established by Richard Joynson of Loch Fyne Whiskies and provided an irreverent; some would say downright scurrilous commentary on the Scotch Whisky scene.   But the effort in producing regular bulletins as well as compiling a price list and running his business eventually told on Joynson who, in early 2006, handed the SWR on to new proprietors.  

The title was taken on by publisher Marcin Miller (formerly of Whisky Magazine) and editor Dave Broom who planned to develop SWR as a stand-alone publication independent of Loch Fyne. Initially, all went well. The quality and size was improved; new writers recruited and an effort made to persuade readers to pay a modest annual subscription.  

But, despite the excellent ‘Ray Snyde Whisky Guru’ cartoon; the short-lived, offensive and highly-amusing ‘Mrs Hewitt’s Diary’; Caleb Bann’s ‘Hot Air News’ and Charles ‘Walrus’ MacLean’s bulletins from the front line of viscimetric research it seems that these efforts have failed and the Winter 2007 edition of Scotch Whisky Review is to be the last.  

There will be a “re-launched” web version at but somehow it doesn’t feel the same.  

So, farewell then, Scotch Whisky Review. You wanted to be whisky’s Private Eye but turned out to be its Punch!

A real shame, as I thoroughly enjoyed the Scotch Whisky Review.

I Frickin' LOVE this: Made-up restaurant wins Wine Spectator award

Taking a veering left turn from our usual take on the world of whisky, and beating up, (once again) on the concept of ratings – especially in the wine world – I submit for your approval a fantastic piece (courtesy of Dr. Vino)*.

The piece, entitled What does it take to get a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence? details how Robin Goldstein,  (author of a new book called The Wine Trials)  submitted his restaurant Osteria L’Intrepido for a Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” – which he was granted.

Despite the fact that the menu was average, the wine list consisted of wines which were given low ratings by Wine Spectator AND the restaurant doesn’t exist.

I submitted the fee ($250), a cover letter, a copy of the restaurant’s menu (a fun amalgamation of somewhat bumbling nouvelle-Italian recipes), and a wine list.Osteria L’Intrepido won the Award of Excellence, as published in print in the August 2008 issue of Wine Spectator.

It’s troubling, of course, that a restaurant that doesn’t exist could win an Award of Excellence. But it’s also troubling that the award doesn’t seem to be particularly tied to the quality of the wine list, even by Wine Spectator’s own standards. Although the main wine list that I submitted was made up of fairly standard

Italian-focused selections, Osteria L’Intrepido’s “reserve wine list” was largely chosen from among the lowest-scoring Italian wines in Wine Spectator over the past 20 years.

The “reserve list” that submitted appears in its entirety on the site.

For other rants on ratings and wine magazines:

*And Dr. Vino, Tyler Coleman, has his own book out: Wine Politics: How Governments, Environmentalists, Mobsters, and Critics Influence the Wines We Drink

12 days of Scotchmas: Scotch Whisky Review

And concluding our "12 days of Scotchmas" gift guide.

Hopefully something struck your fancy and you took advantage of some of the discounts these companies were kind enough to offer!

I have been reading the Scotch Whisky Review for some time – but only first wrote a story about it back in February 2007. In that story I said:

Wickedly smart. Bitingly funny. Loads of caustic wit.

These are just some of the terms that might be used to describe the
Scotch Whisky Review.


The bottom line is that The Scotch Whisky Review should be on the reading list of every serious whisky fan.

And to make sure that you read it, I’ve arranged for a discount:

Current subscription rates are:

UK £10.00
EUROPE £14.00

The SWR is published quarterly (4 times per year), but if you email them with 12 days of Scotchmas in the subject line, they’ll be happy to give you 5 issues for the regular subscription price of 4 issues.

And they are apparently working on that god-awful web site. The Scotch Whisky Review. 

This is NOT a paid promotion.

12 days of Scotchmas: Malt Advocate Magazine

Continuing our "12 days of Scotchmas" gift guide.
We’ve got gift ideas, discounts, and Free Stuff through the weekend and right up until Christmas Eve day (December 24th), so keep checking in!

Mam To close out our 12 Days of Scotchmas, here’s a discount on another must-read whisky publication – Malt Advocate.

Malt Advocate magazine is the United States’  leading whisky magazine.
It’s published quarterly and covers more than just Scotch – all the world’s finest whiskies grace the pages – Irish whiskey, bourbon
American, Japanese and Canadian whisky.

The magazine includes features,
columns, product reviews in their acclaimed Buyer’s Guide and up-to-date
whisky news.

Malt Advocate is offering a special rate of $3 off the normal subscription rate (The U.S. subscription is $18 <$18-$3=$15>).

The $3 USD discount extends to all non-U.S. orders as well.

The special super secret code for the discount is newsub07 which you will have to enter in the appropriate box when subscribing.

The offer is for
new subscribers only and is good until December 31st.

Subscribe here.

This is NOT a paid promotion.

Ratings revisited and the horror of "Edvertising"

I hate ratings.

We’ll get to whisky in a bit, but first, take a walk with me into the strange and unbelievable world of wine critique.

The triumvirate of wine publications.

Wine Enthusiast, Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator. These magazines aren’t sold for their editorial content. They are sold on the numerous, abridged reviews they do each month, to people who are apparently incapable of making wine purchasing decisions on their own.

Taste, review; taste, review. They churn through wines (apparently by the case load) for each monthly issue – slapping each wine with a breviloquent single paragraph review and a rating . . . allegedly on a scale from 0 – 100.

Yes, the scale is 0 – 100, but apparently it’s ass water if it scores below 80, and "Wines receiving a rating below 80 are not reviewed".

I wonder – "why not?" Aren’t readers of these magazines just as interested in what NOT to buy as what to buy? I’d wager the answer to that question is "Yes".

So why wouldn’t a magazine that prides itself on being the final word in wine critique actually do some critiquing???

Could the impact of (potential) lost advertising sales be a factor in not mentioning the unmentionables? Of course it could.

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The Scotch Blog is the Best!

It’s Saturday July, 14th and I’ve come to Can Can, one of my favorite
local restaurants (French-themed if you couldn’t guess), for a dinner of Moules & Frites (that’s mussels and french fries, savages).

They’ve asked
me to step away from the bar, as the Can Can girls are about to start
dancing. On the bar.

My night is looking up.  No, this isn’t an everyday occurrence. It’s
Bastille Day.


I’ve just picked up my mail from the office and in the pile is the
latest issue (#64 – August 2007) of Whisky Magazine, sent to me from my friend Elliot
Fishbein, owner of Town Wine & Spirits (Rhode Island, USA)

As some of you know, I moved my residence back in February and apparently one
of the things lost in the shuffle was my subscription (Yep, I pay for
my subscriptions, just like everyone else.)

Well the reason that Elliot has sent me the issue is that apparently Whisky Magazine says I’m the best.

My night is looking even more up.

The article is called "Blogging It" and despite the fact that "blog" is an integral part of this site’s name, I really dislike the term. It’s almost dismissive. But I digress. It’s The Scotch Blog, and I’m stuck with it for now.

Written by Richard Jones, the article declares that The Scotch Blog is indeed, the best. And I think it is pretty cool to be recognized by a leading industry publication.

The actual article must have been written some time ago as they reference stories from last Fall, but here we are, still going strong, months later.

Reproduced, totally without permission:

At the time of this writing, this is simply the best all-around Scotch whisky blog on the web.

Author Kevin Erskine provides frequent, well written, considered and often thought-provoking posts on a range of whisky related subjects. Recent examples of the more controversial variety include ‘Men Behaving Badly‘, a criticism of certain attendees at a recent whisky event and ‘Too Many Bruichladdich Editions?‘ questioning the number of releases from this Islay distillery along with a robust defence by Mark Reynier.

(ed. note – I actually wrote about the issue of too many Bruichladdich expressions in a story called ‘A Visit to the Laddie. Too Many Bruichladdich Editions was Mark’s response.)

The blog is an excellent source of up-to-date whisky news with such items as the reorganisation of distillery managers at InverHouse, the latest BenRiach wood finishes and the new-look packaging for Highland Park.

It also has features more commonly found on a traditional website / forum such as ‘Ask the Collector’, a chance to pick the wisdom of The Whisky Exchange‘s Sukhinder Singh on matters of rare whiskies and their values.

Kevin is a US based blogger so some of his entries on forthcoming tastings are only of interest to readers on his side of the Atlantic, but this is a minor criticism.

The Scotch Blog is an invaluable, informative and highly entertaining resource for Scotch whisky lovers everywhere.

Much thanks to Whisky Magazine; Richard Jones and Rob Allanson (Editor) as this is the type of recognition that makes writing The Scotch Blog worth my time. I especially like when terms like "well-written" are used to describe my work.

I’d also like to thank Sukhinder Singh for taking time to actually value the whiskies. He answers 10 emails for every one that makes it on the site.

Of course, I’d like to thank the readers, without whom, this would just be masturbation. In the mental sense of course ;)

Now, who do I talk to about getting nominated as a Keeper of the Quaich?

Other worthy sites mentioned:

The Daily Dram – Dormant since January 2007

Whisk(e)y 2.0 – Hungary represents

Whisky Fun – Malt Maniac Serge Valentin talks whisky and music

Whisky School – Also dormant since January 2007 – but James Thomson of Ladybank likes to come here and argue with me over my views on India :)

Wink and a nod

Wickedly smart. Bitingly funny. Loads of caustic wit.

These are just some of the terms that might be used to describe the
Scotch Whisky Review, now under the stewardship of Dave Broom and
Marcin Miller – there some other well-known malcontents who contribute –
but I’m pretty certain these two guys are behind the really
mean-spirited knocks.

Though the web site leaves an awful lot to be desired this is forgivable as it is
apparent that these guys spend the vast majority of their time coming
up with the excellent content.

To fully appreciate the nuances of The Review an insider’s knowledge is required –
and the writers are unapologetic in that the SWR is, in fact,
an insider’s joke.

Continue Reading >>

Article on Glenrothes 1979

Someone emailed me to let me know that there was an article about Scotch in Men’s Vogue.

Men’s Vogue?!?!? That isn’t really a magazine, is it?

Regardless, there was a link – and the link is real – the author of the story was part of a group invited to sit down with Ronnie Cox (Director of the Glenrothes) and go through a tasting of the Glenrothes line, capped with a dram of the "new" 1979 Single Cask.

Aside from the inexplicable “whiskey” spelling (usually the work of the ill-informed editor), there was one iffy statement:

“A $1,000 dollar bottle is actually not that outrageous these days: Last year a South Korean collector paid close to $75,000 for a bottle of 1926 Macallan.”

A fine example of logical fallacy – just because some fool paid $75,000 doesn’t make $1,000 “not that outrageous”. But I’ll forgive the author for hyperbole.

Aside from those small issues, the article is extremely well written and quite informative.

Check it out: Single—and loving it

Harvard Alum?

Are you a Harvard Alum who is also a Scotch enthusiast?
02138 magazine contacted me and they are looking to write a piece about you.
Please contact me, and I’ll put you in touch with them.
You’ll be famous.