Where is the love?

Nose: Leather wax, ski wax, all wax. Really mature Camembert or melted Raclette. Hot tyres, Play-Doh, old chewing gum. All wrapped in sharp tones of sweet over-ripe pear, fantastically out of place, like a pinball machine in a church.

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I just got home from the ‘bloggers tasting’ at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. They organise one every quarter or so to allow the local blogging/whisky press scene to taste some of the gems on the new range before they even reach the members. It became a tradition I would say, and a good one too. A chat with Olaf, great whisky and cheese and then a few beers to seal the night. The only problem is… it all makes us uncool.

Why? You’re but a few paragraphs away from finding out!

John Hansell, his What Does John Know? blog and the Malt Advocate magazine awarded us, all of the bloggers – the whole community, an award. We are now the ‘Pioneers of the Year 2010′. When I first read about it I was well ready to point out that as a group we are hardly pioneers, that the community is very uneven, that John should have just picked one blog that stands out and all that. But then I changed my mind.

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Palate: Salty-sweet, celery sticks, Tesco’s own brand tropical fruit juice… that’s all close enough but not on the money. The flavour, I daresay, is completely new to me. I have made a discovery, I have found my enigmatic Hidden Taste Bud. Not something that happens to you every day…

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A few people found it appropriate to post comments to John’s announcement, pointing out that blogs weren’t truly comprehensive and reliable sources of information. They basically said that blogs were something different to Wikipedia. Thanks for the reminder. Someone was even cheeky enough to congratulate John on the award his blog received from… ekhm, ekhm… himself, which I found quite funny. At that point I thought that enough had been said, bloggers should perhaps sit this one out.

The next day I read Serge’s new blog entry about this very award. And he also criticised it a fair bit. His point was that today’s new-wave bloggers were a bunch of Twitter-using brand puppets. Being a friend with a distiller on Facebook is soft-core. Caring about your footfall is vain. You’re only ‘true’ and ‘black’ if the industry hates you so much that they include the ways of dealing with you in their training manuals. Ergo, the bloggers community as a whole deserves nothing.

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Finish: Blunt and tropical, salty and leathery

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There are a few comments under my recent post about Shackleton’s lost whisky. Some pull me up on my actual mistakes (and outrageous ones too), the ins and outs of the brand ownership scene in 1907. I am grateful for that, someone has to keep the Twitter-abusers in check. After all history determines who we are today and history misreported is history misunderstood. Additionally, my own co-blogger, Chris, wrote a rather lengthy tirade under that very same post, on how I was unfair to Whyte & Mackay and how I attacked them unprovoked and how he was looking forward to the replica of that blend. Reading his comment I could picture him softly caressing his keyboard in the act of pouring his peaceful wisdom onto our server, humming ‘Why can’t we be friends’ with a wide grin on his gentle face. Cool.

Opposite points of view. That’s why I’ve always liked working with him, he challenges me.

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Overall: The whisky I am writing about is an SMWS bottling of Glenugie, a distillery long lost. It’s 29yo, will cost about 76 quid and you won’t be seeing anything like it soon, if ever again. The Society number for it is 99.11 and it will be available as soon as the new outturn hits the shelves. The whisky itself is worth its weight in gold. Not because it’s balanced, pleasant and tasty. It is neither of these things. It is rather offensive and undoubtedly controversial. Not a whisky you would go on a session with, but one you want to try at least once. The danger is that when you try it, you will desire a bottle in a completely unreasonable rush of affection for what is different, irreverent, unorthodox, fun… it certainly reminded me why I chose malt whisky as my way of life. An eye-opener.

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The overall picture of the perfect whisky blog is somewhat confusing if you take into account all these opinions. If you care at all, that is.

I say: let the whisky historians do their job, whisky hard-corers do theirs and commentators and other clowns (in this number I count myself) do whatever they want. We have, to certain extent, lost the sense of fun and love in all of this. Some bloggers are closer to the brands than others – so what? Some attack unprovoked when they are in bad mood – so what? Some are soft and some are hard – so what? Isn’t the diversity and the deeply opinionated character of any blogging scene the very foundation for its independence? Of course. But on the other hand we should remember that in the end of the day we all love whisky, we play for the same team. Even when we take shots at each other, we shoot at the same goal.

I welcome the criticism of my style, from strangers and friends alike. I welcome the fact that the brands are constantly trying to get us drunk on their juice, it’s quite cool. I welcome the fact that Serge doesn’t consider me ‘proper’ because I allow the brands to do so. I welcome the opinion that my blog isn’t a reliable source of facts and figures (and thank God it isn’t!).

I welcome John Hansell’s award and I’m truly proud of it. Thank you, John.

Lucas

Comments

  1. I absolutely agree with you on that. And I do think that Serge is being a bit overcautious here. Does klicking on that Facebook “friend” button of a distillery already imply that you sell your soul to them? Gosh, I don’t know why Facebook called it “friend”. It’s a bit like in kindergarten: “Do you want to be my friend?”

    When we become “friends” of all distilleries on facebook and follow all that are in Twitter, does this turn us into industry whores? No, it’s just the means to find out what they have to say. As long as there is no money involved, I don’t see much of a danger. And I don’t even think that writing about whiskies received as free review samples (I don’t get them, but others may) is objectionable.

    I love whisky in general too much to risk my reputation of being independent by acting as a parrot for a particular brand.

  2. I am also of Oliver’s opinion and I think you have a future in journalism, Lucas: a very well-structured piece.
    I in fact read this on the Friday but my blood sugar was frighteningly low following a turbo trainer session and I felt in an inadequate state to grope towards any answers on this topic. I still do.
    I caught the last 10 minutes of the programme on BBC2 last night about the technological revolution and it is true that in exchange for the web being free, it has become a commercial space; in turn why so many distilleries are on Facebook and Twitter. But the reasons we are “fans” or follow them is not because we necessarily gullibly buy in (deliberate choice of words there) to their marketing presence and practices. Whisky has far greater spiritual overtones and cultural significance than most other industries, which is why such heated debate arises so regularly. We condone/are complicit with their business models and campaigns principally because we love their juice, their environs, or the people they employ and serve to make distilleries more than second-hand car dealerships.
    So no, we don’t want people to be in their back pockets, but isn’t it also true that we inadvertantly end up there anyway – no money or sumptuous gifts having changed hands – but because of an unforgettable dram in an unforgettable place with unforgettable people? Personally, I wouldn’t give that up for 100% independence and immunity ever.

  3. Hi Guys,

    when I first got into whisky, although not that long ago, there was no such thing as a blogger and you were limited to a small number of books for guidance. Of course there was also only a small number of independent bottlers and an equally few number of specialist bottlings from distillers. Without bloggers who are independent and solely interested in the promotion of Scotch (other than themselves), the world would be limited to books like the Bible, which as great as it is, is often out of date before it is published. I have yet to find a blogger that I agree with most of the time (and I’m still waiting for your review of the Malt Whisky Yearbook…) but that isn’t the point of bloggers.

    I do believe it was a major cop-out to award all bloggers an award (why not simply award all ambassadors, distillers etc) – I realise that online free media is THE major threat to printed media, but still, are ALL bloggers to be recommended, I think not.

    Anyway, point is, bloggers are great as long as they stay free and independent and positive and critical, and, most importantly, interesting!

    Keep up the good work guys.

    David

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