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Posts Tagged ‘Diageo’

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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The visitor centre will be under the 7th slate from the left…

It emerged last night that Diageo will imminently launch an online crowdfunding campaign to buy the soon to start Dornoch Distillery. The new start up is a tiny, family run operation which has made a point of highlighting its old style production techniques, focus on quality and flavour over yield and efficiency and freedom from external market influences. Jeff Voldemort – Diageo’s head of hope and dream extinguishment – said:

“All this buzz about old style, character driven production ideology has got us all really jazzed up here at Diageo HQ. This is exactly the sort of project that we would love to acquire. So I’m pleased to announce our new crowdfunding campaign to enable us to buy the distillery before it begins production.” 

Crowdfunding project manager Dorothy b’Aguette said:

“There will be a multi-tier approach to our crowdfunding initiative. For £1000 you will get your own photograph of a cask for your Facebook profile and a bottle of a special limited edition brand with a label featuring a Camel riding a segway while listening to a gramophone through iPod headphones. For £500 you will be allowed to take an annual selfie with the Brand Wizard (£50 Skype supplement). And for £100 you will be allowed to apply for a £25 per month subscription to our new ‘Staves Like Us’ Dornoch Distillery lifestyle magazine edited by someone.” 

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Distillery workers in 1950 proudly displaying their IWSC Gold Medal trophy for that year’s special NAS ‘Castle Winds’ release. The bottling would later prove a big hit at the 1951 Limburg Whisky Show.

The Dornoch Distillery is scheduled to begin production this summer and will focus on producing an older style of whisky with low-yielding but flavour rich production methodology. It will be run by twin forest children Tom Simonson and Phil Level. Tom Simonson said while surreptitiously ordering a shipping container full of Mangos from Ebay:

“Something tells me we will be successful. A couple of months ago my girlfriend and I had a baby. When she gave birth a Unicorn came out. I’d say that demonstrates the sort of creative aptitude that you need for whisky production.” 

His brother Phil Level added:

“This is the sort of localism driven project where the means of production remains resolutely in the hands of the worker. For a long time I was adamant that it should be called Proletariat Distillate Facility SD-1, but my brother refused and Jeremy Corbyn was too busy so we went with Dornoch Distillery instead. One of my first acts as chairman of our local distillatburo will be to develop a special distillery salute. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to further redden these trousers by Friday!” 

Diageo’s chief of poignant inevitability, Dr Keith Moreau, said:

“This is obviously a wonderful project for us. Hopefully we can acquire it before it begins production, or – even better – before any of the equipment arrives. That way we can perhaps acquire a few extra hectares of the surrounding land and instal about seven extra stills, an eight tonne semi-later mashtun and maybe some steel washbacks. With a brand like ‘Dornoch Distillery: The Home Of Old Style Whisky’ you’d be really missing a trick to not make at least seven million litres of the stuff per year.” 

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The Scotch Whisky Arseociation have revealed a new ‘flavour-led’ geographical categorisation of Scottish whisky for 2016. The map – which took over nine months to develop – was designed by a team of more than thirty of Edinburgh’s finest marketing undergraduates and anyone else who was willing to work for no money. It details the various regions of Scotland by dominant ‘house character’.

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The SWA’s director of dream trampling – Murdo McClafferty – said:

The old ‘region’ thing is so 2003. There’s ne’ery a bawbag in all o’ Scotlandshire that ken’s his Lowland from his Highland these days. This is a bold new vision of Scotch Whisky for 2016, it’s rad, it’s here, it’s potent, it’s sexylicious and it’s now! And, let’s be honest, it’s pretty accurate… hashtag bravenewscotland hashtag tartan hashtag sexy hashtag map hashtag whitwegonnaedaewiawthatvanilla?!?

 

 

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January

Annual tombola held by all major distilling companies to decide who will get to use the following names on their bottlings this year: ‘Founder’s Reserve’. ‘Small Batch’. ‘Special Edition’. ‘Limited Batch Release’. ‘Traditional Reserve’. ‘Master Distiller’s (insert nonsense here)’.

Speyburn Distillery’s chief Mouser, Murdo The Salmon Defender, assumes new identity and begins gap year abroad in France.

"What I do: I do for the Clan!"

“What I do: I do for the Clan!”

February

Scottish Government declares national Bell’s Decanter armistice. Anyone still hoarding/collecting these vile affronts to human civilisation to be offered free mental health treatment and special drop off points are set up across the country where people can deposit their collections. Large men from the council will be sent round to bag them up at the end of the month and have them melted down. During the armistice several men are tazered by police for suggesting that the 1988 Christmas edition is ‘worth hanging onto as it’s still hard to find’.

March

Glenlivet distillery finally completes phase three of it’s ‘Global Dominion Protocol’. The number and location of stills is now the correct amount to generate a cyclical wormhole in the Spirit Receiver. All new make spirit is sent through this intergalactic portal to another solar system in a far-flung galaxy where the unusual properties of gravity on a local planet create a time lapse whereby the spirit can age for three years in new american oak and then be returned to the re-connecting stargate in the new onsite bottling facilities. Only moments have passed on Earth but the spirit is legally whisky and sufficiently flavoured with wood extracts to be labelled as Founder’s Reserve. Sith Lord Alan Winchester said of the development:

“We had a bit of trouble at first convincing the SWA that the particular solar system several billion lightyears away was still technically Scotland, but we sent Alex Salmond through with a flag and that seemed good enough for them. It’s a bit like the film Interstellar except instead of Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway debating the universality of love inside a spaceship, it’s Ian and Jimbo arguing over which Pot Noodle to have for lunch.”

Glenlivet is made by a dedicated team of people who need a job, they drew straws to see who would have to go through the wormhole and work in the filling store. Big Kenny drew the short straw and described the experience thusly:

“It’s nae bad oan backshift like but it’s mair’n five billion parsecs away. That’s like gettin’ snarled up in Nairn oan a Friday afternoon ken!”

As this photo from 1903 shows, not much has changed at the Glenlivet Distillery. Apart from the buildings, the layout, the equipment, the number of staff, the materials used, the production process and the flavour of the whisky. Apart form that it's pretty much the same as it's always been.

As this photo from 1903 shows, not much has changed at the Glenlivet Distillery. Apart from the buildings, the layout, the equipment, the number of staff, the ingredients, the casks, the production process and the flavour of the whisky. Apart from that it’s pretty much the same as it’s always been.

April

Gaspar Noé decides to use the Limburg Whiskyfair as a key location in his new film. The film is titled ‘Blowhole’ and is a 140 minute, single shot epic set entirely in a vast gay orgy and shot in excruciating detail. The film will star Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirk Douglas, Will Ferrel and Oliver Kermit with a score by Bruce Willis. Gaspar said of the movie and his choice of location:

“The film is very much a continuation of the theme of human sexuality and cinematic honesty which I began with my previous film ‘Love’. I wanted to show the beauty and cerebral majesty of two large German bears rimming each other as if they were desperately seeking the keys to unlock them from some sort of hellish torture nightmare from one of the ‘Saw’ movies. The way whisky lovers feverishly engage with their tasting glasses in such sweaty, almost unbearable conditions really reminded me of this so I felt the Limburg Whiskyfair would be an ideal location. Also, the changes needed to make it seem like an actual gay orgy are so minimal that it is hugely beneficial to the budget. 

On casting Oliver Kermit:

“Basically I wanted a real performer, someone intimately connected with the real environment in which we were shooting and given the amount Oliver talks about ‘sausage fun’ he seemed like a natural, boundary-straddling choice. I did explicitly warn him that his role would involve large amounts of un-simulated, gay intercourse with the 99 year old Kirk Douglas but he said that was the only reason he agreed to be in it.” 

It'll make a nice break from all of this sort of stuff…

It’ll make a nice break from all of this sort of stuff…

May

David Beckham relinquishes his role as brand ambassador for Haig Club and is replaced by Luis Suarez.

Haig Club: The whisky that bites!

Haig Club: The whisky that bites!

Diageo human shield Dr Nick Morgan welcomed the change and said:

“The bite mark means that the bottle is now five centilitres smaller than before which is not only financially lucrative but an extremely strong sales pitch as customers are far more inclined to buy one when they realise there won’t be so much whisky to drink.” 

June

Lagavulin Distillery celebrates its bicentenary despite the fact all the bottles used to state ‘founded 1742’ for many decades. As well as a special bottling featuring the names of as many past mangers as they can remember etched into the bottle, they will celebrate by discontinuing the 16 year old and replacing it with an NAS version. Whoever it is that’s managing the distillery these days said:

“We’ve already started digging the foxholes and putting up sandbags and machine gun nests.” 

July

Dark Mollesty records a special episode of Whiskyshaft in which he interviews himself. The episode is 340 minutes long and features such highlights as Dark challenging himself to a duel and the bit where he interviews himself in character as footballer and Spey ambassador Michael Owen and ends up falling in love with himself to the point where it becomes – in Dark’s own words – ‘audibly erotic’.  Also, don’t miss the final harrowing two hours where he refuses to answer one of his own questions. The episode ends when Dark performs a citizens arrest on himself after his own repeated attempts to justify scoring Johnnie Walker Gold Label 95/100.

Lets play guess the sound effect…

Lets play guess the sound effect…

August

John Glaser feels that Compass Box’s sales are hitting a bit of a slump so creates another illegal label for one of his whiskies and reports himself to the SWA again.

September

Butt Plug packaging now at critical levels in the whisky industry. Consumers have been hit throughout 2016 with releases such as Glenbungrangie, Arsebeg, the Springbungk, Bungrow and Hazelbung ‘Bungletts & Kilplugins’ series and the notorious North Plug Bungin bottled for Dubai Duty Free. Highland Park bears the brunt of the blame for their King Christian bottling. Brand ambassador Ardvark Martinhardbung said of the bottling while bench pressing an entire stow of recently filled sherry butts:

“So, it turns out people are against the whole butt plug in a box with a stupid name, no information about the liquid and a price tag of €5000 thing. To be honest, I am sympathetic. We do have other butt plug bottlings planned but I think we’ll just sit on them for the time being…” 

Apparently people think it's silly…

Apparently people think it’s silly…

October

Diageo unveils their 2016 Special Releases. The UK launch event is a 24 hour rave in a field just outside Knebworth. Highlights will be a huge marrying tun full of punch housed in an acid tent curated by Colin Dunnage and featuring some of this year’s special releases poured into a trough with Listerine, Irn Bru, Prosecco, Cherry Cola, Bovril, Cuppa Soups and Goldschlager. Invited guests will also be able to have a stab at smoking crack before trying their hand at clay pigeon shooting using bottles of Smoky Goat and Boxing Hares with Caroline Martin. The stand is called ‘Shooting Crack & Crap With Caroline’. Elsewhere at the event Dr Nick Morgan and Jim Beveridge will be handing out free poppers and Es before laying down a three hour cover of Maggot Brain and busting into an epic, all night techno battle. Jim Beveridge said of the launch event:

“As usual the most exciting bit will be the tweet deck!” 

Kill them! Kill them in the face with a gun! In the face!

Kill them! Kill them in the face with a gun! In the face!

November

Disaster Of Malt begin to run out of stock to re-bottle so a second subsidiary company is launched that they can pretend to have nothing to do with just like all the others. The subsidiary is called ‘The ReBoot-Iquey-Whisky-Company’ and specialises in offering extremely limited edition re-bottlings of Boutiquey whisky co bottlings. Elf Benderson, head of Disaster Of Malt (or ‘Molecule Provisions’ or whatever it says on the invoices) said:

“Now you can re-enjoy all your old favourites. Ardbeg Batch 2, Miltonduff Batch 1 and – who could forget – Macallan Batch 3!” 

The labels will be re-printed over the top of spare labels from the original bottlings and will be comprehensively illegible.

December

Serge Valentin is arrested by Interpol on charges of ‘wilful manipulation of the international Speyburn index’, ‘blatant fibbing on a whiskyblog’, ‘outrageous scoring of Speyburn on a whiskyblog’ and ‘being a bit too French’. As he is dragged kicking and screaming from his swimming pool while desperately attempting to delete his internet browsing history, Interpol agents reveal to the world’s media an unfathomably large hoard of Speyburn bottlings in the ancient catacombs of Turckheim beneath Chateau Whiskyfun. Interpol refuse to give too much away about their source but refer to their informant by the codename ‘Agent Aston’.

Evidence! Filthy, filthy evidence!

Evidence! Filthy, filthy evidence!

In other, completely unrelated events, Speyburn’s chief Mouser, Murdo The Salmon Defender, returns from his gap year abroad with 70 cases of assorted vintage Riesling and Vin Jaune, a tart flambee oven, a portable alambic still, three Ducatis, the Légion d’honneur and a selection of very obscure Jazz albums. He is given a heroe’s welcome and a jeroboam of Bradan Orach.

Vengeance is sweet!

Speyburn wouldn’t melt in his mouth!

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Once upon a time there was a malt based distillate named Whisky. Whisky lived in Scotland, it did have various family members scattered about the world but for the purposes of narrative efficiency Whisky lives in Scotland. It was very happy with its life in Scotland, it was made from barley malted on long, cool malt floors, finely milled and slowly mashed before being fermented in large wooden vessels over several days and then distilled carefully in flame heated copper stills by Scottish men who looked about 25 years older than they actually were. Finally, whisky was laid to rest in hefty oak casks where it would slumber quite contently for several years at a time – or longer – in big, pleasingly dank, earthen floored warehouses.

Life was good for Whisky, it was full of ups and downs and the ups always seemed to balance out the downs. For every drunkenly abused housewife in some grotty tenement there was moment of great kinship forged by siblings or friends over a few drams. For all the sore heads there were moments of great mental nourishment and whisky-fired intellect. And for all the excess there was appreciation and love.

Life continued in this fashion through the decades for Whisky, it dawdled along contentedly, it began to be appreciated around the world but its heart remained in Scotland. But then, the 1970s arrived and something sinister began to happen…

Him

…ok, so a lot of sinister things happened in the 1970s. But something else was happening, Whisky began to feel strange things happening all around it. One night, while sitting in a bottle in an office in London, Whisky met the accountant. “What are we going to do with you Whisky?” said the accountant. Whisky wasn’t sure what to say at first, not least because it was a metaphorical construct and not used to being directly addressed by men in suits who weren’t dishevelled, weeping and had recently visited a prostitute and/or been fired. “What do you mean?” ventured Whisky, “Drink me seems the obvious answer here?”

“Well, of course you would say that.” mused the accountant, “But what are we going to do about you? Of course we want people to drink you – I mean goodness me they’re clamouring for you, in just a few years you should be the toast of the globe. But you’re just too damn pesky to make? Too slow, too expensive. What can we do about that?”

“Well, I suppose I could ferment a bit quicker if you like?”

“Ah, ok, I like it…and?”

“And? Well… I could possibly be made from different barley or sleep in more active casks. But – to be honest with you – I’d really rather not.”

“Ah come on now Whisky.” Said the accountant draping an encouraging arm around Whisky’s bottle which looked really weird. “You’re a tough entity, you’ll be fine. A little tinkering here and there won’t change you. And besides, we really need you to take one for the team on this one, come on, things will be good all round for everyone – including you. Just think of all the people that would get to enjoy you if we could just make a bit more of you.”

“I suppose…” mumbled whisky while really trying to evade the accountant’s armpit.

Things got strange for whisky after that meeting. It began to feel rushed, then soon exhausted. Began to loose weight and not long after caught sight of itself in a glass and saw a shadow of its former character glistening back. Things continued in this vein for quite some years. By about the year 2000 Whisky met its good friend Wine at some sort of very strange party in a small village in Alsace. Whisky found itself nestling in the cold winter air on a little table in some guys garage. Beside it stood a large trough of something called ‘foie gras’ which turned out to be a kind of cement for gluing internal human organs together. Someone placed a big bottle of Riesling down next to Whisky. “What’s the matter whisky, you look pretty dishevelled.” enquired Riesling with a sturdy, Germanic lilt. “I’m just not feeling my usual self lately, I’m exhausted and they make me wear this really heavy suit made out of oak.”

“Man, that sucks. What are you going to do about it?”

“I don’t know there’s not much I can do.” said Whisky morosely. “Ah nonsense, you just need to go find the Whisky Wizard, meet your maker and have your complaint heard.”

“But how do I do that?”

“I don’t know, but it sounds like you could have a highly amusing adventure trying. Anyway, you’ll have to excuse me, I’m about to be ingested by some exceedingly stereotypical French people.”

From that moment onwards Whisky decided to set off on a mission to find the Whisky Wizard. It would be a great search, far and wide across mountains, valleys, oceans and forests. Through cities dark and deep, across vast, endless plains. Or at least it would have been if Whisky hadn’t bumped into the Whisky Wizard in a hip flask on a Grouse moor the following morning.

“So you’re the Whisky Wizard?” enquired Whisky of the sharply dressed gentleman. “Ah, no, I’m afraid I’m the Whisky Walrus, you’ve got me confused with someone else. My name’s Rory, but we do already know each other rather deeply I must confess.”

Rory the Whisky Walrus. Just add whisky to activate.

Rory the Whisky Walrus. Just add whisky to activate.

“Oh, right. Yes, come to think of it rather a lot of me has been intimately acquainted with you over the years. Do you know where I can find the Whisky Wizard”

“I’m not so sure I do, who is this Whisky Wizard of which you speak? Are you sure you don’t mean that outfit David Stewart wears when he reads Harry Potter?”

“No, I’ve been told to find the Whisky Wizard, that only he can help me with my predicament.”

“Whatever is the matter Whisky?”

“Well I’ve just not been feeling myself these past few decades. I’ve been run down, out of sorts, all vanilla and no soul.”

“Ah, well I didn’t like to say but I had noticed something was up. I’d say that you really don’t need to see this Whisky Wizard but rather take the matter up with someone really influential who can fight your cause for you.”

“Like who…?”

At which point, completely out of nowhere and totally uninvited this chick just shows up…

Ho ho hold me back!

Ho ho hold me back!

“Whisky! You seem like you’re in vogue and have a cause! Lets work together, you and me, I’m Victoria by the way, lets get things going. What you need is a charter, that and I should probably be in a position of power. Perhaps minister for Pubs or Chief Gynaecologist to Nicola Sturgeon. That would help you along your merry way, I’ll get this sorted, just you leave this to me. I’ve got you covered, you can trust me. Just sign this charter!”

“Fuck off!” said the Whisky Walrus, although Victoria appeared not to be listening. “Yeah listen we need to galvanise the young drinkers, get the world involved, sort out those English bastards and get you in some seriously sexy cocktails. Perhaps glass is so last tuesday, plastics where it’s at! Lets sort this, together we can fight off the Japs and the Yanks and the Irish and the Mexicans and the English – did I mention them already- and the Swedes and…”

At which point in the proceedings Whisky just gave Victoria a massive amount of cash and this seemed effective at making her go away…

It's a highly effective strategy.

It’s a highly effective strategy.

Whisky was forlorn now. It felt sadder and more lonely than ever, even though it was now a rather large multinational product it felt cold, clumsy and superficial – like penguin in high heels.  Whisky was all but lost when two almost interchangeable figures appeared before it. “Who are you guys?” asked Whisky disinterestedly.

Good luck with the whole sleep thing now.

Good luck with the whole sleep thing now.

“We’re Noella and Joella – the evil step sisters.” said Noella and Joella the evil step sisters in chilling unison. “We’re here to help you Whisky.”

“Ok, you’ll forgive my reticence but it’s just that I can’t help noticing you referred to yourself as the ‘evil’ step sisters.”

“That’s right, we ARE the Evil Step Sisters. But we are still here to help you.”

“Is there any chance you could stop speaking in perfect unison, it’s not really helping with the whole ‘evil’ thing.”

“Ok, fine.” Said Joella. “Tell Whisky why we’re here Noella.”

“Whisky, we’ve heard about how fed up you are. What you need is a concrete brand implementation and awareness strategy. You need to be out there, focusing on your core message and structural brand diffusion across key markets. You need to embrace the flavour-led, innovation and concept driven delivery system of our branding strategy and you need us on your side and on your telly. No messing about here baby, one horizon at a time. Now can we take a selfie with you?”

Whisky, who was temporarily incapacitated by the full force of their clothing, groggily agreed to their suggestions and decided to go along with their ideas. That is until Noella and Joella presented Whisky with their bill for services which included several hair cuts, a subscription to ‘The Chap’ magazine, fourteen Space Hoppers, a novelty Christmas jumper, an early 1970s Moog synthesiser, enough personal lubricant to slide an elephant through a windsock and several copies of ‘How To Rim Friends And Take Selfies With Z-List Celebrities”.

“Look girls, I know you mean well – even though you do call yourselves ‘evil’ – but I think I just need to figure this one out myself. Besides, I’m exhausted by all the marketing. I think I need to just continue my quest for the Whisky Wizrd.”

“Oh you don’t need the Whisky Wizard.” Said Noella, “What you need is the Whisky Santa. I can even introduce you, he’s in my band, Prince AbuDhabi And The Hipsters.”

“Well that would be nice, although is he not exceptionally busy right now? What with it being Christmas eve and all?”

“Oh it’s ok, he works for Diageo so he has a number of subordinates to control and manage all festive retail-based gifting processes.”

With that Whisky and the Evil Step Sisters parted ways and Whisky soon found itself in the company of the Whisky Santa himself, drinking Whisky in the form of a Lagavulin 16 year old and tuning/fondling his guitar.

Come and sit on Santa's knee little malt based distillate...

Come and sit on Santa’s knee little malt based distillate…

“So you’re the Whisky Santa?” enquired Whisky cautiously. “Yes, I am. Although if you want a Whisky themed Christmas present it will have to be a Diageo brand.”

“It’s ok, I am Whisky so I kind of have it all covered really.”

“What seems to be getting you down then?”

“Well, I just feel rubbish, I don’t think I’m as good as I used to be and I’ve been looking for the Whisky Wizard but no one seems to know where to find him and apparently he can fix everything for me. But to be honest all I’m feeling is frustration and despair. And I’ve had no time at all to do any Christmas shopping which is also annoying as the shops are like the Somme at this time of year.”

“Well, I can tell you for one thing that the Whisky Wizard does not exist. Just like Jesus and actual Santa – or indeed your own consciousness – they are all loosely constructed metaphors given shape by legend, human imagination and our own very real and desperate need to find meaning in this unfathomably complex, terrifying and exhilarating world. And when we cannot find that meaning we compensate by constructing our own or  transposing it onto pre-existing entities and ideas.”

“So, you’re saying I’m not real so I should’t worry?”

“No, you’re pretty much the manifest anxiety of all the people who genuinely care about whisky and want it to be as good as it could – and probably should – be.”

“Right. Shit! That’s a lot to take in on Christmas eve, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to enjoy the Doctor Who Christmas special tomorrow any more.”

“The important thing is to find the glimmers of hope, like this Lagavulin 16 for example. For all the Talisker Storms and Glenlivet Founder’s Reserves there is still this Lagavulin 16. I made a big effort to make sure this stays where it is and wasn’t replaced by some faceless vatting of 5-10 year old. It’s a small battle won in a much bigger fight but it matters.”

“So what’s the answer. If I’ve been forged into reality from the mental anguish of all the people that decry falseness, arrogance, laziness, self-brainwashing and lies in whisky then wouldn’t that suggest that the war is lost. That whisky is dead and I am but it’s ghost?”

“No, I wouldn’t say so. I’d say – if you’ll permit me to use your Doctor Who reference for a moment – that all you need is a new lease of life, to regenerate and be harnessed by new people with better ideas and real interest. It’ll take time but you’ve been around for a long time. You’ll still be here for years to come, and even if vast oceans of you are little more than vanilla dosed, neutral spirit, there will always be the small resistors. The ones who stand firm against the tide of acquiescence to deluded market self-interest.”

“Hmmm, I suppose I feel a little better. Although I’m still not sure how I feel about not really actually existing.”

“Just think how Jesus, actual Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost, Death, Satan, Jill Bumsden, Zwarte Pete and Jonny Five from Short Circuit feel.”

“So what do I do now, it’s Christmas Eve and in a minute you’ll be off somewhere else and I’ll be all alone again.”

“I suppose you could think about all the places you’ll be spreading joy this time of year, all the people that will be raising a glass of you with friends and family, all the people you’ll be consoling, bringing out of their shell, adding the warm icing to a night of festivity. All the special bottles getting cracked open, all the company they bring together around you, all the flames of wit and warmth that will be ignited by your enigmatic spark. You’ll be in their company just as they will be in yours, and always have been.”

“Well, when you put it like that, I suppose that’s not too bad. Merry Christmas Whisky Santa.”

“Please just call me Nick, it’s getting weird. And I should probably go before someone comes in and finds me sitting in an empty room talking to my glass. Again!”

********

Merry Christmas Humans!

 

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A small man from England has purchased some shares in Crown Royal it has emerged. The man – a professional Ewok impersonator from Surrey – was drawn to the attention of parent company Diageo the other night while attempting to purchase ‘at least 90% of the company’.

The man has a keen eye for a good investment.

The man has a keen eye for a good investment.

Speaking through a three-day old glaze of his own sweat the man said:

“I just sort of had this feeling it would be a safe investment, you know. And considering I’ve been putting all my money into Scotland for years and years with sod all to show for it I’ve lately been thinking it’s time to diversify internationally. Last year’s acquisitions in the Japanese prune juice sector have proved exceptionally lucrative so I thought Canada might as well be tasty wee number for my portfolio this year.” 

He added:

“It’ll go nicely along side that vast swathe of the tar sands I bough a few months back. Just as well considering my Ewok work is drying up these days – it’s all fucking R2D2 with this generation! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m the most important man in the universe – those tour guide’s arses aren’t going to grope themselves!” 

Some faceless puddle of matter from Diageo said:

“Money. Money make nice things. Make nice whisky words. Money make words make more money make talky talky chat chat make internet space fill up make silly head brains think whisky good make buy buy make money money in nice me me tummy tummy. Me like money. Me like make sell nice whisky taste of money in face glass fizzy fizzy money willy cash bukkake golden poopoo money spunk. Put special money poo into nice cash mouth push in hard money go plop from ears and noses. Money blumpy money blumpy money blumpy. Flush….alt….delete….end programme.”

It added:

 “But we didn’t pay him, obviously.” 

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It is time...

It is time…

And lo winter is upon you. The world turns and the night rises in hunger to gobble your days at both ends. The air takes upon itself the keen chill of steel, it nibbles roses into cheeks and draws your breath in wreaths.

Yet about you scurry – another dweller in the freezing northern wastes. Catching the comfort of some condensation-dampened bar like the muggy twinkle of old tinsel in half-forgotten memory. Your friends – both real and imagined – huddle with you; witnesses round the campfire of your foaming ale. They are comrades in your endurance, drinkers from a fellow mulled cup. While outside lies only cold and darkness, furrowed by the brightly strewn viscera of festive retail, the lights of which burn as coldly as the darkness they percolate. And so you step – a sorrowful leap of faith – from the precipice of autumn into the long arms of winter.

So, with that in mind why not chase away those winter blues with Whiskysponge’s second collection of 40 fun facts about whisky.

You’re welcome!

1: Did you know… Whisky was invented in 1836 by Bruce Forsyth.

2: Did you know… The newly expanded Glenlivet Distillery was based on the novel 1984 by George Orwell.

Founder's reserve, double plus-good!

Founder’s reserve, double plus-good!

3: Did you know… The first whisky in space wasn’t Ardbeg, it was actually a large measure of Dalmore Cigar Malt that someone accidentally put in their mouth and promptly spat into orbit.

4: Did you know… The Islay Calmac Ferry has a small boat constructed entirely from spent grains from the Islay distilleries mash tuns. It’s called a ‘Lifedraft’.

5: Did you know… Ralfy is actually a Druid.

6: Did you know… Speyburn distillery is home three exceptionally frisky Salmon called Alvin, Simon and Theodore and they all have their own offices.

7: Did you know… Nikka have forgotten they own Ben Nevis Distillery on at least nine separate occasions.

8: Did you know… Donald Trump tried to buy Karuizawa Distillery and rename it Trumpruizawa but he was defeated in an arm wrestle by Marcin Miller.

Remarkably little upper body strength.

Remarkably little upper body strength.

9: Did you know… Scientists predict that by 2082 all remaining stocks of Drumguish will have to be contained within a tungsten-carbide exo-shell with a protective anti-matter outer core if we are to prevent the formation of a black hole here on earth. Or a Boutiquey Whisky Co Drumguish bottling – the jury is still out on which would be worse.

10: Did you know… The 1976 erotic Japanese/French art film ‘In The Realm Of The Senses’ was based on some early tasting notes of Hakushu 18 year old by Jasper Clementine.

11: Did you know… When Edradour Distillery failed to clean out their Low Wines & Feints receiver for seventeen years in a row, when they finally opened it up they found they had created Kanye West.

Part Ballechin. Part Edradour. All twat.

Part Ballechin. Part Edradour. All twat.

12: Did you know… The Auld Alliance in Singapore is predicted to be a Nuclear power by 2018.

13: Did you know… You can build your own blazing oil well at home by burying a super-soaker loaded with Loch Dhu in the ground and setting alight its subsequent jet.

14: Did you know… In less than five years time 90% of all whisky retailers will be older than 90% of the products they sell.

15: Did you know… Bowmore Distillery are hosting a new reality TV show in their Number 1 Vaults warehouse called ‘I’m A Whisky Nerd Get Me Into Here’.

16: Did you know… Noel & Joel are to have their own TV series in 2016. It will be a one-off special loosely based on the Hunger Games only with fewer winners.

17: Did you know… The upcoming Dornoch Distillery will be built entirely from Lego and be run by cats.

Mr Pushkin - the new Distillery Manager - describes his approach to whisky making as both 'aloof' and 'food centric'. He also hates lego.

Mr Pushkin – the new Distillery Manager – describes his approach to whisky making as both ‘aloof’ and ‘food centric’. He also hates lego.

18: Did you know… The novel Finnegan’s Wake was actually written by Allwind Kilt when she spent an entire month in the shower while stricken with the Norovirus.

19: Did you know… The architect Charles Doig released a string of wax cylinder recordings of rap, r’n’b and dubstep works which were surprisingly unpopular in their day. His effects laden, multi-tracked rendition of ‘Kilning My Phat Pagoda Bitch’ is now recognised as an early masterpiece of the trance genre.

20: Did you know… Brewdog are widely expected to place a competitive bid to buy Diageo in February next year.

21: Did you know… Dark Mollesty – presenter of Whiskyshaft – was created when a waxwork of Captain Haddock was struck by lightning.

22: Did you know… Jill Bumsden’s White Paper was recently used by Jordan to blow Peter Andre’s nose after he had a tantrum in Lidl.

23: Did you know… A new film adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles starring all the employees at The Whisky Exchange is currently in pre-production. It will star Willie Bishop, Dr Chilton, Andy Pandy and Rocky V as Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo and Leonardo respectively. The role of Master Splinter will be played by Enrico Linguini, while Berlinda and Raj will play Rocksteady and BeBop. The film will be directed by Dame Maggie Smith with a score by DJ Tim Forbes and is scheduled for release in December 2016.

There is still some contractual grumbling over who gets the most lines.

There is still some contractual grumbling over who gets to do the big soliloquy at the end.

24: Did you know… Drambuie is actually Gaelic for Discharge.

25: Did you know… Tampons are still considered a taxable luxury item in the UK because the Scotch Whisky Arsociation still refuses to acknowledge the existence of menstruation.

26: Did you know… The film Avatar was shot entirely on location in Bruichladdich’s paint storage shed out the back of warehouse 12.

27: Did you know… Since the introduction of distillers yeast to whisky production on Islay in the 1970s cases of Scurvy have more than quadrupled due to the lack of fruit in the Ileach diet.

There's a distinct lack of this sort of thing these days.

There’s a distinct lack of this sort of thing these days.

28: Did you know… Fiddler’s Inn in Drumnadrochit was recently awarded the prestigious Golden Sting award by David Attenborough for its pivotal role in Wasp Awareness Year.

29: Did you know… Scapa Distillery was founded in 1885 and is widely regarded as playing a decisive role in France’s victory over the Chinese forces in Đồng Đăng in northern Tonkin during the Sino-French War. The fact that France later went on to claim victory over the Chinese at Kép the same year is also seen as no surprise whatsoever given the successful commencement of distillation at Scapa some weeks earlier.

30: Did you know… An Artichoke is anywhere between 30-34% Highland Park Dark Origins.

31: Did you know… The staff at Disaster Of Malt were the original inspiration for most of the puppets on Sesame Street.

32: Did you know… http://www.sausagefun.org by Oliver Kermit is the most accidentally visited whisky website on the planet.

It's the wurst kind of joke!

It’s the wurst kind of joke!

33: Did you know… Aberlour A’Bunadh is the only whisky legally made from cocaine instead of barley.

34: Did you know… Macallan’s new distillery will have a large toilet facility stationed over a huge pit containing a library of all their old bottlings so that visitors and staff alike can literally shit all over their legacy.

35: Did you know…  Diageo are getting quite close to just giving Victoria Barfly a lot of money to take her Scotch Chatter and ‘just go away’. they plan to later recoup their losses by crowdfunding her assassination.

36: Did you know… None of the staff at Bladnoch distillery have yet had the courage to tell the new owner it is not a yoghurt factory.

37: Did you know… Craft whiskies are mostly bollocks.

38: Did you know… The letters of last resort in Britain’s Trident nuclear submarines stipulate that if – upon surfacing – Lagavulin 16 year old and Talsiker 10 year old have both been replaced with NAS expressions the Captains are instructed to initiate total global thermonuclear war ‘on principle’.

The last Pete & Jack strip.

The last Pete & Jack strip.

39: Did you know… Jim Murray died in 2005 and Jim Henson’s creature workshop has been operating him around the clock 24/7 ever since. They even won several awards in 2010 for creating something ‘scarier than the Skeksis’.

Jim Murray seen here hosting a tasting at Whisky Live Damascus 2015

Jim Murray seen here hosting a tasting at Whisky Live Damascus 2015

40: Did you know… whisky tasted better when it wasn’t made by accountants who confuse efficiency with quality and ‘maturity’ with ‘vanilla’.

 

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