Back. But for how long?

Yes I am back. But life has been crazy.

Returned from the World Whisky Conference a week or so ago…and like any good friend, I brought gifts.

For you, I have these very special hats.

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The "[e]" will mystify your friends until you tell them that that [e] represents the "e" in American whiskey. The hats are brought to you courtesy of my friends at Beam Global Spirits & Wine.

I see no indication that the general public has access to these hats, so they are [e]xtra sp[e]cial.

I have 5. I’m keeping one for myself, so the other 4 are up for grabs.

You know the deal.

First 4 emails to claim their hat get the opportunity to pay $3 (shipping & handling). Once you’ve paid, the hat will be on its way to you.

PLEASE NOTE: that $3 is ONLY applicable to US citizens… If you are not in the US, let me know where you live, and I’ll let you know what the shipping cost will be.

If I see any of these hats on eBay, I’ll cut you off from any future give-a-way.

If you aren’t quick on the draw, I’ll give the next 6 people the opportunity to grab one of the Macallan hats.

And yes – I have some stories I am working on.

Like:

  • An explanation of the new Scotch Whisky Regs.
  • A chat with Stuart Nickerson of Glenglassaugh
  • A review of the Highland Park 40 year old, which I got to try while visiting Edrington.
  • My visit to Maker’s Mark
  • Whatever else I have.

I have to warn you…a very hectic schedule combined with a profound case of writers block have limited the number of stories in the pipeline – but with a liberal peppering of freebies, you’d be daft to not keep reading…

UPDATE: All 4 hats were claimed almost immediately… as of right now only 2 have been paid for, but I like to give people a little time. If the last 2 are not paid, I’ll contact the next 2 people to email me….

Whisky Magazine announces winners

in a rare instance of live blogging, I present the winners of the 2008 Whisky Magazine World awards (pecking away on my iPod touch).

All of these have been deemed “best in the world”.

Whisky Liqueur
Wild Turkey American Honey

Grain Whisky
Compass Box Hedonism

New Release
Glenrothes 25 years old

Blended Malt Whisky
Blue Hanger 30 years old

Blended Whisky
Suntory Hibiki 30

American Whisky
George T Stagg

Single Malt Whisky
Yoichi 20 years old

Clarifying

Let’s be clear.

Despite the fact that I am not a fan of the term “blended malt”… It does not mean that I prefer or support “vatted malt” or “malt whisky”.

More to follow.

www.VattedMalt.com

A while ago, for some inexplicable reason, I decided to buy the domain www.vattedmalt.com.

No plans for it really. But recently the fates revealed why I had made the purchase.

It was to create a site to gather stories about just how many people are against the SWA proposed Blended Malt Category.

I may get around to creating a proper site, but for the time being www.vattedmalt.com will bring you to this page.

Let all your friends know about the issue and send them to www.vattedmalt.com.

This page will continue to be updated with more news and information.


GREAT QUOTES

“The term blended malt is ambiguous. It seems like a deliberate attempt by the members of the SWA to increase the value of some of their blended whiskies.”

- Mark Reynier

“The new category was potentially the biggest mistake in the industry for 100 years. It is boom time for the industry but this is totally confusing and it has to be stopped.”

- Jim Murray

“I don’t know what they (the SWA] were thinking of when they came up with this ludicrous term blended malt whisky. There is a growing groundswell of opinion forming that they should drop it altogether.”

- “Anonymous Prominent Whisky Writer”


DEFRA – Consultation on proposals for Scotch Whisky Regulations 2008


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Here's the Deal: Part Deux.

Today I am in Scotland.

I’m here to attend the World Whiskies Conference, then I’ll be
touring distilleries, and FINALLY – after all these years – wandering
around Edinburgh like a stupid tourist.

And while the last time I said that I wouldn’t be making posts, I ended up posting over the past few weeks but I’m going to say it again, anyway.

SO, while I’m gone:

The SWA Responds

I’ve stated before that I am a big supporter of the work that the SWA does to protect Scotch Whisky in the world market. But that doesn’t mean we always have to agree!

As always, we are delighted to give the SWA a chance to respond to the past few posts which deride their proposal…


Dear Kevin

We’ve read with interest your recent postings in relation to the draft Scotch Whisky Regulations.

Whilst we will have to agree to disagree on the merits of the term ‘Blended Malt Scotch Whisky’, I thought it might be helpful to set out for you and your readers why the term has been proposed by the industry/UK Government, and also to highlight the wider package of proposals that are currently being considered. 

Choice of the term ‘Blended Malt Scotch Whisky’

There was lengthy industry discussion around the choice of the term and, in the end, it was chosen because the industry working group/SWA members believe it is the only description that accurately describes what the product is, in a manner which is comprehensible to consumers worldwide, both to the enthusiast but also the millions who enjoy the product but may know little about the category. 

Consumers understand that ‘blending means mixing’ and blending is generally understood as meaning ‘more than one’.  A number of companies have of course already changed their labels to use the description ‘Blended Malt Scotch Whisky’ and, encouragingly, there is no evidence to indicate any consumer confusion or resistance to the description.   We should also remember that any legislation introduced in the UK must also comply with EU law and under European legislation any combination of malt whiskies is defined as a ‘blend’.

The SWA has always said that, whatever terms are introduced, the industry will need to take the opportunity to grow awareness and understanding of all the categories.   We will be doing just that internationally in the coming months.  The aim is to ensure that everyone receives clear, consistent, and accurate information about what they are buying.  (There is clearly little confusion about the term amongst whisky enthusiasts because, although some may not like the term, they understand what it means.)

Continue Reading >>

Blend Fury

Will Lyons had an excellent piece in Scotland on Sunday on the issues with the SWA’s move to introduce “Blended Malt” into the world’s whisky lexicon.


Originally printed Sunday, March 30th, 2008
Scotland on Sunday

Blend fury

By William Lyons

A NEW row threatens to split the whisky industry as small distilleries accuse the big boys of confusing consumers and undermining single malts, writes William Lyons.

A SHORT drive from Dufftown, high above the River Spey, lies Cardhu single malt distillery. The jewel in Diageo’s crown has been out of the public eye since the infamous “pure malt” controversy threatened to
split the industry. But this week, as the six stills rumble away to produce the main spirit for Johnnie Walker, echoes of the dispute are being heard once again in a new row over the future of Scotch.

It’s been four years since the £2.5bn industry almost ripped itself apart over the Cardhu affair when the Grant family, owner of Glenfiddich, one of Speyside’s most powerful brands, roused the industry into forcing
Diageo to withdraw the pure malt blend.

As the last cases were removed from the European market an uneasy calm settled over the whisky industry. As one insider said at the time: “The tanks are on the lawn but for now we have turned the engines off.”

Those engines are about to be turned back on, albeit from a different source. This time it is the small distilleries that are leading the fight. With talk of the big distillers throwing their weight around, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) steam-rolling through unpopular measures, and deals being “conducted among an old boys’ network”, the atmosphere has once again turned sour. As one prominent distiller remarked to this
newspaper: “The Cardhu debacle which everyone thought had gone away, has not. Nothing has changed.”

The vortex of this latest row is the new category “blended malt whisky”, ironically the definition created to placate those who objected so strongly to Diageo’s inflammatory invention.

Continue Reading >>

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 >>