Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Glenlochy’

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…

Read Full Post »

Crofters planting potatoes on the Isle Of Skye.

Crofters planting potatoes on the Isle Of Skye.

There has been much speculation surrounding the elusive idea of whisky and terroir. Raw evidence for an influence of terroir on the flavour of whisky is usually sought from the density and mineral content of water, the locality of barley or the microclimate and location of maturation. Yet these remain at best intangible aspects of terroir’s influence on whisky and, in some cases, easily dismissible ones. Despite this though the sense of location, geographic and geological identity in a glass of single malt remains a powerful one. How often have we fallen in sway to the little organoleptic rhythms of the sea or the forest floor; the farmyard and the industrial? In one sense these can be easily dismissed as the willing mind being swept off on its own emotional current; how easy we let the whisky and laughter rise up to meet the falling night. I believe, however, that there is an argument for a genuine relationship between whisky and terroir, a palpable influence of the land upon the distillate. It is one that begins a long time ago and is subject to a far wider set of influences than we often consider or allow for.

What seems like an ever more worrisome number of years ago, when I was in my fourth year of film studies at university, we did a module entitled ‘Scotland On Film & TV’. It was an enlightening trawl through the catalogue of ways our land in Scotland has been committed to celluloid over the past century. The physicality of the land, its beauty from a distance; framed and decked out in crisp edits and sweeping panoramas. The Scottish land itself has increasingly – much like the female body in film – been feminised and objectified. Controlled, sliced up and boxed away as an ornament to be gazed upon by a dislocated spectator. What is so often presented is the outsider’s view of Scotland; the viewpoint of Victorian romanticism filtered through a lens cap of tartanry. Throughout the twentieth century this trend in spectatorship of the Scottish landscape has been latched at the coattails of modernisation, an increasing domestic quality of life and a steady rise in living standards. To the point that our homegrown – and external – filmic perspective of our native landscape also captures and defines our changing relationship to that land.

Crofter.

A Crofter

The modern era of whisky was born out of a culture of crofting, illicit distillation and smuggling that was rife throughout the late eighteenth century in Scotland. It was a time when the highland population of the country was far greater than it is today. This was a time before the clearances when whole families and villages were forcibly dragged from their land and consigned to far flung corners of the earth. The only witnesses to the scavenging and subsequent slow decay of their dwellings being the sheep installed in their stead. It was a time before vast swathes of the population were drawn down by the magnetising promise of work in the industrial heartland of Glasgow and other central population areas. People lived and died by the land, they crofted and farmed, they fished the seas and the lochs and prized from the forests what food and materials they could. There were the landed gentry who attempted to mould the land around them in their estates to their own idealised perceptions of ‘the Highlands’. But for the many life was hard and short, not the tweeness of tartanry or the cailyard. For the people of rural Scotland living in the dwindling days of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth the land meant the stinging cold of mire and bog, it was aching walks up steep and muddy hills. It was sequestering the arable earth for potatoes and grain from oncoming banks of bracken and it was the lash of wind and rain. How many of them looked upon the undulating roll of distant and beautiful hills when their backs were bent to the tending of their own precious patch of the same earth.

Not a Crofter

Not a Crofter

It was these kinds of people that actually physically made whisky. The first wood-matured distillate that we would recognise as such today. Throughout the 19th century the industry flourished, the arrival of the column still and the widening of Victorian economic horizons laid the foundations of blending. Yet all the time the actual whisky was still made by these land wrought people. These were people who had distilled illicitly not only to make money in the winter months from excess grain but because it gave them a route to intoxication. A brief but powerful and heady respite from the hardships of life and the un-compromising nature of the land itself to which they were beholden.

The methodology of production from this era that lasted almost unchanged until around the early 1950s also allowed a clear window of influence upon the character of the distillate itself by the men that made it. Barley was turned by many hands on malt floors along with the peat and anthracite which was shovelled into the kilns to dry it. This process varied from day to day depending on the people working and how many sizeable measures of new make spirit they had been moved to guzzle; either by want or – sadly in so many cases – by need. The slow running of the mash tun and the draining of a clear wort followed by physical removal of the draff and the careful beginning of a beer yeast induced fermentation. There would follow temperature and gravity checks over days before the transfer to the coal fired stills. Fires would be stoked and raked back and forth beneath the stills to rally or settle the boiling distillate within. The proximity of these men to the production process allowed for a far greater – conscious or unconscious – influence on the character of the distillate produced. The arising question to which an answer will probably be ultimately elusive is to what extent did the influence of these men’s rural, land-centric lives manifest in the manner in which they made whisky and their attitudes to it? What is more clear – at least to me anyway – is that for so long there was a palpable influence of the terroir – ‘the land’ – on the character of the whisky. It’s just that its influence was transferred and regulated via the men that lived in such vital union and proximity to that land.

From the early 1950s to the late 1970s the vast majority of the Scotch whisky industry was modernised. Tantalising glimpses of global sales prospects necessitated in the minds of the accountants the need to make more whisky more quickly. Science provided in the form of steam heating, shell condensing, ever higher yielding strains of barely, more efficient equipment and – perhaps most crucially of all – the development of distillers yeasts. Those that still remained on the old ‘inefficient’ model, were the first to go with the decline in the 1980s: Glenugie, Glenlochy, North Port to name but a few. The emphasis of the alteration in character of Scotch Whisky in the latter twentieth century is often laid perhaps too heavily on the shoulders of methodology though. This was a time of social upheaval, the rural population of Scotland dwindled further and although life could still be tough by today’s standards things were changing and improving for people in all parts of Britain. The introduction of the welfare state and the NHS had lead to a gradual improvement in health, wages increased and living standards went up with them. Ultimately peoples lives in Scotland receded further and further from the land. People could suddenly afford the unnecessary and the luxury. As many bought cameras and put pictures of their land on their walls, so the ornamentation of the landscape entered their homes. Homes which technology and economics had enabled people to render as ever more effective shields from the land itself. It was as if the people who lived amongst it began to awaken to the aesthetic of the places they had lived and worked for centuries. A collective, perspective altering step back was underway socially just as a mass move across many distilleries towards creating more distance between the worker and their product was also being implemented.

Sadly missed.

Sadly missed.

So we find ourselves where we are today. We live in economically troubled times and there are those in all our countries who struggle and who seek meaningful employment. Yet in Scotland you can drive across the landscape. Along open roads we’ve painstakingly lain and carved out of earth and rock to marvel at all the beauty safely behind the comfort of a windscreen. Even the remotest homes have broadband, digital television and technologically induced domestic comfort. We are connected around the world with each other and can order food and goods to our front door without leaving the sofa. It is the ultimate taming of the land and also the beginning of the final disconnection from it. Whisky is now made more efficiently than ever by fewer and fewer people; we have reached the point now where the majority of distilleries are factories making high yielding, good quality uniform spirit all year round. The emphasis on distillate is now mostly outstripped by a focus on the power and increased activity of wood. The ideas of terroir in a classic sense are easily dismissed when the water is boiled and filtered to great extent and the barley might come from Scotland one week and Russia the next. Yet to taste a Laphroaig 10 year old bottled today and one bottled in the 1960s – or indeed any official bottlings of the two eras should you be fortunate enough to do so – you cannot help but notice the great alterations that have come to pass.

I believe the influence of the land can be felt in whisky made a number of decades ago but I believe it was an influence borne and filtered through the people that had to co-exist so closely with the land and who made the whisky within its confines and borders. The rise in global economics that forced an alteration to its production also ushered in a distancing between people in Scotland who made it and the land they lived on. We have all undergone a softening of our collective character out of increased privilege and security, we all stand and reach high from the shoulders of the suffering of others that went before us. We live in the most privileged, exciting and terrifying of times in human history and whisky is in a mad and gleefully blinkered dash into the future along with the rest of us. 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. As someone who believes in the idea of a society that champions equality and wellbeing for the many not the few but who also laments the drastic alterations to the character of whisky over the past decades, I find myself in something of a quandary over the issue. Could the whisky industry have evolved along a route more akin to that of French wine whereby single malt was the main product and each distillery’s make was marketed and sold as a distinctive whisky of that location and producer? Could we have thus developed a system where the blending of different distilleries produce was the junior product to single malts? I’ll leave you to grapple with the rather pointless but entertaining historical what ifs of that possibility. 

I believe there is still great whisky being made today and for me there is still no other drink which reaches quite the same depths. Although I know that when I taste an old whisky, the likes of which is now extinct, it is a heady cocktail of joy and pathos. It is also one of gratitude for the people that lived harder, shorter lives than mine. Although it is highly doubtful that they knew it at the time, they left a legacy of liquid that speaks loudly of their lives and the land with which they lived so closely; that’s the kind of whisky that goes deepest and grazes the soul. 

Read Full Post »

With the whisky industry grappling with the fast paced and ever evolving modern world in an increasingly ungainly and haphazard fashion – not unlike a drunken homeless man wrestling with a large angry pig – there are some fascinating and unusually difficult to believe developments afoot in 2015.

It's a visual metaphor.

It’s a visual metaphor.

January

Loch Lomond distillery releases long awaited Croftengea ‘Isotope’. A special radiation-themed NAS edition produced using barley grown at Sellafield. Distillery manager Edwin Custard said through one of his seven mouths “It’s a remarkable product and we’re all very proud. Kevin the distillery cat can leap directly through walls now. And it’s quite easy to find in the dark.”

First dedicated Ardbeg release of 2015 ‘Ardbrogue’ hits shelves in the Distillery’s bicentennial year. Ardbrogue comes in a dedicated shoebox presentation case with bespoke leather fixtures, a special Ardbeg-branded manure removal spike and brown glass nosing shoe. The release comes with the typically nauseating tagline: “Come take a smoky tip-toe through the peat beds with us in our historic year”. The whisky comes from the same random cask, age non-specific vat that they used to make Ardbog, Ardbeg Day, Kildalton, Rollercoaster, Auriverdes and Corryvreckan. Everyone complains about it while simultaneously desperately seeking a full case like Indiana Jones looking for the antidote in the opening scene from The Temple Of Doom.

Give me the ARDBEG!

Give me the ARDBEG!

February

Diageo releases a special app that allows angry single malt nerds to wake Nick Morgan up in the middle of the night with loud, self-righteous questions about caramel and why Haig Club isn’t a 1966 Glenlochy instead of a grain.

Whisky Magazine accidentally prints an article criticising Talisker Storm. The following issue is a 137 page apology.

Dangerous increase in number of novelty releases aimed at cashing in on Valentine’s Day is matched by annual rise in number of jokes on Malt Maniacs’ forum about ‘Valentin’s Day’.

March

Jeanette Krankie becomes new face of Auchentoshan leading to the sharpest drop in sales since Ian McGollum once drunkenly admitted to dipping his testicles into every 32nd cask to leave the filling store.

Noel Harrison and Joel Snedley launch new TV series on Sky Hipster. ‘New Age Statement’ follows Noel and Joel on their escapades as they travel the length and breadth of Shoreditch drinking traditional Diageo products and recounting tales of their days working as stunt doubles on the latter-day series of The Chuckle Brothers. Don’t miss episode three where Noel is devastated after he accidentally leaves home without his polkadot riding cravat and Joel, realising his best chum doesn’t possess the correct dress code, has to try and get them both into the new trendy nightclub – Twilight Moussakka – by sheer ingenuity. Eventually the doorman agrees to let them in if Joel will stop giving away free copies of their books to passers by. Directed by Darius from Pop Idol. Featuring music composed by Noel on his 1968 Mk IV Mellotron with additional whistling by Joel.

To me, to you. Noel and Joel back in their hey day.

To me, to you. Noel and Joel back in their hey day.

April

Jasper Clementine is exposed for accepting bribes from private collectors to publish low scores for old bottlings on whiskybling.com. Jaspergate carries on for several months involving seven lawsuits, thirty seven ticketed tastings and the publication of at least three tell-all biographies.

Owing to an increasing glut of single grain whiskies and diminishing amount of single malts on the market, the Malt Manaics change their name to the Cereal Killers.

Jude Law watches that advert for Johnnie Walker Blue Label that featured him gibbering on a yacht and dancing like a pillock and publicly commits suicide as a result.

It was the only honourable thing to do.

It was the only honourable thing to do.

May

Ardbeg and Laphroaig celebrate their Bicentenaries at the 2015 Feis Queue on Islay. Laphroaig unveil a brand new visitor experience where visitors to the distillery can be locked in an active kiln without breathing apparatus and not be allowed out unit they have eaten a large bowl of the drying malt and three whole bricks of peat. Anyone that makes it out without pleading and banging on the kiln door like a spluttering ball of cancer will be given the opportunity to buy a bottle of the special festival edition Laphroaig Carcinogen. Meanwhile Professor Jill Bumsden appears on the Graham Norton chat show and unveils jokes that many in the media describe as ‘older and more offensive than Prince Philip’.

Queue watchers beginning to appear at Islay Festival.

The new queuing system at Lagavulin in operation.

The new queuing system at Lagavulin in operation.

June

Glenlivet distillery begins exponential expansion of production which is matched by exponential decline in visitor centre hospitality. The skill of making whisky that tastes like depressed grass is honed to a fine art.

Ailing micro-distillery Abhainn Dearg on the Isle Of Lewis attempts to boost its fortunes with the launch of officially branded selfie-sticks.

Jim Sweep is hospitalised after attempting to operate an espresso machine while under the influence of several gallons of  Pina Colada.

July

M$rcin Mi$$er, head of Number One Drinks sells his last cask of Karuizawa and reveals from a massive cage full of money on board his all powerful sky blimp that there never was such a whisky as Karuizawa and all the casks he’s been selling for gazillions over the past decade have been cask strength Bovril he’s been re-distilling in his shed in Norfolk.

‘Tropicana’, an epic four hour long biopic of Bessie Williamson is released in cinemas world wide. Tropicana is directed by Peter Jackson with an estimated budget of $250 million and featuring an incredible motion capture performance from Andy Serkis in the lead role of Bessie. Described by Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian as “…a completely unashamed orgie of direct fired distilling, deep cut peat burning on explicitly shot traditional floor maltings with glaringly naked wooden washbacks slowly fermenting throughout. I exited the cinema feeling as though I had been swathed in Umbongo and Lilt by a hebridean chemical wizard.” The Daily Mail described the summer blockbuster as “…better than that communist, pinko filth The Angels Share but not as good as Taken 3.” Tropicana also stars Hayley Joel Osment as a young John Campbell and Samuel L Jackson as Marcel Van Gills.

That is a TASTY Laphroaig!

That is a TASTY Laphroaig!

August

To celebrate over 600 videos and reviews posted online, a special back to back screening of all Ralfy’s vlogs is arranged by Scottish Screen. A plaque is erected three weeks later to commemorate those who died during the event.

Jan Birch, Speyburn’s inter-galactic brand soothsayer and gatekeeper of the world renowned Drumnadrochit Gay Highland Resort, is finally promoted to distillery manager. He immediately marshals his workforce and begins an aggressive military campaign against all other distilleries in the Speyside area. Within a fortnight Glen Grant, Glenrothes, Macallan and Strathisla have all fallen, been renamed Speyburn and have quadrupled their production capacity. The Spey Hordes are eventually driven back by the Allied Distillers who unite to defeat Jan Birch’s unquenchable thirst for Speyrian Supremacy. He receives a written disciplinary from Inver House Distillers the following week.

September

Dominique Miraclegrow accidentally becomes leader of UKIP.

All Scottish ‘craft distilleries’ decide that their production processes are so identical that they can safely have a nice game of musical distilleries.

Whyte & MacKay is finally sold to Monsanto provided that Dalmore not be included in the sale on ethical grounds.

October

All the bottlings of Hanyu and Karuizawa bottled in those comedy neckless decanters that people were paying over £1000 a bottle for throughout the past two years are starting to evaporate at an alarming rate.

BIlly Walker confirms he fucking hates Benriach as the latest batch of single casks once again reveals perfectly delicious mature single malts that have been mercilessly butchered to death in some fetid and pointless wine casks like unwanted, mewing kittens tossed into a lake in a stone laden cloth sack. This latest batch of once beautiful whiskies features Shiraz, Tobasco, Irn Bru, Ice Wine, Chardonnay, Vodka and Smoked Twiglet finishes.

November

Dark Molesty performs an eighteen hour live version of Whiskyshaft direct from his bedroom featuring interviews with fictional whisky characters in his head and a thirty seven minute segment of him screaming furiously at an old snow globe demanding it answer his questions about the merits of wheat in the Buffalo Trace mashbill. The episode features at least five instances of Dark rendering himself accidentally unconscious, one of hour of live weaving and a particularly sinister segment where Dark simply eats his way through forty eight old Ardbeg Committee newsletters while providing live tasting notes. The March 2004 issue scores 94/100. The programme is listened to by almost nine people.

Diageo announces the 2015 Special Releases and their accompanying price tags:

Lagavulin 12 year old : £90

Caol Ila Bawsack Unpeated NAS : £85

Brora 37 year old : £1950

Port Ellen 35 year old 15th Release : £2300

Mannochmore 22 year old rejuvenated european oak hogsheads : £350

Talisker Hurricane NAS 63.8% : £675

Glenkinchie 28 year old Cognac double matured : £480

Singleton Of Dufftown 12 year old finished in the empty casks of 1960 Malt Mill that were accidentally drowned in a batch of Johnnie Walker Premier five years ago : £13,000.

December

Jim Murray announces his number one whisky in the world for 2016 as a direct tie between a 1965 single cask Laphroaig and a 3 year old Luxembourgian single maize whisky matured in a 12 litre heavily charred Retsina cask in a lockup on the outskirts of Junglinster.

Oliver Kermit takes an annual trip to the UK and publishes a 37,000 word blog post about everything that is wrong with British food before completely fucking loosing it and going on a rampage with a crossbow in a Luton branch of Marks & Spencer wearing nothing but a hastily constructed Bratwurst sporran.

He didn't even wait for them to cool down before putting them on!

He didn’t even wait for them to cool down before putting them on!

That’s it for 2015!

Whiskysponge hopes that you all enjoy yourselves over the New Year and don’t forget to make audible your disdain for any of that ‘drink responsibly’ shit. Please also make sure you remember that whisky is a pleasant and rightly passion inspiring drink but in no way should you fall into the trap of believing this somehow gives you the right to spout ill conceived, opinion inseminated drivel on facebook or twitter about it.

If in doubt just remember that ultimately your existence and the existence of all those you have ever known or loved – all humans that will ever exist and all that they achieve – is destined to slowly fragment into an unimaginably thin scraping of photons, positrons, neutrinos and electrons across the vast universal toast of eternity.

So stop getting all worked up about NAS and just enjoy a cuddle or a log fire.

Read Full Post »