Jul 112020
 

Hey, whisky friends.

First things first…I appreciate the check-ins and continued interest. I really do. And I owe you. There is more to come. The continued evolution of whisky is simply too interesting to me to step away from.

However…

Many of you said it would be helpful for me to use social media to announce new posts. And you’re right of course. But another me – the one that still believes in this ‘thing’ we call humanity – has sort of hijacked my accounts for purposes that are much more important to me right now than simple malt musings.

If you are a Twitter follower, please consider this my apology. My account there has been co-opted as a platform for speaking out against anything this heinous excuse for a ‘president’ and his criminal cronies in Congress have been up to over the last four years. If this offends you…well…don’t follow me. I’d actually prefer you didn’t, as I really wouldn’t like you as a person.

I’m hoping that – come November – we can slip back into whisky chat. I want nothing more.

I don’t know what happens if by some horribly corrupt methods the current administration holds on to power. Either I wash my hands of America entirely, or double down on my efforts. Who knows?

I guess I just wanted to say that I miss doing this, and at some point I’ll be back at it.

Thanks for your support.

C

 Posted by at 11:50 am
Apr 162020
 

Hey, all.

Hope you’re keeping well, strong, safe, and healthy. These are interesting times, to say the least. After a couple weeks in quarantine (not just isolation), I was cleared to return to work. I spent about two weeks back at it before starting to deal with some more respiratory issues. So…back in lockdown, and awaiting the call to go for another test. Sigh. To be clear…the only real issue I am having is a pretty nasty shortness of breath that waxes and wanes a bit. Otherwise…I feel okay for now.

Staring down another couple weeks of this doc/boss-mandated isolation has obviously burdened me with a lot of free time. My sights turned to writing fiction or writing here for you. I can’t lie; I have the attention span of a gnat lately, so wee blog blurbs have a lot more appeal. However…

Readership is low these days. Not just here, where the updates are served up in fits and starts, but on other blogs as well. People nowadays, I think, are looking for soundbites and immediate gratification (social media); or they’re looking for video content which allows them to listen while doing other things. I fear for future generations and their ability to process the written word. 😉

So, the question is? Do we continue with whisky reviews and chat here? The comments have largely died; most of the usual suspects have moved on; and the per-day visits are like the foot traffic in most brick and mortar retailers these days. Is it worth continuing this little malt log?

Drop a line. Share an opinion.

Hope you’re all well.

 Posted by at 10:36 am
Nov 202019
 

More reviews coming ASAP. Cold is gone; senses are clear; and, most importantly, I’m keen to chat. So…next review? A private bottling of Kilchoman we had done just for the sinDicate (our local whisky club). Yes, yes, I do obviously have a bias here. Consider yourself forewarned.

In the meantime…let’s play ‘lists’. I love to hear about other folks’ whisky passions.

First list: What are your top five grail malts? The ones you’d consider selling a kid(ney) for.

Second list: What are the top five malts (or blends) you currently have tucked away in your stash? The ones that are nearest and dearest to your shriveled ol’ malt-soaked heart.

I’ll give’r first, just to get us going and (hopefully) stir up some chat.

Grails Malts (or blends) (at the moment, anyway…but this list changes all the time):

  • Black Bowmore (1964, 42 yo)
  • Ardbeg Double Barrel (1974s)
  • Brora 40 y.o.
  • Clynelish 12 y.o. (1960s)
  • Port Ellen 12 y.o. 1980 (Queen’s Visit)

Top Five Tucked in the Bunker:

  • Brora 35 y.o. (2013)
  • Port Ellen 12th Release
  • Springbank 21 (2005)
  • G&M Aberfeldy 1993 (24 y.o.)
  • Brora 30 y.o. (2005)
 Posted by at 11:08 pm
Jun 132018
 

Hey, all.

Those sounds that have been keeping you up at night?  Yeah…probably me.  Sniffles, coughing, throat clearing.  My bad.  I’ve battled one cold after another for weeks now.  I imagine it has something to do with the fact that my wife works in a virtual petri dish of kid germs and somehow manages to smuggle home enough to share with me.  Lovely lass, ain’t she?

Anyway…lest ye think I’ve turned tail and run for the hills, I do have a couple of partially written reviews coming in the next wee while (as soon as I feel my senses are back where they need to be).  Look for some Elements of Islay (as requested), some more Cadenhead releases (again…just cause you asked) and a few peated gems to share the word on.

In other news, I’ve been shopping around my second novel and am 30k words deep into my third.  Blogging’s fun and all, but fiction is where my heart is.

But let’s not wait for reviews to trigger dialogue here.  I’m curious as to which distilleries – in this age of delusion and nearly unfathomable prices – you feel are still worth the investment of loyalty and income.  Share your thoughts.  Don’t be shy.

 Posted by at 9:30 am
Oct 122017
 

So…Port Ellen, Brora and Rosebank.  Wow.  I’m in shock.

I knew Port Ellen was coming at some point.  Brora and PE announced the same day?  And Rosebank right after?  This is the second coming of the holy trinity.  I’m stunned.  Almost speechless.

I have some pretty strong opinions about this, but I’m not quite ready to articulate.  Suffice it to say I am tickled pink and not sharing the cynicism others are.  How ’bout you skeptical buggers that keep me on my toes?  Thoughts?

 

– C

 Posted by at 8:44 pm
Apr 042016
 

Less than two years ago I was buying Aberlour a’bunadh for about $75 a bottle. Now…no less than $107.  Lagavulin 12 sold for about $120 back then.  I can’t grab it for less than $160 in most places now.  Highland Park 18?  Give or take a $30-$40 a bottle increase of late.  Talisker 25 landed here about a year and a half ago at $225 or so.  That same edition has been jacked up to over $400 in most local shops.  Perhaps the most egregious example though is Glenfarclas 40 year old.  Bottles here were retailing between $400 and $500.  Now?  $1,100.  Same malt.  Same packaging.  And not even an attempt to convince consumers that there is a rationale behind the 220% increase during this time period.

Ok. The dollar is weak, some say.  Not that weak.  Barrels are in short supply and costing waaaaaay more.  Nuh uh.  Many from within the industry have spoken and written about this.  Especially in regard to bourbon barrels.  Rubbish.  Producers can’t keep up to demand.  Nope.  Not even remotely true.  I’ve spoken to many folk in production roles who say they are producing in surplus right now to ensure no future shortage of mature stocks.  Ah, but mature casks have been decimated, right.  Yes, probably.  I’ll concede that.  So it could be fairly assumed we’d see a bit of an uptick in prices for older malts.  After all, scarcity often determines market, aye?  But how does this explain the soaring price of young malts and non-age stated expressions?  If you’ve been drinking whisky for a while – and know your stuff – your senses will absolutely and unquestionably attest to the fact that the malt in the bottle is young, young, young.  You can’t hide that.  The sticker prices we’re seeing though, are not out of line for what would have graced whiskies reaching the two decade mark just a couple dozen months back.  Boiled down, this effectively means that many drinkers are priced out of older malts that were previously affordable to them, and are now being stretched even for what were, generally speaking, ‘entry level’ expressions.

So, knowing this, as we do, why are we not speaking up more? Why are we not writing articles and sending in notes to whisky publications?  Why are we not asking questions of the ambassadors at the festivals or via social media?  Are we that afraid of questioning an authority that seems to have no qualms about totalitarian pricing schemes?  When we have questioned them in the past about other related issues such as NAS, we were haughtily put in our place or blacklisted.  Ok, so be it.  Dissent is never accepted with open arms.  But think of it this way:  a few months back the world went mad when the price of cauliflower jumped from $2.99 to $7.99 a head.  Same with celery.  The news reported it daily.  Facebook and other social media was a seething hotbed of indignation.  And now?  Hey…I had $2.99 cauliflower for dinner last night.  Not kidding.  If the furor hadn’t gained traction I’d bet we would still be paying those prices even if there were some sort of agricultural recovery from whatever shortage or plight there had been.

The reality is that the less that is said in the public sphere, the easier it is for the brands to continue policies of escalation. Malt lovers have become the epitome of ‘bloody, but unbowed’.  No matter what prices are thrown at us we seem to be unwilling to buckle and say ‘I can’t afford this’, or even more importantly in terms of making a case, ‘I won’t afford this’.  Why not?  Pride?  Are we trying to impress someone(s) by continuing in the face of outright gouging?  Or are we simply so enamoured and in love with either the spirit or the cool cache that comes with it that we refuse to knuckle under or bite the hand that feeds?

It’s been said before in the debate against NAS malts, the way to truly make a dent in this madness is to hit ‘em where it hurts. In the pocketbook.  Vote with your dollar, in other words.  I get it, but let’s be realistic.  That only goes so far when the bottles keep disappearing from the shelves irrespective of a devoted few boycotting or simply disengaging from the madness.  And why are they still selling?  As I hinted at above, I think there are some folks out there that are simply keeping up with the Joneses and overreaching their financial stations.  Hey, I’m guilty.  I’ve done it.  I also think there will always be non-whisky folk that ignorantly purchase bottles as gifts based on retailer’s suggestions or prestige name recognition.  And finally…there will probably now always be those out there who see a perceived opportunity to turn their whisky buying into some sort of investment.  They buy with an eye to the horizon for future values, not realizing (or willfully pretending otherwise) that they’re buying at the top of the bubble (or near it) and any profit made will be slim indeed.  Showing up too late to the party, in other words.

I don’t know. Perhaps I’m simply speculating.  I’ll be the first to admit that the logic of this current state eludes me.  Even more confusing is that it seems to escape the understanding of every knowledgeable whisky drinker I know, and yet it keeps getting worse and worse.  Anyone who has read Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) should have some idea as to how I see this one playing out.  The takers keep taking ‘til the rest of us have nothing left to give.  Things only bend so far before they break.  At that point the whole ruddy thing collapses.  And then we’re back to mourning a new round of lost distilleries.

So what do we do? It’s simple, I think.  Unfortunately it won’t make you any friends.  The answer is that we start speaking up and asking questions.  With honesty and intent.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube, forums, comment sections, direct emails, face to face conversations…whatever tools and platforms you have.  It’s time to start asking the tough questions of the owners and brands…’why are we paying the prices we’re paying?’  And when inevitably you get the infuriatingly condescending and dismissive response from some notorious reactionary such as Nick Morgan, be ready to walk away from the brand that can’t tell you why their pricing schemes are built to exclude you.  It seems they don’t want you anyway if the cost is beyond your means.  Let’s acknowledge it for what it is.  Hey, I recognize that a Ferrari is not in my budget, but I have to admit that I love the hell out of my F-150.  From the driver’s seat I can look down at the guy in his Ferrari that is racing to the next red light, where we’ll again be side by side.  Life is full of checks and balances.  Just sayin’.

So here I’m asking you to start throwing some questions around a bit. Start being a little bit louder.  Do it with respect, but do it.  You’re only going to make it better for all of us.

 

 – CurtVendetta

 Posted by at 10:26 am
Dec 312015
 

Read this.  It may change your life (or at least your vantage of whisky).  As always, Serge nails it.  Whisky has no better spokesperson.

Thanks, O Alsatian One.  You lead, we follow.

 

 – Curt

 

 Posted by at 6:40 pm
Dec 282014
 

Happy New Year, all.

Let’s close out 2014 in style.  Or at least controversy.

It’s taken me a couple of days to pull together some words on this one, but I think we’re finally there.  And just in time too.  I see a few new comments by our more opinionated commenters have just been posted.  Grab a fork and knife, friends.  This post will be tasty fare for some of you.

As most of you are likely aware I spent a good part of this year drumming up some anti-NAS sentiment around the wider whisky world.  Here on ATW, on Twitter, in posts I started on Connosr and Whiskywhiskywhisky, at my public speaking opportunities and via all sorts of private discussions and email.  There were many a snarky comment inserted into various reviews and such before I finally stepped overtly onto a soapbox with this post here on ATW.  This post alone has just shy of 100 comments beneath it.  That doesn’t even speak to the dozens upon dozens beneath other reviews and features.  I like to think that this place is sort of a hotbed of NAS discussion.

This year was particularly bad in the industry.  The ongoing whisky bubble seems to have skewed relations between producer and consumer to a degree I’ve never seen in relation to our drink of choice.  The brands want to capitalize on global interest, but unfortunately their stocks have not supported their ambitions.  What happens?  Well…when you need to feed platoons of hungry soldiers on a thin supply line, you simply water down the gruel a little bit, right?  This is exactly what the big companies have done.  Provide more of less.

Highland Park Dark Origins, Laphroaig Select, Macallan 1824 Series, Ardmore Legacy, Glenlivet Alpha, Mortlach Rare Old, Talisker Storm, etc are all among the guilty culprits who seem to exist due to the twisted logic of ‘hmmm…Ardbeg and Aberlour have gotten away with it’.

Additionally Glenfarclas is dropping the 10 year age statement from its classic 105 cask strength, Bruichladdich dropped the Laddie Ten and Port Charlotte 10 in favour of their provenance-based ‘Scottish Barley’ and ‘Islay Barley’ and Glenmorangie and Ardbeg continue to lambaste us with cleverly marketed (but ultimately young and non age-stated) malts based on linguistics and novelties.

This latter particularly bothers me, as I have been an unabashed Ardbeg fanboy for the better part of the last several years, and while the quality has remained high…it would be no less so with a number snazzily decaled on the black and green, if you know what I’m saying.  And Bruichladdich…c’mon, guys.  You’re a champion for the purity of the drink and the best interests of the malt.  NAS is NOT beneficial to anyone but the bottom line in the producers ledgers.  ‘Laddie folk…how ’bout you come back to Team Consumer?

What this NAS crap has done, of course, is taken the pressure off the distilleries’ maturing stocks, while simultaneously granting the brands an effective blank check in terms of pricing.  And man…have we paid.  The only real positive I see in all of this nonsense is that we’re seeing distilleries getting a little more creative with their releases and thinking outside the box.

So, where am I going with all this rambling blather?  Trust me…there is a point.  I’m not simply reiterating what we’ve been saying all along.

A few days ago our mate Ralfy Mitchell, whom most of you likely know, released one of his year end vlogs, weighing in on this contentious issue.  Months back, when I first posted that piece on NAS whisky – wherein some industry folk weighed in with their own two cents – I contacted Ralfy hoping for his opinion, but never got a reply.  That’s ok.  He’s a busy guy.  And I should conceded that I have nearly unlimited respect for the guy.  He and I have had some wonderful email exchanges and interviews together.  He’s articulate and informed.  He’s also a shit ton of fun.  I love that.

Ralfy just went on record as moving forth into 2015 with a boycott on NAS Single Malt Scotch.  This is huge.  For a humble guy in a remote bothy, Ralfy is a gent with actual influence in the industry.  The ‘bigs’ are afraid of people like him.  Ralfy’s word holds some weight.  Even those whisky drinkers who’d not yet dug into the politics of the NAS debate will now have it thrust under their noses via Ralfy’s lastest video.  The industry has to hate that.  And the rest of us should love it.  Well done, Ralf.

Our own inimitable Jeff here on ATW has been advocating for more of us to boycott for quite some time now.  I’ve had a bit of a struggle with this.  Not because I need to buy the stuff myself.  Nor because I need to support the distilleries.  It was only because I was trying to present all sides of the story, and give consumers as much information as possible in making their whisky buying decisions.  The thing is…that’s wrong.  I was wrong.  I don’t want to help consumers support NAS whisky.  It’s hurting all of us.  And things are actually getting worse.

So let’s show Ralfy a little bit of support in his endeavours…and let’s take a stronger stance on the same issue we’ve been fighting throughout the year.  In short…let’s make something happen.

As of now, I’ll not be posting any more reviews of NAS whiskies.  Period.  No qualifiers.

Jeff is right.  This really is the only way.  I’m not setting a term for this ‘boycott’ (if you wanna call it that).  I’m also not saying it’s a permanent tack, but let’s just say that when we see some change (and I mean meaningful change), perhaps I’ll reconsider my approach.

This means that several of the reviews I have waiting in the wings may never be posted (including the Ardbeg Supernova 2014!).  Don’t worry, though.  There should be plenty of age-stated and vintage releases to keep us more than busy.  And those distilleries plodding along with boring, standard 10, 12, 15, 18 year old malts will suddenly find themselves at the center of our attention.

Sorry to those who disagree with this stance (and were hoping for more a’bunadh reviews), but let’s see if we can’t force through some positive change.

My ultimate goal?  Not to have the brands themselves be the catalysts for change, but the self-fellating SWA step in and mandate age statements, just as they’ve previously enforced agendas that suited their own needs.  Now it’s our turn.

So…if you’re on board, please help share the word.  Forward on links to this post and this post and Ralfy’s video.  Let’s get the industry talking.  And hopefully cleaning up their own back yard.

On that note…an Ardbeg Ten calls.

 

Respectfully yours, comrades.

 

– Curt

 Posted by at 12:37 pm