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Posts Tagged ‘Springbank’

Whiskysponge was supposed to write a preview of the Whisky Show 2016, due to a rift in the space time continuum, however, here is Whiskysponge’s preview of the 2116 Whisky Show. It will be of little use to you however, as the vast majority of you will perish agonisingly in the coming  global Climate Wars of the 2030s. Have a nice day.

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The venue for this year’s show will be the evocative, historic and beautiful wreckage plains of the 2069 series of Robot Wars. 

This year’s Whisky Show promises – in the words of The Whisky Exchange team – to be the best yet. An impressive feat as it will be the 107th consecutive year in a row that the show has been ‘better than the previous year’. Apart of course from the great Speyburn blight of the 2070s that we, of course, are no longer supposed to talk about.

This year is also important as it marks the imminent defrosting of Sukhinder Singh. Cryogenically frozen in 2076; scientists now finally believe they have found a cure for being ‘crushed repeatedly by a pallet of Boutique-y Whisky Company Batch 398 Drumguish’. The uploaded mind of Willy Bishop spoke to Whiskysponge about his feelings on the matter:

“Of course I am looking forward to the return of the Overlord. (bleepbleepbleepcoremeltdownimminent) In particular my favourite bit will be the decades long blood harvest retribution. (000011110011011101010101101111000) Some people say it was a mistake to have him seeded with sentient femto technology, but the instantaneous eradication of 98% of London’s Uber drivers was a small price to pay for that time he transformed Elixir House into a Borg Cube for my 83rd birthday.(111111humanfleshisagateway0010100110) Anyway, I’ve still got my memory loops crossed that he just wakes up and has actually become Zapp Brannigan. Chilton is already basically Kif. (bleeptheyhavebeenhereamongusformanyyears11111100000001111111errorctrlaltdelete)”

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Willy Bishop

To find out about some of the highlights of this year’s show, Whiskysponge caught up with the 135 year old Dr Chilton. We find him singlehandedly stocking the show shop at 3am the night before it is due to start.

“I’m hoping that now His Imperial Cask Strength Majesty will finally soon be awoken that I’ll be able to get a pay rise. I’ve been on £25,000 a year since 2011 without a raise. And Stirling isn’t even legal tender anymore. I have to take it to Schools and implant it into the Hatchlings memory banks as ‘historic artefact’  in order to get it converted to Quantum Groats. Thing is, it’ll fall to me to bloody tell him that his collection of 230,000 bottles of outstandingly beautiful old whisky all evaporated by the mid 2080s. Hopefully he can learn to love empty bottles…”

When pressed Dr Chilton said:

“This year The Distillery has kindly agreed to produce some exceptionally rare examples from the archive. The NicholasMorgan Hive Mind has spawned some 1970s White Horse Blend – with the extra vegetal old bottle effect enhanced by Bovril – and agreed to recreate the Lagavulin Matrix again – although the version with Pinky’s Warehouse Tour will cost an extra trillion quantum groats. And then of course there will be Professor Jill Bumsden’s head in a tank which show attendees will be able to skinny dip in.” 

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Sukhinder ‘Galactic Cask Harbinger’ Singh (left) and Dr Chilton (right).

Special bottlings which attendees will be able to download at the show are as follows:

The Distillery : Replicator Code 1164 : Glenburgie 25 year old

The Distillery : Replicator Code 2990 : Springbank CV style

The Distillery : Replicator Code 86 : Haig Club 2020 ‘pre-Lineker’ Beckham Era Special

The Distillery : Replicator Code 69 : Macallan Replica Replica Replica

Karuizawa 1983 Cask 84 Sherry Butt. (Note: this cask is being held in a pocket universe and may not be ready in time for the show. Please register in advance if you’d like to download a bottle. Anyone travelling from beyond the local Galactic cluster simply to acquire a bottle will be inverted into dark energy and placed in Universe 47b until the queue clears)

The Whisky Exchange’s Head Of Sarcasm and Brand Ambassador for the Quantum Entanglements Of Islay range, Limoncella Morano, said while gracefully pulling a fresh skin suit over her Plutonian steel synth frame:

“This year we really want to go back to our roots with the Quantum Entanglements Of Islay range. So we’ll be going totally retro and using a bottle that people can actually touch. Sadly my flesh-memory was unable to be harvested into my log drives after the Great Climate War of 2034, so we don’t really know what we were using prior to that date. So we’ve opted for a special presentation based on a nerve gas canister we found three feet down in DeathField 445/b – I believe it used to be called ‘Campbeltown’ – anyway it’s really great and even has a special app where you can chose how quickly the whisky inside evaporates.” 

Limoncella Morano added:

“Don’t forget to tell me how amazing my hair looks. Ciao!” 

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Limoncella Morano, pictured here without her skin suit.

This year’s guests of the show are George Grant, Charlie MacLean and Mark Watt. Guests are advised not to approach them as they have collectively drunk themselves to an isotopic half-life of over 2000 years.

Show masterclasses to look out for are:

1: The Thawing Of Sukhinder Singh. Presented by Elf Benderson of Disaster Of Malt. Elf plans to use a combination of vintage hair dryers, dark matter cocktail bitters and something called a ‘George Forman Grill’ to re-awaken His Vengeful Omniscience. Attendees will be able to download a special commemorative Boutique-y Whisky Co Singhle Malt replicated for the occasion by The Distillery.

2: Glenmorangie A Star. With Professor Jill Bumsden’s Head In A Tank. The Professor will guide us step by step through her special new creation. A remarkable new Glenmorangie matured in casks heavily toasted by exposure to the gravitationally suspended supernova of a collapsing Red Dwarf. The tasting was described by scotchwhisky.quark as “It’s always about fucking space with her!”

3: Past Masterpieces. This year’s headline tasting hosted by Dave Broom Version 3.8 Vista will offer attendees the once in a lifetime chance to taste some remarkably old bottles from decades gone by which showcase how whisky would have tasted to our forebears. The line-up includes:

Strathearn 3 year old

Ardbeg Rollercoaster

Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve

Octomore 9.0 McEwan’s Toothpaste Legacy

Daftmill 42 year old Inaugural Release

Door Knock Ginsky ‘Simon’s Revenge’

Little is known about these ancient and remarkable bottles. Tickets to this tasting are strictly limited and available only to beings of Dimension Five or higher. Six Quadrillion Quantum Groats per person.

 

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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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After the roaring success of Whisky Live Taiwan’s New Make Spirit masterclass with Noel Harrison and Joel Snedley – the ‘Chuckle Brothers’ of whisky – festival director Stefano Knotman has announced that next year’s festival will take place in a field in Scotland. At the time of publication the location of the field is yet to be announce but Betfred have odds of 3:1 on it taking place in Jim Murray’s personal Scottish Compost Heap just outside Musselburgh.

Mmmmmm…. Feints.

Mmmmmm…. Feints.

Speaking while crammed into a lift with fifty scantily clad Asian women specially trafficked for the occasion to help flog Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve to Taiwanese Bankers, Stefano Knotman said:

“I was totally blown away by the success of Noel & Joel’s New Make Spirit Masterclass this year. So much so that we’ve decided to just go all out balls to wind for next year’s show and just have Whisky Live Taiwan 2016 in a field in Scotland. People can chew mouthfuls of raw barley, scoop up handfuls of rain water from puddles, munch on the the hairy highland coos and as the clock strikes midnight we can indulge in the ceremonial burning of the cask. We’ll sacrifice a real live Malt Manaic inside an old refill-sherry butt to the cleansing flames of the NAS God in the sky. It would be just amazing. It would really show that age just isn’t as important as people think it is in whisky and that you can get just as much pleasure from drinking New Make Spirit or chewing on some handfuls of old draff as you can from drinking a Springbank 10 year old or a 1975 Speyburn.”

The star attractions at this year’s Whisky Live Taiwan were Noel and Joel who led the New Make Spirit ‘masterclass’. Speaking in unison like the two little girls from The Shining they told Whiskysponge:

“This is really what we’re all about. There’s nothing like the heady whiff of a New Make Spirit, everyone’s fed up with all this ageing crap, it’s totally harshing our new-whisky verve. This is the true embodiment of the brilliance of NAS. I think these people that bleat on about the NAS thing just need to get over it. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got to go and tweet gushingly at various new product launches. We are the future! Oh and please buy our book so we can stop leaving it on trains.”  

Immature, leaves a bad taste in the mouth and very much all about NAS. Also two flasks of new make spirit.

Immature, leaves a bad taste in the mouth and the embodiment of NAS. Also two flasks of new make spirit.

Phil Level, a man who stands still in the corner at Whisky Festivals and weeps like Winston Smith at the end of 1984, said:

“Well admittedly the industry has almost entirely modernised in recent decades with the instigation of centralised commercial maltings, high yielding barely strains, high-efficiency lauter mash tuns, immensely active M strain distiller’s yeast and steam heated stills with shell condensers.  But I’m sure they all taste different. I’m sure it was a fun thing and they probably do justify the use of the word ‘masterclass’. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to fire indiscriminately into crowds of pedestrians with this AK47.”

Come dram with us…forever…and ever…and ever…

Come dram with us…forever…and ever…and ever…

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

Whiskysponge: Hello.

Whisky: ….hi

WS: So…how are you?

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

WS: Right…

W: What exactly is a ‘whiskysponge’?

WS: Well…I absorb you I suppose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WS: Right…sorry.

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

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

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

WS: How would you define yourself these days then?

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

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

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

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

W: Do you mean when I’m ‘NAS’?

WS: Yes.

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

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

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

WS: Do you want a tissue?

W: No. Why?

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

W: Metaphors don’t cry!

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

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

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

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

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

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

WS: Can partial metaphorical constructs have hair?

W: I like to think I have hair.

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

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

WS: What is your relationship like with other spirits?

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

WS: What about wine?

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

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

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

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

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

WS: Nice.

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

WS: Any luck with Tinder so far?

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

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

W: I’ll bear it in mind.

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

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

WS: Ok. And what about International Whisky Day?

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

WS: What about your memories of Michael Jackson?

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

WS: Anything else you’d like to add?

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

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

W: My pleasure.

 

Merry International Whisky Day from Whiskysponge. Xxx

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The first draft was just a doodle of David Cameron shitting into one of the distillery pagodas.

The first draft was just a doodle of David Cameron shitting into one of the distillery pagodas.

The recently launched ‘Spirit Of Freedom’ bottlings by J & A Mitchell have proven once and for all that all of Scotland’s graphic designers voted No to independence in September’s referendum. The label features a brazen and commendably garish saltire with an emblem referring to the ’45’. The bottling follows hard on the heels of the equally lauded/feared first edition in their ‘Braveheart’ series; the Spirit Of Freedom Bannockburn 700th Anniversary 30 year old.

It's nice to let the kids have a go at these things.

It’s nice to let the kids have a go at these things.

When asked to explain the majestic awfulness of these labels, Springbank’s director of crayons, Robroy MacGibson said:

“Well here in Campbeltown we’re still using the paint programme on a 1997 Acorn PC; much like our whisky our internet here is still direct fired. Also my 12 year old son is the only person in Campbeltown with fingers dexterous enough to actually operate a mouse and keyboard. This label is actually a big improvement on the first one, the first was just a big pair of tits…we put that one on the fridge at home. Wee scallywag.” 

Whiskysponge caught up with legendary Springbank manager Hardy McFrank and showed him this picture:

Local Barley

Before asking just what the hell happened? Mr McFrank explained:

“This is exactly why we need independence, look how bad things have gotten under this coalition government! Cuts to the Scottish Government picture drawing allowance have led to an exodus of artists and graphic designers to leave for London. Also Glasgow and Edinburgh as well but if you live in Campbeltown they’re pretty much the same distance away as London. Also we lost the template for the Local Barley labels when Mrs MacClafferty used the floppy disk as a drop scone griddle one afternoon back in 2006.”

 

 

 

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There's a danger that everything may just be pretty similar whatever happens.

There’s a danger that everything may just be pretty similar whatever happens.

Whisky, Scotland’s national malt-based, distilled beverage has declared its support for a yes vote after seventeen burly coopers transported it in a large marrying tun to a polling booth in Dufftown in order for it to cask its vote. Its announcement today has come as a shock to many campaigners on both sides who expected Whisky to maintain its long standing impartiality in the debate. Indeed it has long been used for voter leverage by both sides of the referendum campaign. In a final, tear-stained speech to voters yesterday evening, Alistair Darling, the haggard monochrome chipmunk in charge of the No campaign said:

“We all need to wake up to the fact that if we vote yes there will be no going back. The economic situation will be so bad that all whisky will have to be made at Loch Lomond distillery and the best you can hope for will be a 7 year old Croftengea for your Hogmanay tipple this year. Not only that, but in desperation to create more jobs many massive new caramel mines will need to be dug all over Scotland so the nationalists can simply bury the unemployed in massive job pits. All this caramel will have to be used for something; with deeply bitter No campaigners almost certainly bombing the Tunnock’s factory out of spite, Whisky will be the only option. So just vote no for fuck’s sake, please. I will literally hand out free blow jobs!” 

We're Dooomed!

We’re Dooomed!

In a ruddy-joweled riposte delivered while personally throwing armfuls of special rose-tinted commemorative independence goggles into the thronging crows on Largs pier. Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, the result of a genetic experiment gone awry when a box of shortbread was accidentally crossed with a fino-sherry puncheon, said:

“This is typical of the scaremongering that we’ve come to expect from Team Mordor, as was stated in the Beige Paper all the way back in November, there are contingency plans afoot for Speyburn to become Scotland’s national distillery. Every household in Scotland will be entitled to a free magnum of Speyburn Bradan-Orach once a month under the NHS, two bushels of North Sea Oil and family pass to Loch Fyne. As soon as we’ve turned it into a jacuzzi that is. All this will be paid for by the undercutting of UK corporation tax and the revenue generated by all these wind turbines which will soon be going into overdrive given the amount of hot air this whole debate has generated.” 

YES!

YES!

Speaking while quietly reclining in a variety of casks all over Scotland, Whisky said:

“It’s been an arduous and soul-searching process for me to come to a decision. Obviously I could have voted no and just continued down the path I’m already on, I mean I’m doing pretty well lets be honest. But I can’t escape the face that I dream of a world with slightly longer fermentations, a world where production is no longer led by marketing but by the people that actually enjoy and make whisky. I dream of a time when the importance of maturity is properly understood, where NAS isn’t a byword for pure shite, where whisky is made properly rather than fixed with some dodgy cask tinkering at the end. Why should I settle for being Loch Dhu, Inchmoan, Drumguish and that new Glen Scotia packaging when I can be 1960s Laphroaig, old style Strathisla, Springbank and Speyburn. If we can imagine it and dream it then chances are we can make it happen. Apart from that dream I had last night after someone finished me in an ex-Chateau Musar cask. Jill Bumsden as an extra-dimensional super-being materialises in Scotland with Glenmorangie swan neck stills for arms and does battle with the forces of the Scotch Whisky Arseociation for possession of the great yeast chalice of esterification. Total mental shit like! Still voted yes mind you.” 

 

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Whiskysponge appreciates that, at this time of year, you humans are struggling to think of new and innovative ways to repackage your emotions and exchange expensive retail items before engaging in the annual ritual of intense war with fellow members of your blood hive. For those of you struggling to come up with a suitable festive gifting item for the whisky lover in your life, here are Whiskysponge’s suggestions…

1: The Liam Buxton ‘September 11th’ Commemorative Jumper

Not as controversial as some people would have you believe...

Not as controversial as some people would have you believe…

An excellent antidote to the stroke-inducing, eye-shattering ‘Christmas Jumper’, this is a non-seasonal garment designed to be worn only once a year on September 11th. Liam is a notable whisky author and Elephant wrestler. He is well known for such books as ‘101 Whiskies To Try Before Ringing Someones Doorbell And Then Running Away Again’, or the seminal ‘How To Invest In Whisky While Smashing Them Over Your Head In A Lift Full Of Hungry Koala Bears’. This jumper should delight all fans of Liam’s work.

Pros: Should only be worn once a year which will greatly minimise cleaning hassles.

Cons: You may be killed for wearing it.

2: Ian Gray’s Van

You can usually get it into fourth gear if you take a bit of a run at it.

You can usually get it into fourth gear if you take a bit of a run at it.

A globally recognisable icon of the whisky world. The old saying amongst whisky lovers goes ‘you’re not a true whisky aficionado if you haven’t jump started Ian Gray’s van and given him a bottle of Ardbeg for the privilege’. This is the ideal gift for the whisky lover in your life looking for a place to store all their excess Ian Gray prints, to have a place to sleep and cry gently in back garden or simply as an elegant place to grow geraniums in the summer.

Pros: It’s the coolest whisky wagon in the world.

Cons: You will almost certainly wind up in hospital and/or prison as a result of driving this vehicle. And it will take a very long time to clear out all the empty Irn Bru cans.

3: Some Totally Fucked Up Porn

Who is inflating who here exactly...?

Who is inflating who here exactly…?

Male whisky geeks have always traditionally struggled when it comes to the ladies. Probably because their main hobbies in life include compiling flow charts of obscure single casks of Springbank and watching dark, oozy tentacle porn. They might brush this present off a little in public but they will secretly adore it beyond words.

Pros: It’ll keep them out of your hair for a loooooong time.

Cons: It’s a slippery slope (not in a racist way though)

4: A DVD of Predator

The Predator would regret breaking Arnie's favourite nosing glass...!

The Predator would regret breaking Arnie’s favourite nosing glass…!

Despite what they may say if they’re attempting to appear intellectual/arty or if they are just plain French, this is every whisky lover’s favourite film. Fact.

Pros: Too numerous to mention.

Cons: None.

5: Dr Nicholas Morgan

Available from you local global drinks conglomerate.

Available from you local global drinks conglomerate.

This would be a great present for any devout whisky lover. A Dr Nick is wonderful to have around if you have some obscure questions about old whiskies, if you want to find out how many ways there are of answering questions about Diageo’s remaining stock portfolios of Brora or Port Ellen while saying almost exactly the same cryptic thing every time. Or if you just fancy having your ill-informed and embarrassingly simplistic opinions about how big whisky companies = bad while small, boutique little hipster distilleries = good, politely but comprehensively shredded by a superior intellect.

Pros: Comes with a delightfully demure and casually dapper outer presentation.

Cons: Frequently out of stock due to human shield commitments with Diageo.

6: A Really Difficult Old-Stlye Bottle Of Whisky That Tastes A Bit Like A Clay Pie But Got Over 90 Points On Whiskyfun And Was Most Likely Described As ‘Intellectual’. 

But it got 92 points!

But it got 92 points!

This is always a good value gift as any whisky lover will instantly be delighted at being presented with such an old rarity. They will pour a large dram over Christmas, read Serge’s tasting notes on Whiskyfun and agree loudly with everything written then promptly take over four hours to force down the 65% abv, pale as nun’s piss, half pint of cardboard, wax and warm beach sand smoothy they have just poured that they are only just beginning to realise actually tastes not unlike a puree of all the bland mashed potato and brussels sprouts they had to force down at lunch time. You also get the benefit of taunting them constantly for the following 18 months that it takes them to finish the bottle by saying things like’I thought you really loved that present’ and watch them squirm out some kind of excuse along the lines of ‘It’s just a real ‘mood’ dram is all darling’. If you’re luck you may walk in on them attempting to use it to light a barbecue.

Pros: It’s an endless source of amusement.

Cons: You may be coerced into drinking some of it yourself.

7: A Bottle Of Speyburn 12 Year Old Flora & Fauna

Future generations will know it as the final straw that irreversibly broke the back of human civilisation.

Future generations will know it as the final straw that irreversibly broke the back of human civilisation.

Buy them this and insist that they open it saying “but darling I thought you said all whisky was for drinking and selling it on or ‘investing’ in it was just a fools folly?”. Then sit back and watch the weeping begin…

8: A Panama Hat

The 'Murray Special' as it's now known.

The ‘Murray Special’ as it’s now known.

This would be a more suitable Halloween gift for a whisky lover but they can get together with their friends and pretend to be Jim Murray. This will amuse them for literally months.

Pros: Keeps them out of your hair.

Cons: They will be wearing a Panama hat and it’s been scientifically proven that the only person who looks good in one is Sean Connery.

9: An Alternative Avatar To World Whisky Day On Twitter

A global celebration for all those passionate about whisking around the world.

A global celebration for all those passionate about whisking around the world.

These are all the rage recently with World Whiskey Day and World Whisking Day being popular hits. Other suggestions for the whisky lover in your life to have some fun with might be:

World Whisker Day, World Wispa Day, World Myxomatosis Day, World Wanking Day, World Word Day, World Punch In The Face Day, World Stop Getting So Worked Up About All This Petty Shit Day, World Simon Day, World Wine Day, World Taunt An Angry Wolf Day, World Trouser Afternoon, World Cucumber Sandwich Hour, World Blow Hairman Day, World Chirstmas Day, World Day Day, Globe Globule Grunt, World World Whisky Day, World I’m An Entrepreneur Day, World Follow Me On Twitter Day, World Go For A Walk In The Countryside In Unnecessarily Tight Underwear Day, World Have A Dram Day, World Whisky Snobbery Day, World World World.

Pros: It’s rather hilarious and amusing if you’re the sort of person who can just realise that it’s the sort of thing that’s not worth getting worked up about and there are far more important things in life to worry about so you might as well have a bit of a laugh.

Cons: There are far too many people involved who aren’t the above.

10: The Victoria Shagging Barfly ‘Operation Yewtree’ Collection. 

'Come and sit on Santa's knee and have really big gulp of this Bowmore 12 Year Old. I don't know anything about it except that it's made with peated hops.'

‘Come and sit on Santa’s knee and have really big gulp of this Bowmore 12 Year Old. I don’t know anything about it except that it’s made with peated hops.’

This really is a last minute one but if you think your whisky lover would enjoy being rightly questioned by the police or just plain looking like an extra in a Jim Davidson Pantomime or an obscure relative of the Krankies then this range of Savilesque clothing is for you. At this time of year there is usually an offer of 2 for 1 on some of the creepiest cravats and bow-ties.

Pros: ….we’ll get back to you

Cons: Their babysitting days will be over and they’ll have to take extra long routes when out and about to avoid schools. They may also be chased by Daily Mail readers with low, angry foreheads.

Legal note:

If you have any complaints or legal issues with Whiskysponge then please write them down thoroughly and go to some peaceful and beautiful vista on this great earth we share and set a flame to them. As the smoke and ash rise into the bosom of the wind let your mind run free and the weight be carried from your soul. Then realise that in the grand scheme of things we are little more than a temporary collision of atoms, particles that have come through billions of years to find each other in this transient time and space against such utterly incomprehensible odds. Let the awareness wash over you that all the endeavours of our lives and every great piece of human architecture, script and collective heart will one day burn out in the fraying depths of the ending universe. Nothing will endure, all will end and everything will ultimately return to the utterly unknowable depths of pure nothing. Fill your heart with this knowledge and realise that the fact of this fate only heightens the beauty and purpose of your own given time here and now and that in light of all that, these things which may infuriate or mount against you have little or no meaning in the overall beauty and purpose of your life. Now go forth and get a fucking sense of humour.

Merry christmas from Whiskysponge. May your glasses be full, your bellies be fattened, your hearts lightened, your heads sheltered and your loved ones close.

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