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Posts Tagged ‘Clynelish’

Despair is a common inclination among malt whisky enthusiasts today. They decry the industrialisation of the industry, the homogenisaition of the product and the fact that whisky is ‘not as good as it used to be’. I admit that I am as guilty of this as anyone. Last year I wrote about the notion of terroir in whisky and posited that it existed through an intermediary relationship with the people that made it and through their own relation to the land in which they lived and work. A ‘transferred’ terroir. Revisiting that has given me pause for thought on the subject once again, I have come to believe it is an analysis that holds merit but it is only one part of the picture.

Ask around and the common reasons given by most people for the decline in character in Scottish whisky throughout the 1970s and 80s will usually be the unbridled pursuit of yield and efficiency in production. A slavering quest to supply the demand and then to grow the demand even further. It is likely most people would point to the fact that character tended to diminish in parallel with the distilleries gathering in ever larger groups under a few very broad company roofs. It is easy to look at the situation and hold it up as an example of a very traditional model of capitalism that destroys the existing in order to create the new. A process of rationalisation from the perspective of the enterprises which instigate and execute the changes. The rise of the modern era of whisky, however, is a more complex evolution that really began with the end of the second world war. It’s easy to lay the blame at the feet of the ‘accountant’ – I have certainly been guilty of that myself – but the reasons are more myriad than that.

Whisky was one of the real victors of the second world war. It was a drink that had percolated into the synapses of the western world via the twin drips of the officer class and Hollywood. Let’s call this Phase 1: recognition. The realisation that demand was beginning to outstrip supply kickstarted the long arc of change that would take place over the coming decades. This would result in the first fledgling changes to the technology and means of production in the 1950s. Although the methodology and technology would remain firmly rooted in the pre-war style for most of this decade.

Phase 2 would be the first serious steps towards modernisation. From the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s the vast majority of Scottish distilleries altered their production equipment. Steam – which had been a rare technology in distillation since the late 19th century – would become the dominant source of still heating by the late 1960s. Similarly, worm tubs were usually replaced with column condensers at the same time. The net effects were not as immense on distillate character as some have argued but it was one of the most significant alterations to the technology and DNA of malt whisky production since the 19th century. In tandem with this the first move towards uniformity was initiated with the decommissioning of the majority of on site floor maltings at distilleries and the rise of the centralised, commercial maltings. Part of the move towards ever greater efficiency involved the regulation of ways in which the worker was able to influence the product. The centralisation of malting removed a significant part of the interaction between worker and product and kickstarted this process of regulation. The net effects of these changes formed a stepping stone in the process which made possible the sweeping, and far more destructive ‘innovations’ that were to come.

The late 1960s through to the early 1980s might be termed ‘Phase 3’. This began as an era of huge appetite and grand prediction. Sights were set on emerging markets in scales hitherto un-pondered in the whisky industry. The companies were swelling is size as well, the industry became less fragmented as distilleries began to coagulate under large corporate roofs. Those in charge of looking at the numbers saw potential and looked to science for the answers to their problems. In their eyes they needed to make more whisky, more quickly and more efficiently. Science provided in the form of distiller’s yeast, higher yielding strains of barley and, latterly, a lopsided infatuation with ever more active wood and wood technology. It’s difficult to overstate what a powerful agent of change distiller’s yeast was to Scottish whisky. Over the course of the 1970s it sounded the death knell for overt fruit flavour at almost all of Scotland’s distilleries. This was an era of massive upheaval. Several distilleries were entirely re-constructed, or re-built anew – Caol Ila, Clynelish, Glendullan, Linkwood – in their place stood modern factories for the blenders. Almost all distilleries underwent some significant modernisation during this era, most in terms of their equipment; all in terms of their process and ingredients.

The products that emerged from these distilleries at the end of the 1970s are very close to the character of distillate we recognise in the same distilleries today. That embryo has since flourished into exactly what its conceivers envisioned: a vast, high yeilding, efficiency driven industry. Of course it took a lot longer to emerge than they originally envisioned, the market fell away sharply in the early 1980s. When closures became commercially necessary it was a very easy decision as to which ones should go. It was the least modified distilleries which were closed, the ones that would be too expensive to ‘upgrade’ or that still produced in a relatively pre-modern fashion. Clynelish 1, Glenlochy, Glenugie, Coleburn, St Magdalene: all swept away by perceived irrelevance.

As the industry emerged, blinking into the light of the 1990s, it was in good ‘technological’ shape to fulfill its destiny. There is indeed much to decry about what has happened. The emergence of corporate monoliths such as Diageo and Pernod Ricard have created distinctly segregated tiers in the way they structure their companies and in how they distribute the profits they have reaped from this ‘gralloching’ of Scotland’s whisky industry. Those that sell it are quite separated from those that make it. Speak to numerous production workers in distilleries today and you’ll find plenty that take issue with the modern methodology, and ideology, of production. It’s not worth their livelihood or family’s wellbeing to go against the way they are told to do things though. I spoke recently to a distillery manager for another article I was writing, he told me:

“Men took greater pride in their work when they could see their actions having a real impact on the product. Even if they weren’t great whisky drinkers they loved seeing a bottle of their whisky in the local pub or giving a bottle of whisky to a friend as a present, something they had a real influence in making. That’s not there anymore, not to the same extent as it used to be.”

How connected can you feel to a product when your role in its creation becomes solitary and related to the correctly timed pushing of buttons? There are undoubtedly many good malt whiskies still produced in Scotland but it has become an industry of factories. An industry long divorced from true notions of craft, authenticity or tradition; except in the abstract as instruments of marketing. The very worst aspects of capitalism emerge when it is allowed to unleash the natural hunger of human greed without checks or balance. A vast corporation is a machine in which each individual can contribute but in which so few can regulate. The greed of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

It all sounds rather dreadful. But whisky is a slow burning product, how pesky that three year rule and how hard they strive to construct apparent maturity. It is an industry that sways back and forth to the tune of decades; something that is hard to fully reflect upon in the brief flourish of a human lifetime. When we take a step back it is possible to see that the very hunger at which we level blame for the loss of malt whisky’s soul is actually the very same hunger which gave us the greatest whiskies ever made. The ones we laud, love and worship in the face of their bland descendants.

In the early 19th century the law finally began to favour the distiller rather than fight them. The right to make a living from commercial distilling was probably the greatest catalyst of change to whisky that there has ever been. It was the sinewed hand that dragged the drink kicking and screaming from the methanol-tinged confines of the illicit croft. We all like to daydream about what it might have tasted like were we proffered liquid hospitality on some far flung highland croft in the late 18th century. No doubt it would be fascinating. To taste an un-aged distillate, replete with heather, honey or whatever other infusions were at hand. But I think we all know it would not be a drink of such grace and pleasure as the great, well matured single malts of the 20th century. The commercial necessity of scale and size was the kernel that allowed whisky to bloom. Small may be romantic, but the greatest whiskies have all been made at commercial scale, reasonably sized distilleries. Likewise the scale required transit and storage. The subsequent tradition of maturation that went from an incidental – or optional – process to a widespread necessity further helped cement brilliance into whisky’s DNA.

The commercial ambition of the very first whisky producers led to the creation of a spirit of unrivaled complexity and beauty. A drink that lends itself to the joyous and the downhearted in equal measure; to the revelry of old friends and the quiet introspection of the solitary mind. The evolution of this commercial hunger has done great things for Scotland. Each bottle of whisky has been a liquid ambassador for our country, it has put us on the map and been a magnet for tourism that only grows stronger with each coming year. The economic benefits in terms of job creation cannot be ignored either, the provision of jobs in rural areas and the fringe work created for associated industries and trades has had a long term positive effect on living standards in parts of Scotland that are often otherwise neglected by industry.

This all brings us back to a question I posited last year but left unanswered.

“The gain from the diminishment in the character of whisky is the fattening of the industry, the creation of more jobs in other sectors outside production and the wellbeing of the people that fill them. Whether the gain is worth the cost in whisky terms is for each individual to measure in their own minds.”

I think now the question is less relevant than before when you take into account the sweeping history of this industry, where it is today and the possibilities for the future.

Craft, boutique, small scale, independent, micro distilleries. The language has become sprawling and – in many cases – irrelevant. Neutered by the fact that this new raft of start-up distilleries are simply small-scale copies of the efficiency-centric production model perfect by Diageo et al. The potential for a positive future for whisky lies with them though. Put aside for a while your feelings on the ‘craft’ debate and look at what the net result is of where the industry is today. The direction it has sent itself in is irreversible and looks set to continue. I would say lament not what it has undone in its pursuit of this path but look to the space it has created.

If the worlds of beer and wine have taught us one thing, it is that there is room for an industry to split. There are now hundreds of big, profitable, quality driven brewing operations around this planet. Companies that do embody a definition of craft, something that is worth quoting from the Oxford English Dictionary here:

NOUN

1

An activity involving skill in making things by hand

Companies where their workers can feel a sense of connection to the product they make and take pride in its promotion and sale. Similarly the world of wine has recognised a space for bottles at the €3 end of spectrum and the €100+ end as well. The ‘Grand Cru’ philosophy of absolute quality pervades numerous wineries all over the world. They recognise that the effort and expense required to make a product of absolute, uncompromising beauty and quality is worth it. You can create a model based on quality where you grow demand and value rather than production and efficiency.

Whisky is perfectly capable of embracing these principles as well. It now has the space to do so in the market, more clearly defined than ever by a mainstream industry hell-bent on rationalising itself away into the clouds. It is the duty of the new generation of start-up distillers to build a secondary industry and take up this gauntlet. Let the big players churn out their blends and their brands. The world of serious whisky enthusiasm is still comparatively small, but it is meaningful, dedicated and educated enough to support an appropriately sized industry catering to its desires. They must be bold, reject these notions that efficiency and yield are royalty above all else. The evidence is there – Springbank is there – this sort of approach can work and can be done. Rid yourselves of distiller’s yeast, spend the same money making less whisky but make it better. Make your production process as hands on as possible, take more time, allow human interaction, give your workers as distinctive a voice in the final product as possible. We needn’t be facing a future dominated by vanilla, NAS and insulting marketing. On the contrary, whisky is a drink, and a subject, rife with possibility right now. This notion that commercial hunger trumps all and that you cannot have profit and beauty is false. The coming world will be one in which green energy and localism of enterprise are essential components. This is an environment in which the smaller-scale, quality focused distillery can flourish. Make something that deserves its high price tag!

The question is: do we accept the status quo and let things simply slide away into industrial corporatism, or do we seize that possibility with both hands? The answer lies with those starting out on the long road of creating and bringing to market a new whisky – the next decade will tell…

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It emerged this morning that every whisky enthusiast on the planet is apparently really annoyed at being denied the opportunity to acquire free money.

The literal English translation is: 'KERRRCHIIIINNGG!!!!'

The literal English translation is: ‘KERRRCHIIIINNGG!!!!’

Roddy MacSporran, a Glasgow based whisky collector who has been posting his toenail clippings and belly button fluff to Nicola Sturgeon since 2003, told The Independent:

“It’s a downright, bloody disgrace! I’ve got just as much right to free money as people who work in whisky shops with their ‘client bases’. That was the whole point this year, to release an extra few thousand bottles so that my odds of getting one were a far more realistic 1000/1.” 

Meredith Blancmange Fauntleroy – head of discreetly tutting at customers at Selfridges – said while filling out a submission form for an online whisky auction:

“It’s totally disgraceful and actually downright impertinent and hurtful that people think these bottles are simply being kept or ‘squirrelled away’ by us noble retailers. Honestly, just because we could buy them ourselves at cost price and sell them for upwards of £1000 at auction what on earth would make people think that about us!? It’s a well known fact that we retailers really dislike free money, it’s too yucky for the likes of us and I personally derive great pleasure from giving my customers free money. I can’t help it if we have a ‘client base’.” 

Nick Fandango, a selection of London-dwelling organic molecular matter said :

“Apparently someone has been telling people to try the whisky in ‘some of London’s top bars’. If you want to sit in noise and pay £80 to be lectured to about cocktails by cunts then that’s probably a very good idea.” 

Phil Level, a whisky-human from one of the bits of Scotland where Tinder is like an STD version of Russian Roulette said:

“I decided to spend £200 on a bottle of whisky the other day, I bought a 1974 Clynelish at auction, it tastes pretty lovely. Might do the same again next month. I really need to stop speaking in hyperlinks.”

Shinji Fukuyo, head of doing things at Suntory said:

“Don’t worry, there will be another release next year. It will probably contain prune juice but it will definitely look like the other ones and have similar arrangements of words and numbers on the labels and stuff.” 

 

 

 

 

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Who is older? The bottles or the men? Science cannot yet provide the answer…

Which is older? The bottles or the men? Science cannot yet provide the answer…

This weekend sees the 10th and final Lindores Whiskyfest take place in Ostende in Belgium. For those of you who drink modern whisky, here is a short reference guide to what a bundle of European whisky nerds will be getting up to this weekend.

It was a particularly rare Ardbeg...

It was a particularly rare Ardbeg…

Who or ‘what’ is ‘Lindores’???

Lindores is Belgian for  ‘Sundried Tomato’. The society name is a reference to the time one of the Founding Father’s (Beert Giro) became so aroused by a particularly rare singe cask Ardbeg that he caused heat-blistering to a nearby basket of fresh Plum Tomatoes in a branch of Asda just outside Alness in Scotland. It was particularly troubling to the locals as they had never seen a Sundried Tomato before – not believing the sun, or Belgian genitalia, to be capable of creating such witchcraft. Beert and the rest of the burgeoning Lindores Whisky Society were run out of town by angry teuchter hermaphrodites armed with flaming pitch forks and Ferguson Tractors. They were forced to seek refuge on a nearby oil rig until the European Parliament authorised their rescue by hovercraft just over 13 months later.

It was due to this experience that they decided to issue special ‘arousal proof’ underwear to all existing and future club members. The underwear is an inexplicable shade of beige that scientists have described as “non-existant in all of nature”.

Caithness Local Council recently erected a plaque to the men who endured such hardship. Especially those that had to listen to the Belgians talk about their respective whisky collections for 13 months on end.

Cromarty Local Council recently erected a plaque in memory of all the men who endured such hardship. Especially those that had to listen to the Belgians talk about their respective whisky collections for 13 months on end.

Yes but who are these people???

Good question. Lindores is centred around certain key members. Here are some of the current most high profile members. (Note: The Lindores Whisky Society is a bit like The Apprentice in that people can be fired at a moments notice. This list is accurate at the time of going to press as far as Whiskysponge understands.)

Luc Zimmerman – Grand High Wizard Of Lindores 

Favourite Distillery: Glenfarclas

Hobbies: Cigars, Glenfarclas, i-Phone apps, Clay Pigeon shooting with bottles of Samaroli Bowmore Bouquet, being chased naked through the streets of Las Vegas by George Grant, recording intricate but subdued later period solo albums in his inimitably gravel-flecked vocal stylings.

Most prized bottle: A very rare Nebuchadnezzar of Glenfarclas 105 rotation 1973 he once managed to smuggle back from Myanmar duty free in his cabin luggage by pretending it was his pet Donkey Gertrude.

Beert Giro – Lindores Club Mascot (Partially Failed Tintin Clone) 

Favourite Distillery – Ardbeg

Hobbies: Talking about his Ardbeg Collection, Collecting Ardbeg, Telling people about his cases of Laphroaig, the history of the German Coastguard, rubbing €50 notes into the oily remnants of still-warm chicken carcasses before presenting them sheepishly to disgruntled waiting staff.

Most prized bottle: Ardbeg 1950, 21 year old, official single cask bottle 1 of 1 for distillery staff. Bottled 1972. Signed by Richard Branson. Geert would like you to know he has THREE cases of this one!

Dominiek Bumbag – Lindores Musical Director 

Favourite Distillery – 1960s Bowmore, or 1960s Clynelish – Bowelish perhaps?

Hobbies: Weeping over expensive guitars, telling the younger generations about the horror that awaits them in the ‘testicle department’, bumbags, rubbing himself in 19th century Madeira and making devastatingly sticky love to exotic women.

Most prized bottle: The partially destroyed 1.13 litre bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label that John Lennon once tried to ‘bottle’ Donovan with while he was trying to force down a third plate of Lentils in Rishikesh under the watchful gaze of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (or ‘Jim Murray’ as he was later to be known) while Mia Farrow was hiding in a cupboard.

Only through transcendental meditation can we escape the earthly vileness of sulphur...

Only through transcendental meditation can we escape the earthly vileness of sulphur…

Dirk Vantaliban – Lindores Chief Of Security 

Favourite Distillery: Port Ellen

Hobbies: Playing in his sandbox, undermining the operational capabilities of the Taliban by destabilising the poppy crop and thereby affecting their ability to produce and sell Speyburn on the international Black Market, Ping Pong.

Most prized bottle: If he told you he’d have to kill you!

Christophe ‘Billy’ Bloefeld – Lindores Alternative Entertainment Supervisor 

Favourite Distillery: Whatever maaaaaan!

Hobbies: Chilling out, eating Doritos, telling the other Lindores members to ‘chill the fuck out!’, eating spicy Doritos, watching The Big Lebowski, drinking whisky from a bong while watching the Big Lebowski and eating Doritos, cuddling the people he loves, Hi-Fives, laughing, laughing in Scotland, pretending he’s not from Belgium, secretly eating Doritos under the table at expensive whisky tastings.

Most prized bottle: Somewhere in the downstairs cupboard under the stairs between the toboggan and the pre-1970s Chemistry set. Or maybe it’s the one next to that old poster of The Grateful Dead that has about seventeen telephone numbers on the back that all go to answer machines of one guy called Kurt who lives in Luxembourg and can ‘pretty much find it if you give him a weekend and €500 in miscellaneous operational business costs’. That one.

This is what it's all about…

This is what it’s all about…

Lindores 10th Anniversary Festival Schedule:

Friday

10am: People begin to arrive. Beert Giro has been awake for 17 days straight already.

12pm (midday): Anyone from Scotland is already drunk after 3 bottles of Duvel.

2pm: The kitchen at Hotel Giro has run out of steak tartar.

4pm: The festival is officially opened. Everyone celebrates with a nap.

7pm: The great welcome tasting. Tasting lasts 90 minutes with a line-up of 87 bottles. €150 per head.

9pm: The ‘Nocturn’. Everyone can attend so long as they bring a bottle. Luc Zimmerman and Beert Giro stand guard and asses every bottle that passes the door. Anyone deemed to have brought an inferior bottle is allowed in anyway but is glared at from the corner of the room by Belgian men brandishing particularly lethal looking shrimp croquettes. Scottish man who brings a €6 bottle of Albarino is inexplicable popular with everyone!

1am: Annual trip to the chicken place.

2am: Beert Giro deposits a large amount of VERY greasy Euro notes at the all night dry cleaner in Oostende.

4am: Patrick begins dancing.

Saturday

8am: Breakfast. Seven grown men attempt to sufficiently navigate a continental breakfast bar without creating widespread destruction.

11am: Main festival open.

11.30am: Jolly, hairy Italian man renders entire process of appreciating delicate, ancient single malts entirely mute by force feeding everyone golf ball size chunks of 8 year old Parmesan cheese smothered in Balsamic vinegar the colour and consistency of Satan’s bone marrow.

1pm: Luc opens a 1922 Lagavulin and charges people €250 to watch him drink a measure.

3pm: Olivier Humbrecht totally fucks everyone up by feeding them three Jeroboams of Vendage Tardive Pinot Gris from the Rangen that makes people stick to each other at the liver.

5pm: Dominiek Bumbag plays a 20 minute live set on the hammond organ during which he consumes an entire bottle of 1965 Clynelish in the first ten minutes…

5.10pm: …Serge Valentin joins him for a piano solo on ‘Hallelujah’ and gets started on a bottle of 1972 Rare Malts Brora.

7pm: Open cellar evening at Beert Giro’s ‘Ardbeg Lounge’.

7.02pm: Open cellar evening at Beert Giro’s ‘Ardbeg Lounge’ closes.

9pm: People take turns to tell Patrick that it’s not time to start dancing yet.

10pm: Dirk Vantaliban appears in full camoflage after three hours of unexplained absence.

11pm: Back to the chicken place…

11.05pm: Thrown out of the chicken place, back to Hotel Giro…

12pm: Scottish people take over hotel, total fuck storm ensues.

9am: Everyone departs vowing never to return.

9.30am: Surviving members of Lindores Whisky Society begin planning Lindores Whiskyfest 2016.

 

 

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None of this thank you very much!

None of this thank you very much!

It has emerged that Clynelish Distillery (or North Eastern Spirit Facility 2-48-B as it is affectionately referred to by staff) is to close for at least ten months after previous efforts involving expansion and modernisation were unsuccessful in stamping out the distillery’s persistent individuality and character. Lance Jabberwocky – head of spirit homogenisation at Diageo – said while being decanted into his suit:

“It has proven particularly tricky to bring North Eastern Spirit Facility 2-48-B down to the requisite level of mundanity. Despite all attempts at what we like to call ‘Glenordification’ we have been left with no alternative but to shut down production for a few months so we can really get on top of the situation.” 

Efforts to bring the level of flavour in the distillate under control have variously involved tearing out the old cast iron intermediate spirit receivers, battering the wort to death with distiller’s yeast, placing a ‘wax filter’ on the spirit safe, smothering the new make in first fill, palletised bourbon barrels and playing Barry Manilow albums extremely loudly in the warehouse. Lance Jabberwocky further explained:

“While all of these efforts have made some level of contribution towards personality eradication, they have not quite thus far been able to fully bring North Eastern Spirit Facility 2-48-B in line with the same kind of success we’ve had at North Eastern Spirit Facility 2-48-A, or ‘Teaninich’ as I believe it was once known by the locals. Before we fed them all to Ivan Meneze’s lizard children.” 

Lesser distillates succumbed swiftly to such torture.

Lesser distillates succumbed almost instantaneously.

The new period of silence at Clynelish will be used to add lots of nice shiny stainless steel, give everything a good scrub down with caustic soda and wire brushes and have the Diageo efficiency stormtroopers carry out a thorough appraisal of the plant. Lance Jabberwocky said while goading himself into a state of extreme arousal by rolling naked in piles of efficiency charts and spirit quotas:

“We’ve got our work cut out but we’ll get there eventually. After this it’s just Lagavulin and then ‘Vanillarisation’ will be complete. Then we can begin phase II of Operation Deathmouth and… I’ve said too much!”

It is almost complete...

It is almost done…

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Each tin of wax contains a proportion of the gunk from Clynelish's low wines and feints receiver.

Each tin of wax contains a proportion of the gunk from Clynelish’s low wines and feints receiver.

The vast and intricate minds behind the Johnnie Walker brand have announced a new stealth device for tagging and identifying hipsters. The device – cunningly disguised as a Moustache Wax – will be initially distributed in the Hipster nucleus of Shoreditch. It is hoped that as the Hispter mating season reaches its peak that the wax will naturally ‘rub off’ onto adjacent Hipsters as they attempt to exchange bodily fluids and peacock their increasingly obscure music tastes.

Oscar Ocaña, Johnnie Walker’s director of great ideas said:

“On the surface it smells quite nice and they think it will enhance their Johnnie Walker Red with ginger and lime. But the secret pheromones mean that in reality large, sexually angered dogs will attack them.” 

They'll all have erections.

They’ll all have erections.

Oliver Kermit, the self-appointed saviour of whisky, said while buying his seventeenth round of drinks in New York:

“At first I thought that someone at Johnnie Walker had actually thought some kind of scented, branded moustache wax was actually somehow a good a idea. But then it struck me – the ingenuity of it all – this was no cheap, eternally laughable gimmick worthy of being mercilessly shat upon from a great height – this was a masterstroke of hipster baiting. Something I personally am all for, especially since hunting gypsies with guns became so unfashionable these days. Now, who wants another drink, I’m buying!” 

The great postage stamp investment boom of 2015 has made proper coin for some of the trade's more serious players.

The great postage stamp investment boom of 2015 has made proper coin for some of the trade’s more serious players.

Oscar Ocaña added:

“It’s funny how so many people thought it was just some embarrassingly cheap stunt of such epic crassness as to cause John Walker to rotate in his grave fast enough to tear an inter-dimensional fissure in the fabric of reality. But of course we’d never do something like that. No, this cunning move is just the sort of brilliance you have come to expect from the people that brought you this…”

Genius unbound...

Genius unbound…

Hestor Tunbridge, some hipster cunt from shoreditch said:

“O M G. Johnnie Walker Moustache Wax!? I must go back to my bedsit and write at least three ironic songs about it on my ukelele!” 

 

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To celebrate international whisky day, Whiskysponge has managed to secure a rare interview with the drink itself.

Whiskysponge: Hello.

Whisky: ….hi

WS: So…how are you?

W: Ok, I suppose. I’ve been blended a lot lately and left to sit around in Asian warehouses for quite some time which is undeniably testing but there’s not much to be done about that so I probably shouldn’t complain.

WS: Right…

W: What exactly is a ‘whiskysponge’?

WS: Well…I absorb you I suppose.

W: I see. Couldn’t you just drink me like everyone else?

WS: Well I’m a non-human, partially metaphorical construct. And also I don’t have lips.

W: I don’t have lips either and I’m also a partial metaphor.

WS: So are we going to struggle to conduct an interview in the traditional question and response mode?

W: Well let’s find out but can we make it snappy because I’ve got to be nosed and tasted by a significant number of people today so I’m really quite busy.

WS: Yes of course, sorry. Where exactly are you from Mr Whisky?

W: I’m sorry but why do you assume I’m male?

WS: Just the thing to do really; a bit like God I suppose.

W: Well I can assure you that I am a thoroughly genderless liquid.

WS: Right…sorry.

W: And what’s more – despite all this ‘Angel’s Share’ and ‘Devil’s Cask’ pish – I remain thoroughly agnostic. At least until the Pope and Richard Dawkins agree to participate in an unnecessarily violent bar brawl whilst reeking of me to determine the ultimate existence of any deity or higher form of being.

WS: Ok, well I don’t think we need to involve a third potentially metaphorical construct, certainly not one as flamboyant as God at any rate. So, where are you from ‘Whisky’ ?

W: I’m from Scotland, Ireland, Japan and most of North America but I also have a little Indian, French, Swedish, German and Australian in me. Not to mention a family tree that stretches quite far back to ancient Chinese, Persian and Egyptian cultures. Although, I was a different sort of character in those days mind you. All fireworks, eye shadow and surprisingly few parts per million phenol.

WS: How would you define yourself these days then?

W: Well ever since I graduated from 13th century monastic brewing culture I suppose I just sort of stumbled into being a malt based distillate. I used to be all about clarity and herbal infusions and providing methanol-induced infertility – but since I got into wood ageing I’ve never really looked back.

WS: Is there a particular age you enjoy being bottled at?

W: To be honest I don’t really have a preference. It all depends on what kind of mood I’m in. Sometimes I just feel like I’m five years old and I want to run about the place being totally off my tits on wood sugars, being lively as fuck and bouncing off the walls. But then there are more melancholy or pondersome days where I would really just rather lounge about from the ages of twenty to forty and be kind of relaxed and mysterious. Usually I’m quite happy to just flop along in a slightly adolescent ‘hands in the pockets’ ‘I’m off to develop an obnoxious taste in music’ teenage fashion.

WS: And what about when you’re bottled without an age?

W: Do you mean when I’m ‘NAS’?

WS: Yes.

W: Well – now I know people are getting their knickers in a twist over this lately – here’s the thing. I’ve actually been bottled as NAS for well over a century now. Even if you put blending aside – that’s another thing, I really don’t like it when I’m forced to share a room with my rather uncouth sibling Grain. But I digress, even just as a single malt I was bottled without an age statement ever since people stopped guzzling me direct from wooden transport casks in Victorian ale houses. I don’t really mind being vatted together and bottled as NAS, it can be a bit of a mind-tangling girofuck at times but it’s generally ok in principle. It’s just that there’s a rather disconcerting trend of giving me silly names and ever sillier price tags all the while hiding any real information about what I really am. Do you ever have those days where you just feel like you’re loosing your identity a little bit? It would drive me to drink but what does an alcohol do to drown its sorrows I ask you?

WS: I’m not sure there’s an answer to that. Is that what makes you such a caustic and edgy sort of character then?

W: Well, having said all that I suppose what irks me most is the things I’m forced to wear nowadays. I used to be kind of left to my own devices in some lovely, rather tasteful little refill hogsheads but now its all ‘vanilla’ this and ‘coconut’ that and ‘extra matured’. I hate vanilla, it really is such a vulgar flavour and yet that’s all they ever seem to dress me up in these days. Sometimes I just look in the mirror and I’m like’ give me some fucking minerals Goddamn it!” And I’m forever being evicted, just when you get comfy and settled in onc cask some burly men come and upend you into some horrid and completely overactive new cask. I barely ever have time to pack up my hemicellulose from my old cask.

WS: Do you want a tissue?

W: No. Why?

WS: Well it’s just that you’re crying?

W: Metaphors don’t cry!

WS: Right, of course, sorry. Where do you see yourself in ten years time?

W: In ten years time? Well, it’s hard to say, it really depends on what my commitments are abroad. Apparently they’re having some sort of issues with me when I’m blended where there’s rather a lot of me and sales are ‘stagnant’. If that keeps rumbling along I suppose things could get more relaxed for me when I’m in my native malty format. I’d quite like that to be honest, and my sibling Grain is managing to keep itself pre-occupied these days, hanging out with David Beckham all the time. If things kick off again though then it could all go tits up and I’ll just spend all my time being made in only four different distilleries by 2040.

WS: You mention your sibling Grain, has there been a long history of sibling rivalry between you?

W: No not at all. For a long time Grain and I were really just there to be blended for mass market consumption. Not an ideal situation but that’s just the way things evolved – bloody capitalism! It’s only recently that Grain has been getting all up in my face and being like “Look who’s the big important grain based alcohol now! I’m getting bottled as single cask and everyone loves me.” And I’m totally like “Whatever, they only pretend to love you because they can’t afford me anymore darling!”

WS: Do you have a favourite distillery to be made at?

W: Well I’ve never really enjoyed the distillation process at Mortlach or Springbank, it always feels like I’ve been on a particularly boke-inducing roller coaster going through all those half-distilliation bits and pieces. And don’t get me started on Glenmorangie, it’s basically a very very long uphill hike, the view at the top is undeniably pleasant but you’re only there for a few seconds and then BOOM you’re condensed again. I don’t mind being Clynelish but I’m not sure the wax is really good for my hair.

WS: Can partial metaphorical constructs have hair?

W: I like to think I have hair.

WS: Ok….but any distilleries you actually enjoy…?

W: Hmmmm, I used to very much enjoy being Laphroaig and Bowmore back in the 60s. Short stills, no rush, and so much tropical fruit I was getting well over my five a day at the time. I also always used to have a soft spot for being Speyside because I could sneak off and have a nap. It was great until someone ruined it with Michael Owen. Now I have to go and be Loch Lomond whenever I don’t want to be noticed or disturbed.

WS: What is your relationship like with other spirits?

W: Well when I’m young I don’t really get on well with any of them, although as I get older and wiser I suppose that I get closer to Rum and Brandy and we tend to get on a lot better together. Don’t get me started on that trashy slut Vodka though, and I can’t understand a word that Tequila says. I have always had a secret youthful soft spot for Mezcal but it is eccentric to say the least.

WS: What about wine?

W: It’s a tricky one. Sometimes I have to share a cask with that poncey bitch and it really is the roommate from hell but at other times there’s a grudging respect for one another. The best of times is where someone consumes a large amount of both of us over one night. We kick up a right storm then, it’s undeniably hilarious.

WS: How do you like to relax on your time off?

W: Oh, a nice big refill european oak butt with plenty of leg room, a quiet coastal dunnage warehouse and the chance to just catch a few decades of me time.

WS: What advice would you give to people interested in getting into you?

W: I’m a chilled out kind of drink, no need to be afraid of me or treat me with too much reverence. I enjoy a laugh as much as the next grain based, wood aged distillate. Sure I can be a complex character at times but I’m easy going and open, and if you take the time to get to know me we can have a lot of fun together over the years. Just remember not to take me too seriously.

WS: Nice.

W: Well that’s what it says on my Tinder profile anyway. Took me fucking ages to think that line up!

WS: Any luck with Tinder so far?

W: Mmmm, not really. Got a match the other day but I told them the story about how Jim Murray once had sex with some brazillian half-wit over a cask of me in a warehouse and I haven’t heard from them since.

WS: I’m sure you’ll find someone sooner or later. Maybe just don’t lead with that story next time.

W: I’ll bear it in mind.

WS: So what’s next for you Whisky and how will you be celebrating your international day?

W: I’ve got a busy year – particularly on Islay where I’ve got to be a bewildering amount of special Ardbeg and Laphroaig in a couple of months, I’ll have to work on my peatiness for that and probably go to the gym as well. Other than that just the usual crazy running around doing lots of day to day being whisky stuff and a few special events where I’ve got to be lots of older bottlings at nerdfests. Did you know that once a year in Limburg a load of Germans wear me round their necks in little tasting glasses on string? I mean it’s all well and good being a lovely old 1965 Longmorn but I have to dangle between a pair of sweaty German man boobs for hours on end. It’s a tough metaphorical existence sometimes I tell you!

WS: Ok. And what about International Whisky Day?

W: Well it’s all undeniably very flattering, it’s so nice to get all that attention and be enjoyed by so many people.

WS: What about your memories of Michael Jackson?

W: It was always a pleasure to be tasted by Michael, he really got me. Not to mention the fact that he was a great friend to my cousin Beer, especially when it was going through a period of time when it really had very few friends.

WS: Anything else you’d like to add?

W: Not really, I think we pretty much covered everything.

WS: Great, thanks for taking time to speak to Whiskysponge.

W: My pleasure.

 

Merry International Whisky Day from Whiskysponge. Xxx

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Today Whiskysponge is pleased to offer an exclusive guide to whisky investment by Jasper Clementine, the beloved Brora hoarder, convicted moustache nurturer and writer of award-repelling personal online whisky stream of consciousness: whiskybling.com.

Jasper as a young pineapple at Umbongo University.

Jasper as a young pineapple at Umbongo University in 1978.

Wow. Thanks to Whiskysponge for such a great opportunity to write something I had always been meaning to witter on about on whiskybling but just never found time and also the general crappyness of the website is an obvious hinderance which really says long. Anyway (cut to the chase Jasper!) here is my kind of crappy guide to whisky investment which I’m sure someone who is a professional and not just some total amateur such as yours truly will really be able to come along and do a much better job of (Japer it’s really time to leave that poor bush alone). Here we go…

Jasper’s Guide To Whisky Investment

Step 1… First thing you need to do is get interested in whisky in about 1998.

Step 2… Be intelligent.

Step 3… Start two internationally successful marketing companies in the early 1990s.

Step 4… Buy a lot of bottles of Brora, Clynelish, Lagavulin, Bowmore, Talisker, Laphroaig, Caol Ila, Port Ellen, some Macallan, many old blends such as Mackies and White Horse, some Longmorn, Highland Park and numerous other excellent Speysiders and Islays.

Step 5… Put them in an underground bunker next to some old Joni Mitchell CDs, a Ducatti, a VHS of Frank Zappa in concert from 1974 and more broken watches than is strictly necessary.

Step 6… Hide everything amongst about 3800 half empty sample bottles.

Step 7… Avoid inviting Scottish people to any birthdays/bar mitzvahs/funerals/distillation parties/pet funerals/graduation ceremonies/dinner/halloween/fancy dress parties/acid trips/cocktail afternoons/coffee mornings/grouse shoots or wine tastings.

Step 8… Leave to marinade for upwards of a decade and then post photos of yourself drinking them on the Malt Manaics Facebook page until 6000+ whisky geeks crowd fund you to stop torturing them.

Step 8… If further funds required sell the Brora 1972 Rare Malts to engineers looking for fuel capable of breaking the land speed record.

Alternatively you can sell everything at auction. Here are my latest notes on selling bottles at auction.

At first you find small bids on bottles with a big emphasis on the peat such as Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Talisker but there can also be surprises in the form of Ledaig and after a while even some Mezcal. The whole is very gripping and engaging right from the start where prices really start to open up and rise once you give it some time. Zzzz zzzz zzzzz… right where are we? Wow! The Highland Park and the old Glen Garioch have really exploded with some very clear top bids. Quite incredible the way it holds your attention. Lets add some job lots…. with job lots you have all kinds of prices really starting to make the whole kind of complex and difficult to follow. It really starts to diversify in quite a bizarre but captivating way. We like mucho this style of auction at Whiskybling towers.

In the mid-auction straight away you have the impression with this amount of time that the Cognacs, Rums and Whiskies are really beginning to converge which can really happen with these spirits if they are given sufficient time in auction I find. You really get similarities between them becoming quite apparent. Now out of nowhere BAM: aged Tequila, just coming through in small bids here and there, totally unexpected. But overall it is the peaters that you really get the feeling are finally beginning to dominate, all these big bids on aged Port Ellen, vintage Laphroaig, rare Brora; it’s really quite a showstopper towards the finish.

The finish is now really long – there are STILL people bidding – it really fades and fades quite beautifully…especially as it is my bottles that are being sold. Quite astonishing in the finish really. All these little fluttering bids of Longmorn, Strathisla, old herbal liqueurs, aged Pinot Noir and even something of Gentian eau de vie. Finally wet dogs (I’m sorry Pongo, we didn’t mean to sell you).

Winnings: 98/100 bottles sold!

 

 

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