Posts Tagged ‘Old Pulteney’

Crown Royal Rye

I don’t particularly want to write a serious piece about this annual festival of inanity but I think the repetitive nature of these Jim Murray ‘Whisky Of The Year’ announcements and all the predictable blether they entail is becoming tiresome to satirise. The most glaring issue with the whole debacle is that there is no such thing as ‘the best’ whisky in the world, or even the best whisky of the year. The broad olfactory church of our collective palates ensures a vibrant and healthy disagreement over such matters between beginners and world class experts alike. Variety remains – at least for now – the spice of life and whisky.

Apart from this glaring flaw that too few seem willing, or able, to challenge Murray on, there is further devilment in the nitty gritty of the whole thing. Firstly, it is clearly a publicity stunt. Murray crowns some unlikely dram his whisky of the year, one that is certain to cause contention, debate and – most crucially for him – comment in the press in the hope that it will create a knock on effect on sales of his book. It’s a cynical marketing stunt that debases the whole point of his book and further cheapens the arena of serious whisky writing and analysis. Sadly the UK broadsheets seem only too happy to acquiesce and fill up a few inches with the juicy prospect of ‘Is Scotch On The Rocks?’ or some other turgid prattle.

The crux of the matter lies in his scoring. The 100 point scale is not without its critics but I am a fan of it and use it myself when writing tasting notes. I don’t want to dissect the arguments over its use here but I will qualify why I think it is a useful and worthy device. At its core the 100 point system is a communicative device that is very useful when proffered in tandem with a detailed tasting note. The best and most consistent use of the 100 point scale in whisky has been by Serge Valentin at Whiskyfun. Serge is clear in his notes why he likes or dislikes a whisky. Over the course of reading numerous entries a picture of his whisky preferences swiftly emerges – he is renowned for his enjoyment of distillate driven spirits such as older examples of Clynelish or Bowmore and is not enamored with whiskies that reek of wood technology or excessive wine cask finishing. This added layer of extra-textual knowledge when possessed by the reader arms the notes and scores with greater resonance and depths of information. As does any reference in the tasting note to a score given – either positively or negatively – for reasons that are technical over personal. Over time a level of consistency begins to build to the point that the score in and of itself becomes meaningful and weighted with relevant information. A reader can take note of the score in conjunction with the tasting note and – in light of their own preferences and how they compare with Serge’s – make a pretty good assessment of how much they might enjoy that particular dram.

It is this level of consistency which Murray’s work is utterly lacking. His apparently arbitrary scores for all manner of different styles of whisky that bear little or no correlation leave the reader with no real impression of where his personal preferences lie – apart from his oft touted tantrums about sulphur. The net result being the scores offered contain little or no real information or value. Apart from their usefulness as leverage devices in the generation of publicity and media hot air.

I admit I have not tasted this year’s winning whisky. I have however tasted a number of Canadian, American and European Rye whiskies and I find them somewhat inconsistent but the best of them can be excellent indeed. Even if I do not find some to my taste though, I can take an organoleptic step back and judge them within the framework of their technical merit. Their level of complexity, the relationship between distillate character and oak influence/flavour, their overall balance and so on. My struggle with these kinds of whiskies – and I mean in this respect all younger cheaper whiskies from all countries – is that they just cannot by their nature access the upper register of the 100 point scale. One of the great assets of the 100 point scale is that it allows room for all whiskies of all levels of quality. From utter swill to unequivocal masterpieces, they all have a place within its boundaries. I would argue that the kind of product Murray has just crowned simply cannot achieve a score of 97 without rendering the whole scoring process meaningless. It is not to say a truly great Rye whisky of sufficient craft in production, maturity and bottling care cannot achieve top scores but basic products of any style generally just cannot.

Coincidentally won just before a rather high profile re-branding. Something which only adds further layers of stink to the whole 'awards' process.

Coincidentally won just before a rather high profile re-branding. Something which only adds further layers of stink to the whole ‘awards’ process.

The same argument can be made with the Old Pulteney 21 year old he crowned whisky of the year back in 2012. At the time I made the effort to secure a sample and found it to be worth 89 points in my book, undeniably a delicious and very worthwhile dram that I have purchased in the past and in all likelihood would do again. But there is a massive chasm between 89-91 points and 97-99. Once you get past 92 on the scale each increasing point takes on a massive weight and resonance – beyond 95 and you are into masterpiece territory and very few whiskies get there. It needs to be an incredibly sparsely populated region of the scale otherwise you render the rest of the scale meaningless – just as you should find very few spirits inhabiting the 0-10 points sector of the scale. Murray has scored so many whiskies of wildly differing character and origin from 94-97 that there is just no merit to his scores any longer – or any real avenue into some deeper understanding of his own olfactory values or preferences. You can of course fall back on the old argument of personal opinion that I alluded to at the beginning of this article and you would be fair to do so but I believe that is an argument you can only pursue so far. The notion that a young, budget level rye whisky might sit alongside the likes of the 1967 Samaroli Laphroaig, or the very finest Willet’s Bourbon or a 1967 Karuizawa does a disservice to serious and well-intentioned communication about whisky.

There is much speculation about what Murray’s motives for this might be beyond the self-evident publicity stunt. Is it a rouse to get back ‘in’ with Diageo, is it a further snub to Scotland – a country where it seems he is increasingly considered irrelevant and rarely welcomed? His absence and separateness from the mainstream whisky world is striking. A lot of people don’t like him, they find his views and attitudes ridiculous, or his rules and regulations for tastings laughable, or they simply find him unpleasant. Personally, I find him curious, I disagree with much of what he says and find his Bibles to be stiflingly arrogant but perhaps, upon reflection, the whisky world is a little more interesting for his presence. I would love to interview him one day but I doubt he’d stoop so low. The basic concept of his book is a good one, it’s just such a shame that it is so inconsistent and meaningless that it does a disservice to whisky writing where it should be a beacon.

One of the more positive arguments for Murray is that he brings new people into whisky, and while fresh interest is important it does not mean we should settle for it being him, or the way he chooses to do things being the voice that calls them forward. Someone commented on facebook on the last Whiskysponge post on this topic ‘Haters gonna hate’. This response seems to me very much part of the problem here, Murray’s cynicism begets cynicism. His book is a source of contention and frustration amongst people that hold whisky closest. I – like so many others who vent spleen about his writings on social media – only do so because we truly love whisky and would like to see it better celebrated and more accurately represented. Likewise Canadian whisky deserves not to be used by Murray as a flag with which to fan the flames of his own publicity. It deserves a more honest and passionate route to wider appreciation and discovery – not as an incidental bit player in some wider beige, commercial machinations.

Canadian Whisky no doubt deserves better.

Canadian Whisky no doubt deserves better.

Anyway, the whole thing will now begin to simmer down and we can all no doubt look forward to revisiting and re-hashing this tired old debate in a year’s time. In the meantime we can all take solace in the whiskies we love with the people we love to share them with. The very liquid that sloshes through the veins of this somewhat pathetic story is precisely the liquid that will wash away the miles of digital ink it annually accumulates.

As for Whiskysponge: normal pisstaking will be resumed imminently.

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This month I'll be mostly drinking: whatever I can get.

This month I’ll be mostly drinking: whatever I can get.

It has been decided by the whisky industry that around 70% of whisky bloggers will henceforth be re-categorised as bribe units in recognition of their main function. In an attempt to throw some light on the matter Keith Centrifuge – former head of blogger manipulation at Shedringtone; now chief bribe unit orchestration officer – said:

“We thought it was about high time we stopped pretending that for the most part whisky bloggers aren’t just a bunch of vaguely useful publicity excreting freeloaders seeking free trips and samples in exchange for a digestible chunk of company arse-rimming verbiage that might result in the flogging of a couple of cases of NAS GlenGeneric.” 

It's like this but with fewer Euros and more whisky.

It’s like this but with fewer Euros and more whisky.

Bribe units have reacted strongly against the new reclassification with many braying loudly about their fierce independence and journalistic integrity. Speaking while sending his tenth batch of CVs that afternoon to any major whisky company he can think of; Nelson Noslen, who blogs at drambo:firstblog.org said:

“This is an outrage. I pride myself on my astute professionalism and thorough independence. Only last week when I was being ferried around several distilleries in the highlands with a group of fellow raconteurs and spinners of whisky literature such as myself, I very clearly remember saying at the time that I considered the Old Pulteney 12 year old a tad disappointing in comparison to the half-bottle of the new 35 year old I managed to quaff over lunch. I didn’t actually get around to writing that. In between the picture of me rolling a cask in my free jacket and scoring the new Balblair single cask 93/100 I just didn’t find the time.”

Former bribe unit Ethel Mauve, formerly of thedailysnifter.com said:

“It’s very sad that people don’t understand the true addictive qualities of being a bribe unit, if you go to my old whisky room its still jammed full of all the free shit I got from my days on the circuit. I must have an umbrella and a Glencairn from every operational distillery in Scotland. Thankfully with the support of my family and rehab I managed to knock it on the head. Although occasionally, just occasionally, I find myself in a pub drinking a whisky I really don’t like but subconsciously writing a gushing review about it on the back of a beer mat. These things never truly leave you…” 

There's only so many one person can actually need

There’s only so many one person can actually need

This reclassification was one of several options considered by the industry at large. Other titles considered were: Secondary-Tier Marketing Excretors, The Enslaved, Deluded Malt-Themed Jobseekers, Whisky Operated Interface Droids, Freeloading Gobshites, Whisky Selfies and Opinion Peddlers.

Long time London-based whisky blogger Declan Smith of dramsinyournose.co.uk said:

“I’ve been doing this shit for so long it’s getting embarrassing. Will someone just give me a fucking job already! If not I’ll have to write a fucking book or something. No one wants that! There’s only about four whisky books and they’ve all been written at least 37 times each. God help us!” 

It's kind of been done already.

It’s kind of been done already.


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It is time...

It is time…

With the publication of The Whisky Bible 2015 only weeks away the deadline for whisky companies to get their sealed bids in for an award is rapidly approaching. Awards up for grabs this year include:

Best Ardbeg or Glenmorangie Of  The Year

Best Other Whisky In The World

Best Whisky Made In A Yurt In Moldova That Is The Only Company Who Want Me To Come And Do A Tasting

Best Blended Whisky That I Was Hired To Create

Best Bourbon That Is Actually Identical To Another Bottling With A Wildly Different Score

Best Whisky To Drink While Wearing A Panama Hat

Best Whisky That Is About To Get A Completely Coincidental Re-Packagin & Marketing Campaign

Speaking while queuing at the bank to transfer large sums of money to several anonymous Swiss bank accounts, Jock Underback, head of bribery at Inverhouse said:

“Obviously it would be nice if we could repeat the success of the Old Pulteney 21yo from a few years ago but I hear there’s some pretty stiff competition this year. Apparently someone from the Shedringtone Group has offered him one of those motorbikes with three wheels that Billy Connolly drives on the telly!” 

He gave Arran Devil's Punch Bowl 82/100

He gave Arran Devil’s Punch Bowl 82/100

Genghis Batbayar, a nomadic Mongolian goat herder and part time co-author of the Whisky Bible said:

“It’s getting more and more difficult each year, there’s a team of around seven of us and Jim says we have to write about 1000 different tasting notes each in his ‘inimitable style’; he’s very precious about his ‘inimitable style’. The trouble is the amount of retro-editing depending on what bids are coming in. The other day we had the new Balvenie Single Barrel on 95 points but then someone from Highland Park rang up and offered Jim a set of comedy fridge magnets and free tickets to see Michael Bublé. We had to downgrade the Balvenie and put the Loki up to 96 but then William Grants rang up and said they’ve got an original complete VHS set of the Spike Milligan sitcom Curry And Chips with extra racist bits. It’s a bloody nightmare. We’ll have to introduce quarter points this year I think. Not to mention the fact that I’ve got to move a whole herd of goats from Bulgan to the Orkhon Valley by next Wednesday. Bloody typical!” 

He's always going on about how it's better than Fawlty Towers.

He’s always going on about how it’s better than Fawlty Towers.

Pierre Pringle, CEO of Dayglo Retard said while gazing longingly at a picture of a dead badger:

“He doesn’t know it yet but I’ve managed to secure Jim the part of Peter Dinklage’s stunt double in the next series of Game Of Thrones. Just you wait and see; this year will be Glenlivet’s year. Soon the world will know just how special and traditional our lovely Glenlivet 12 year old really is. They will all know the flavour of damp grass.” 

The producers say Jim has the requisite build but he can't do any of the sex scenes.

The producers say Jim has the requisite build but he won’t be allowed to do any of the sex scenes.

When asked by Whiskysponge journalists about the secret to her whiskies continued success in the Whisky Bible; Professor Jill Bumsden of Glenmorangie said while reclining in her chair and slowly crossing and uncrossing her legs:

“Jim knows he has to play ball if he wants the sugar…” 

It was just like this only with more pubic hair.

It was just like this only with a LOT more pubic hair.

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2015 will be available from Xhamster, Woolworths, Scientology, Marvel Comics, The Great British Bake Off, Al Jazeera, Dave’s Chip Shop in Doncaster and Gregg’s sometime before Christmas.

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'Pull my finger...'

‘Pull my finger…’

Jim Murray has admitted in a rare interview with Beer Matt Enthusiast Magazine that his notorious and vocal objection to sulphur notes in every single whisky bottled since 1971 was actually due to an excessive flatulence problem. Speaking to Beer Matt Enthusiast whisky correspondent Tessa Froth he explained:

“For years I couldn’t believe how widespread the problem had become, almost every whisky I encountered smelled like a skunk fucking a month dead badger full of rotten eggs. Even young, heavily peated Islay whiskies from refill wood had the aroma of a Glastonbury porta-loo. It was quite bizarre, naturally I immediately began a long and tedious campaign in my ‘books’ to thwart the scourge of these otherwise precious liquids. I didn’t really feel it was necessary to seek any information or alternative opinions as I’m a very busy man and I’m partially responsible for much of whisky’s success over the past twenty years. At least that’s what my Mum keeps telling me. So, anyway, it turns out that unebknownst to me I was just farting all the time during tasting sessions. Only last night I was routinely scoring a bottle of Whyte & MacKay 12yo 96 points when I suddenly noticed that I had let one rip, it was a real cheese cutter, put me right off my whisky so it did. Although I only happened to notice it because in this particular instance it actually dramatically improved the Whyte & MacKay.”

Gives you a pretty good idea.

Gives you a pretty good idea.

The news has come as a shock to Murray’s legions of admiring and loyal followers. All twelve of them met in a disused gasometer in Chiswick last night to discuss what this meant for them, their families and their future. Dorian Gartnavel, an overly-impressionable whisky-gathering buffoon from Dunstable said:

“He always used to fart during his masterclasses but we couldn’t point it out because, quite rightly, rule thirty seven on the back of the tasting attendance contract explicitly states ‘No talking or unauthorised opinions.’ We all thought it was just a funny, albeit very smelly, joke. He’s such a funny guy Jim, you’d really like him. Obviously I’ve never met him but I read his bible and do the morning prayers like everyone else. I ordered my signed copy from his website. It’s really a genuine signature, it’s even more special because he did it in crayon.”

takes minutes at last night's Jim Murray Appreciation Society emergency general meeting.

Dorian Gartnavel taking minutes at last night’s Jim Murray Appreciation Society emergency general meeting.

Speaking from the Whisky Live Moldova event yurt this morning Jim Murray said:

“I don’t know what all the fuss is about, this changes nothing. I hope you will all look forward with anticipation to the publication this November of The Whisky Bible 2014 Edition, sponsored by Gas Free X-tra Strength Oral. I can reveal this edition features a staggering collection of new tasting notes and reviews. Including the latest 21yo from Old Pulteney (96 points, slipping guys), and an exciting new feature on old and discontinued rarities (Glenugie Cadenhead’s 1959, 57 points, pure shite like). I would also like to point out that my latest side project book that I announced earlier this year, ‘Modern Whisky: A World Of Compost & Drains by Jim Murray’ is indefinitely on hold until further notice.”

Candice Fandango, Murray’s 25 year old Mexican girlfriend said:

“You’re all overestimating how much this will change things, I once put a bucket of kippers under the desk in his tasting room. They were still there a month later. At least I won’t have to wear breathing apparatus around the house anymore.”

Gordon MacGofer from InterGrouse Distillers PLC told whiskysponge journalists:

“This is a big relief, we didn’t mind paying him all that money to promote the Old Pulteney 21 year old but he insisted on going into the warehouses all the time and I think all the farting has damaged a considerable portion of our maturing stock. I heard he used to sleep in the warehouses at Edradour in the early 1990s. My worst fears are pretty much confirmed right there.” 

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