Qualitas Omnia Vincit

Never again do I want to know what’s in my glass. I want to drink whisky with no preconceptions and no possibility of ever finding out what it is. I had an epiphany when judging World Whiskies Awards 2012 and I am considering becoming a miniature Buddha (covered in hair) of this new drinking philosophy.

The quality of the spirit delivered to me in countless little sample bottles simply blew me away. If you are a regular reader you know I had been allocated two Speyside categories between 13 and 40 years old. Average score between them reached 8.2/10 which, according to the guidelines I received, means ‘very good’. And that’s precisely how I perceived it. But by far the best part of the process was not knowing what was in the glasses and knowing I would never find out. Yes, I could ask Whisky Magazine to tell me afterwards but what good would that do? A foot-long list of numbers in a spreadsheet won’t suddenly come to life if I put some words next to it. And that’s absolutely great. Each and every whisky I tried for WWA was an adventure in its own right, approached with no preconceptions, befriended and bidden goodbye with a strong sense of parting forever. But also a sense that the quality of the liquid made a lasting impression on me.

Whisky proper, the liquid, is better than any marketing activity ever employed to sell it. The quality of it beats all.

The process has given me a better understanding of the liquid I work with on a daily basis and prompted some seriously moody musings. What is a brand? Does it help us or is it in the way? How can we occasionally free ourselves from its influence? And that’s when drink-and-forget idea was born (let me know if you have a better name for it). It’s an upgraded version of a pub game we all played more times than we care to remember. A blind tasting with a twist – instead of trying to make you friends guess what you bought them, you never tell them. No guesses are allowed, nor is any discussion other than that about the merit of the liquid. If there are a few people, you can all buy a dram each and then pass it on to the person sitting on your right at the table. With two people playing it’s a simple exchange. If you’re drinking on your own (please don’t) you would have to fill the barman in on the rules and ask him to pour you something behind your back. However you want to play it, the only solid rule is that you can never know what’s in your glass.

It’s liberating, it’s fresh, it’s true. And I shall preach it. Long live the quality!



  1. Just this topic struck me after I opened the ‘mighty minis’ in my SMWS member’s pack – reflecting on how interesting it was to have no idea what was in the glass – and then caving and using the Whisky Bible together with the hints they have along with their Outturn tasting notes to try and work out what they were. I just couldn’t help myself.

    That is the problem with spending so much time around the drink. You exert the power of suggestion on yourself, and for all that you try to stay conscious of the fact that the ad campaigns, social media hype and what Jim & co. have said about it are peripheral, ‘brand’ breaks through somehow, too.

    How liberating would it be to do the whisky equivalent of flying in from Mars and just assess the liquid on its own merits? Marketing folk for one are very glad that this isn’t a possibility.

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