Apr 082018

Highland Park Fire

45.2% abv

Score:  80/100


One of two in this mini-series from Highland Park (I think this one came out second, actually.  We’re probably doing this backwards, but oh well).  The Fire Edition is a 15 year old malt finished in refill port wine-seasoned casks.  I have no clue what that actually means.  Same concept as sherry-seasoned barrels, I assume.  So…are these full pipes then, or maybe just hoggies?  No clue.  Anyway…

Nose:  Slightly muddled and barnyard-y.  Nutty.  A touch of rubber and some peat, of course.  Suede.  Faint coffee.  Damp hay.  Pepper and chili.  Cinnamon.  Faintly floral (dead, faint potpourri).  And an organic earthiness that isn’t entirely pleasant.

Palate:  Earthy and dirty.  Slightly cardboard too (almost cork taint-ish).  Orange.  Herbal and kinda leathery.  There’s a touch of smoke and an organic peatiness, but its all rather restrained.  A drying sensation at the back end (some tannins from the port, I imagine).

Thoughts:  Ultimately…not awesome and rather boring.  I expected bigger and bolder.  


Highland Park Ice

53.9% abv

Score:  81.5/100


And the other in the series.  Ice was a 17 year old HP composed from ‘rebuilt first fill bourbon’ casks.  Ummm…aren’t they all?  Or is they again just referring to inserting a few staves in the ‘bebuild’ and being able to call it a hogshead.  No matter.  More importantly, I suppose, these have been capped with virgin oak heads.  That should bring some spice and fat vanillins, no?

Nose:  Definitely noses as the fruitier of the two.  Quite some eucalyptus.  Peppered melons.  Floral notes (heathery).  With a touch a bubblegum.  Marzipan.  Cinnamon cookies.  Faint whiffs of peat and a soft smokiness.

Palate:  Vibrant – definitely moreso than Fire – but sharp and tangy.  Ginger.  Almost wine-y (ironic, considering Fire was the port-seasoned malt).  Lemon pepper.  More peat here.  Citrus.  An almond sweetness.

Thoughts:  Meh.  I do like it better of the two, but it’s still just okay.


Wrapping up:  Over-packaged.  Over-priced.  Over-promised.  Under-delivered.  Anyone else over Highland Park’s Viking obsession?  Once one of my unquestionable favorite distilleries has become a rather sad triumph of style over substance.  I’ll stick with the 12 year old.  It’s the only one in the range that offers any value (seeing as the 18 is now $220, the 21 about $350, the 25 running at almost $800 and the 30…fug.)


 – Image & words:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:24 am

  23 Responses to “Highland Park Fire & Ice Editions Review”

  1. While these whiskies weren’t, indeed couldn’t, be improved by simply having their age declared, it does raise the question why they weren’t better with 15 and 17 years behind them as time FOR greater improvement wasn’t the issue. Where aging is present, but improvement is not, it’s time to look to casking, cask definitions (or the lack thereof) and the wonders of wood management. If superior wood management techniques (at least compared to the Stone-Age ideas of the past) are taken as a given, then we’re left with the questions of what lumber’s (left) being managed, or “what happened?”, or “did someone think that this could be talked good?”

    Fire is $429.95 at the LCBO, $396 (ex-tax) internationally on Wine-Searcher, and Ice is the same price in Ontario and $416 on Wine-Searcher. Aggregate critic scoring on W-S gives them 88 apiece while a range of colourful opinion gives the former an average of 83.79 and the latter an average of 84.89 on WhiskyBase. Given what it’s producing, Highland Park might be trading on its reputation as much or more as Macallan or Ardbeg. Does any of it matter, in the smaller or larger sense? It remains to be seen.

    My concern isn’t that HP will “forget” how to make an 80-class whisky for less than $100 – it’s that they won’t have to if consumer thinking on the subject gets much sloppier, and all the “new but not improved” trending with Macallan, Glenlivet, Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin raises exactly the same sort of concern. These distilleries have traditionally set the bar against which other distilleries, their products and product values, are judged. If the thinking at large becomes “like Lore, our whisky isn’t really all that good, but we manage to sell it for less than $199.90”, things will go to shit rather quickly.


  2. Hi there,

    owner Edrington seems wildly determined to go the Macallan way with Highland Park as well.

    Small wonder that your reviews reminded me of something the malt activist wrote as conclusion under a Macallan review.


    Contrarily to his opinion I did not even find much promise in the two Highland Parks… nor in any others of late.
    A shame they pushed the 18yo so deep into premiumisation country that nobody wants to pay for it anymore. Which could rise the question what would justify the price points of the above mentioned malts. Quality of product seems unlikely but I digress…


    • Sadly, the overpriced 18 is nothing like it was 10 years ago. My most recent bottle is quite bland and lacking in any real complexity. Very easy to drink, it just doesn’t provide a particularly memorable drinking experience.

  3. Curious what your thoughts are on the HP Full Volume, Curt. Some of the fellas here in Montreal are big fans. I liked it and it’s pretty good value for age/ABV. Not the classic HP profile by any means, though.

  4. Hi there,


    says a lot.


    • Hi there,

      I think this is in the line of a general discussion about price and quality…


      an extention of policies like at The Macallan or Highland Park taken to the realm of IBs?


      • I think that the points the piece touches on are very interesting, although it might have more significant impact if not used to set up promotion for a couple of K&L exclusives. I know, Adam Smith, “it’s a business”. Then again, I’m beginning to believe that very little said on the web can help whisky anyway – it’s a medium simply for promotion, not reform.

        There’s a huge amount of 80-class whisky (and stuff that wouldn’t have been called 80-class a decade ago) out there which, despite widespread default bourbon oak finishes, is probably more diverse than it has ever been… at least in terms of sourcing, if not always performance.

        Then we get to pricing, and value, and a lot of unavoidable chickens come home to roost:

        “When we came around to discussing price, my excitement turned to utter disbelief. The look on my face must have made it obvious. 9 and 10 year old Single Malt for $80-100? Who is going to buy this stuff? If it was Lagavulin, Ardbeg, sherried Macallan or Glenfarclas, maybe this might just maybe make sense. I broached the subject with caution. They insisted the prices seemed right in line with the market. They’d done the research on comparable products and priced them accordingly. The brands were doing great in Europe!

        Ultimately they might be right – tons of young whisky is being marketed and sold by independents at wildly inflated prices.”

        So well I remember those heady days when premium, “one off” and stunt pricing by leading producers wasn’t going to affect the market at large, but where did those harmless, carefree days go? Now the nonsense at the top is seen to justify the nonsense at the bottom – as above, so below – but the truth is that there haven’t been a lot of recent releases, even from premium producers, that have really been worth the money without a constant day-by-day sliding reevaluation of what a dollar is expected to deliver.

        Now we talk about blending HP pretty unless it’s simply lackluster, while distilleries cash in on their names and most look the other way when people are being charged more for “innovation” that isn’t as good as the stodgy tried and true. Thank God we’re progressing, but the point at which most of these new products become “stunning” is when you reach the price tag.

        We’ve entered an era where there’s somehow nothing really wrong at the same time that there’s little really right while the quality stuff is being pushed beyond the availability and price reach of many people lurking on these blogs.

        “A pretty bottle and romantic story only go so far. In the end, we can sell you one bottle of nearly ANYTHING, but if you don’t go home crack ‘er open and immediately start think about buying a second then we’re not doing our job well enough.” – yeah and, surprisingly enough, current problems might be rooted in whisky resources (like casks and cask time) being spread too thin for the expanded marketing to cover.

        In terms of value, if the problem can’t be corrected on the quality end, it can only be fixed on the price end, even as people just looking for decent whisky they can afford watch that 90-class stuff sail over the horizon. But, in the end, retailers can only retail what the industry makes, and prices, upstream, and maybe it’s at the headwaters where things need to change… if people can ever bring themselves to simply say “no” to the craziness.


  5. Hi there,

    insights? Especially considering the source and wha we discussed earlier…

    “That press of people in the Sunday afternoon was mostly comprised of bartenders and owners on their day off, there to enjoy themselves, but also learn and suss out what is next.

    We live in a whisky bubble; we think of it as being the most important spirit in the world. Because we love, we are protective and loyal, but the reality is that whisky is not alone, it doesn’t have a self-given right to consider itself superior.

    In the minds of those who are serving and drinking, it is just one other element within a matrix of flavour that we all play in.

    Yes, whisky is in a stronger position than it was in the Bad Old Days™ when the bartenders were specialists and the attendees were the geeks who helped save a category, but the world has moved on and we ignore that fact at our peril.

    Today we browse our way through a wider world. And celebrate it.”



    • “Yes, whisky is in a stronger position than it was in the Bad Old Days™ when the bartenders were specialists and the attendees were the geeks who helped save a category, but the world has moved on and we ignore that fact at our peril.”

      I’m not sure who “we” are in that sentence, and I’m not sure what peril hangs over us. I think it’s pretty clear that Broom’s view, however, parallels that of the industry at large to some degree – he needed (and needs) the whisky geeks, and would never be in his current position without them, and at the same time he wants to marginalize their importance. The world, and presumably Broom with it, has moved on. Now that the category has been saved, and the position of producers and their “objective” journalistic marketing arm is secure, it’s time to celebrate the wider world of spirits that producers want to promote while a lot of value, and thinking, about whisky is debased.

      Yet the “whisky bubble” has been very good to Dave Broom and I think that the peril he faces in forgetting that exceeds the peril posed by a lot of bartenders and hangers on at a Tokyo bar show not being die hard whisky fans. I’m not even sure that Broom, or the industry, should really be interested in creating more die hard whisky fans anyway, given that the point of the exercise seems to be to label them geeks and to tell them that the world has passed them by.

      Today, the message is “there’s more out there than whisky” but, if too many people really take that to heart, it will then somehow inexplicably be time to once again “celebrate” the unique place that whisky plays in the world of spirits, at least while Broom makes the rounds promoting his next and latest whisky book/product… and there’ll be no talk of “moving on” or how whisky is only one of many spirits then.

      One thing is for certain: the peril Broom is talking about isn’t posed to alcohol megacompanies that can also sell anyone whatever it is that someone might leave whisky for, whether it be multiple white spirits or beer. The interests of whisky fans, however, have been in peril for some time, but that peril isn’t posed so much by the presence of whisky alternatives as by the pricing, propaganda and nonsense that serves to drive people to those alternatives; the peril is posed, not from without, but from within. At the very least, it’s not the alternatives themselves which are the problem but the fact that the people who make both them and whisky need not care which you buy in terms of category; if Diageo made only whisky, maybe we’d see more attention paid to whisky fans and less talk of how they need to appreciate other spirits.

      It could easily be argued, in fact, that whisky’s sudden popularity has been a prime source of sloppy thinking and largely indifferent achievement in recent whisky making, so I’m not sure that I’ll lose sleep if some of those who superheated the market go to blends, much less to gin or vodka. For everything the whisky industry has “discovered” in recent years, “make something not quite as good but far more expensive” is right at the top of the list, and it’s been encouraged, if not necessitated, by the whisky boom itself.

      Whisky isn’t “just another spirit” but the attitudes and actions of its producers have been working to make it so (except for price, of course) for some time now. If that’s cause for celebration, Broom and I are on very different pages.


  6. Hi there,

    right Jeff I was wondering what Mr Broom ist up to now. Is it a warning to the whisky industry that killing whisky’s spirit further will ultimately turn the whisky fans away? It already did and further does so.
    Is it the embrace of all the other spirits there are by a – whisky writer?

    All in all it reminds me of the crocodile tears the Scotch whisky industry or the whisk(e)y industry at large was crying in „the bad old days“ when not a week passed in which one whisky industry representative or the other lamented about the evil white spirits that ate away whisky’s spirit and substance – financial substance that was – and the sales figures of vodka mainly were raising day by day at the expense of whisky.

    It was then as it is now: the drinks giants lamenting about the decline or better non-growth of whisky sales are the same that make all the evil other mostly white spirits that are the bane of whisky sales again. Today only more so because all of them make vodka or bought themselves heavly into tequila brands or whatever is fancy at the moment like gin. Not to forget brown spirits like rum.

    That was before the Broom, err boom of the late 1990s. Fact ist that whisk(e)y as a category has manoeuvred itself into a cul de sac with all the shenanigans you described above from which only the next „1983 crisis“ will bring an escape.

    The risk of the drinks giants of today is quite different. They have exploited almost all existing drinks and spirits categories for what they are worth. Shifting between categories to compensate for sales declines among them is not so easy anymore.
    And the world market for alcohol is finite not ever growing as the drinks industry wants to believe.

    So it seems we live in interesting times as the Chinese curse says.


    • Yes, somehow there’s danger, but it’s not clear what it is or who has to pull up their socks to avert it – and I’m not convinced that the peril can be all that intense anyway, given that we’re supposed to celebrate this and celebrate that, even though most of the festivities seem to be about everything but whisky (and, recently, with good reason).

      Broom has some strong things to say about Japanese whisky, but there’s little risk taking and he echoes what others have said rather than going out on any limb. Furthermore, Broom seems to embrace the great leveling that will see the average whisky become the equivalent of the average gin or vodka – which scares me, and partly because he embraces it, but it doesn’t appear to concern him in the least. Whisky is just another spirit… except that, recently, it supposedly just keeps getting better and better in ways many people can’t taste and that you always have to pay more for.

      It’s really just a weird piece from Broom – is the point a “warning” to producers that, if things continue, people will stop buying their whisky and start buying their tequila, even though that would be something to celebrate in the “matrix of flavour” anyway? I don’t know if I took the red pill or the blue one, but producers have been telling me, in ways big and small, that they don’t care whether I buy whisky or not for some time now. What’s more, none of it breaks my heart because if whisky suddenly lost half of its current fanbase, I think it might the best thing that could happen to it in the last 10 years, and it might avert more Haig Club by David Beckham or Giorgio Armani (take your pick).

      Whether people will admit it or not, I don’t think I’m alone either. Just like many of the whisky writers who first cheered it on, many of those who could find little problem with whisky’s new direction are now largely sitting back on bunkered bottles waiting for the trending they endorsed, and will still publicly endorse, to correct itself (even though nothing’s wrong). Most people know that whisky is sick, and that we’re in the process of congratulating it to death by not calling out its industry’s bullshit, even as many of the producers and marketers who don’t care so much, or can’t afford to care so much, about much of what they make seek out others like themselves in the marketplace to replace the hard-to-satisfy whisky geeks they want to leave behind.

      Until the fickle hipsters move on – then they’ll need the geeks again, hopefully to “assemble in sheds and halls around the world, clustering together nervously and, slowly, more and more excitedly.”

      But they’ll shit if the response from the geeks is “fuck you, I’m a gin drinker now, celebrating the matrix of flavour just like Dave Broom told me to”.


  7. Hi there,

    a reply to an older Broom we were talking about


    and a new Broom ambigous as ever – I think.

    It is the last paragraph of the newest editorial and I could hardly beleive my eyes when I read this:

    “People come to our shop or bar or class, or read our writing, not because it is us, but because they want to learn about whisky.

    As soon as we think we are more important than the story, the moment when ego takes over, then that simple aim is lost./ We are servants of the spirit as well. We are all learning as well, sitting quietly at the feet of the people who know more than we do, asking why and then passing it on in a way which entertains and informs, but focuses on the whisky itself.

    We all have to remain humble.”


    In the context of Highland Park above where story telling is everything these days or too many other whisky offferings where story telling is more important than the content in the bottle this sounds strange in my ears.
    Again I am at a loss where this piece of editor writing want’s to lead me. If only the whole whisky scene was more geeky…


  8. Hi there,

    hello Jeff, I wanted to reply a few days ago but ran into trouble with the template behind this blog… or whatever.
    We’ll see if this goes through.

    I was about to say….

    a reply to an older Broom we were talking about


    and a new Broom ambigous as ever – I think.

    It is the last paragraph of the newest editorial and I could hardly beleive my eyes when I read this:

    “People come to our shop or bar or class, or read our writing, not because it is us, but because they want to learn about whisky.

    As soon as we think we are more important than the story, the moment when ego takes over, then that simple aim is lost. We are servants of the spirit as well. We are all learning as well, sitting quietly at the feet of the people who know more than we do, asking why and then passing it on in a way which entertains and informs, but focuses on the whisky itself.

    We all have to remain humble.”


    In the context of Highland Park above where story telling is everything these days or too many other whisky offferings where story telling is more important than the content in the bottle this sounds strange in my ears.
    Again I am at a loss where this piece of editor writing want’s to lead me. If only the whole whisky scene was more geeky…


    • Well, as per Broom’s reversal on the unique nature of whisky itself, above, he has his work cut out for him because his message must reflect an industry which wants its product to be all things to all people: geeky enough to support vastly inflated revenues as collectibles and hipster enough for those who don’t want to care, know, or learn what it is they’re actually buying.

      Like Dave Driscoll was to some degree, Broom is trapped into writing about whisky from all angles and to serve all perspectives, which will eventually, and inevitably, lead him to say things that are incongruous… and open up the question “what does Dave Broom himself actually think about whisky and when, if ever, have we seen it in print?”.

      Going forward, and even looking back over past pieces, what becomes clear to me about professional whisky writing is that, as a form of undeclared marketing, it’s major role is as grist for the mill of an industry that’s “constantly improving”, yet declines in terms of the quality and value of the average bottle produced as production resources are spread ever thinner over an overheated market.

      The story behind a whisky takes primacy where there isn’t much else to talk about, or that can BE talked about if the inflated price is be supported. Thus we get nonsense like cask time doesn’t matter (except when it does) and the redefinition of quality as youth and vibrancy rather than age and complexity because the former is what the industry is willing to supply in volume.

      While value largely doesn’t matter when you drink on the cuff anyway, our best and brightest experts never drank much of cheap(er) stuff either, so it going to seed for other people was never really a problem so long as you can sell the masses on the idea that whisky is “all about the stories and the experience” instead of the actual product purchased.


  9. Hi there,

    all part of the process to “re-educate” consumers probably?

    Ho do you re-educate a geek?

    And in the light of what you said above… one should be careful what to write especially on the internet which never forgets.


  10. Hi there,

    an interesting piece, not Dave Broom this time.


    Would we like to know what a Dr. Morgan a Ken Grier or even a Dr Lumsden would have had to say?


    • If the group truly represents the attitudes of owners, Morgan’s, Grier’s and Lumsden’s takes would have been more of the same, if not more so: the problem is always with consumers and how they don’t appreciate what producers are doing for them, followed by the cue to mention just how small the single malt market is anyway.

      It’s interesting, though – have courage, take risks and embrace honesty and truthfulness on the one hand, but “age hangups” will become obsolete on the other because of “controlled warehousing”. “Controlled warehousing” is probably a lot more appealing to the group than rapid aging technologies – mainly because the former is nice and vague while the latter, regardless of their results, are actual processes that can be either proven or disproven. I put “controlled warehousing” up there with “social terroir”: more grist for the conversation mill, but having a label for something doesn’t make it real. Meanwhile, when you have a process, even a very old one that’s proven to work but that the industry doesn’t want to spend money on anymore, it then becomes a “hangup” while the conversation has to move on to something else, like the need to embrace honesty while no one needs transparency.

      Two recurring themes in modern whisky are producers’ abilities to see into the future, as opposed to just shape perceptions in the present, and the constant march of progress and advancement, creating revolutionary new this and that, which for me, isn’t translating into either better or cheaper products… whether rye contains the most of the world’s most unappreciated molecule or not.

      Innovation is the new buzzword, pushed by people who believe that whisky will rise or fall based on the quality of its buzzwords as opposed to the quality of its products. I’ll agree with this: the scotch (and most of the whisky) industry IS weak, but mostly because it lacks the courage to be honest about what it makes and what influences what it makes.


  11. Hi there,

    I know this is dated….

    but in the light of things said above – another twist … or another turn or both … or nothing?

    “Don’t sacrifice authenticity for innovation” … I hardly believed my eyes.



    • Yes, “don’t sacrifice authenticity for innovation” while

      “equally, trying to be all things to all drinkers isn’t the answer” as

      “just because an idea is new doesn’t mean it is good” but

      “things have not moved so far that the elements which made you love the whisky/wine/beer in the first place have not been lost, they’ve just been moved forward gently.”

      Mr. Broom’s mind is constantly moving along the axes of old vs. new and tradition vs. innovation because it’s important to keep customers’ attitudes, to say nothing of his own, exercised and flexible enough to accept whatever the industry might send down the pike in the name of profit, er, tradition and/or innovation. Consumers should embrace both tradition and innovation, but their problem is that they never quite embrace the right one at the right time to the proper degree and, thus, Broom’s work is never done.

      So “don’t sacrifice authenticity for innovation”, but “stop fetishising (?) whisky of the past” as well because, of course, who could argue otherwise anyway given the phrasing? Sign, sign everywhere a sign, do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign? Sometimes whisky is just a form of alcohol, sometimes it’s a unique voice to the soul… and which it is varies from week to week, so stay tuned.

      The larger issue isn’t that consumers’ attitudes have to be constantly readjusted to accommodate industry profit expectations and changing logistical supply line bottlenecks – it’s that consumers aren’t (yet) thinking properly about whisky. Fortunately for both the industry and whisky experts/educators, consumers never WILL think properly about whisky, if only because customers can’t anticipate which way the industry wants them to jump, or they can’t jump quickly enough in any event. The future for whisky education is very bright (or very dark, see below) indeed – or, at least, it’s a growth industry.

      And, as always, it is an article of faith with Mr. Broom that recent “innovation” itself IS about improvement, not profit, just as it is taken for granted that all the change, and endorsement of it, ultimately serves the purposes of the poor confused customer rather than those of whisky producers or “objective” whisky experts. That constant whisky improvement should result in whisky that is constantly improving, rather than whisky that’s just slightly more cask wonky and expensive, however, is somewhat controversial and isn’t really on the menu for discussion. By the same token, start to talk about the authenticity of the effects of age maturation and it’s soon necessary to switch gears to the innovation of wood management instead.

      Yet, somehow, whisky is constantly moving forward without really getting very far – Broom’s idea of improvement is much more like a treadmill than a footrace – and it’s probably not so much a case that whisky is actually getting better as, instead, that sufficiently flexible customers just need to be convinced that they’re buying better products for ever more money while the arguably better, cheaper, products of yesteryear were never really all that good – https://scotchwhisky.com/magazine/from-the-editors/18088/stop-fetishising-whisky-of-the-past/ – and are probably better forgotten anyway because a basis of comparison fucks the whole game up. Good as it is and always (and yet never really) was, whisky just keeps getting better and better. What a time to be alive… but what are your options anyway?

      In this context, the opportunity that was (quite predictably) missed nearby – https://scotchwhisky.com/magazine/from-the-editors/20253/propaganda-is-harming-whisky-education/ – was staggering.

      Does, or can, any of it matter in a larger sense? Probably not, because it really isn’t about resolving anything that can’t or won’t be reversed next month or next week.


  12. Hi there,

    does anybody read me? Where has everyone gone?

    Anyway I dug this up because after demanding innovation the way we talked about above the tune has changed.


    May I add that here – for perfect legitimate reasons – we have an example for the dying interest in whisky seen everywhere?
    There are more important things than a dying hype of a ruined spirit. Or like another blogger put it the other day

    “Because I don’t believe whisky brands actually compete with each other – rather they mostly support a culture, and the more happy people in that culture, talking, tasting, the better for everyone. A thriving whisky culture gave birth to the current boom, don’t forget.”

    The whisky culture is fadin’ with amazing speed. There really are more important things, probably.


    • The more happy people in that culture, the better for everyone – maybe, unless a person considers that, if popularity didn’t love whisky to death, it at least loved it to illness. The better for everyone? Since “the boom”, I’ve really only watched more and more quality products move beyond my budget window for a bottle of whisky, only to see them replaced with generally lackluster stuff that I can afford but probably wouldn’t replace (fool me once…). If the majority of whisky sold, even single malts, is at the $100 and below price mark, it’s also becoming a price category where quality, and product information, is much harder to find and there’s a general sense that it’s good enough (maybe too good) for the average drinker yet not good enough for the average whisky expert.

      I agree with Broom at least this far: today’s whisky drinker does deserve better. The real question, however, is why can’t (s)he expect better and how did we get here?

      “I know that one person’s ‘vibrancy’ can be another’s ‘immaturity’, but rushing to bottling just because you have the cask makes little commercial sense.”

      On the contrary, Dave, it makes a LOT of commercial sense (if you can get people to flog, and buy, the resulting bottles), it just doesn’t make better whisky.

      Reducing cask time was the easiest way to both deal with a sudden increase in demand without significant additional capital investment and to also maximize profits during the boom, so cask time was the main resource that was intentionally compromised (with compromises in cask quality being a secondary collateral effect of the same demand as quality casks also became more scarce). The rest was mostly just smoke and mirrors, denying that it wasn’t so, and people like Broom telling you not to look at the man behind the curtain as net resources devoted to the average bottle continued to wane.

      Broom is right in saying that you can’t finish a whisky that was never really started and that cask quality is of limited value if you refuse to leave the whisky in the cask, but he usually only says these things one month out of the year and, this year, chose the shortest month. Where consumer and producer interests disagree, he simply can’t find a way to square the circle and be on both sides at once… but neither can anyone else, so he’s in good company.

      All recent the “reimagining” and “reinvention” of whisky had a lot to do with imagination and very little to do with invention; it was nonsense from the get-go and many whisky consumers knew that even as the majority of whisky opinion makers (who also knew it) coughed and looked the other way. Everyone in and around the business saw the play, knew the price for stepping out of line, and made their choice (or re-made their choice). Ignorance of product content became “freedom to experiment” because it played to the recent social media phenomenon that everyone is entitled to their own reality and facts as well as their own opinion; the marketing makes sense, not because it’s rational, but just because you decide it makes sense. Physics got in the way of fantasy and profit, so the former were downplayed in favour of the latter.

      The results of opposition to nonsense marketing in principle, but not in purchasing practice, were as predictable as the rest… so here we are. For better or worse, the vast majority of what people think, intend or say comes to nothing because it results in no action. The world we live in is shaped by the remainder.

      For the quality bar to be set higher in whisky, the bar for thinking in whisky had to be set higher first; it wasn’t, and both bars have been in descent ever since.


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