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Posts Tagged ‘Whisky’

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World drops hints to America it might be time for sequel to JFK assassination.

Whisky – a malt based distillate from various Celtic countries – has taken the opportunity to confirm that this particular situation is exactly the sort of thing it exists for. As Vladimir Putin was elected President of the USA, via a Woman-engulfing, orange, Womble scrotum Proxy named Donald J Trump, Whisky took the occasion to say:

“You thought Brexit, or the continued rise of cheap populism, hard right ideologies, new political divisions hardening along racial lines, the failure of liberalism, mainstream politic’s poor stewardship of Globalism and surging nationalism were the sort of thing that made you reach for a glass of me – you ain’t seen nothing yet bitches!”

As the United States of America combined their national tradition of super-sizing with the  popular past time of self-harm, the world enacted a collective, subconscious grasp towards the nearest bottle of malt whisky.

Whisky needer Fergus Weir said:

“Obviously it’s Scotch. Americans will need all their own whiskeys for molotov cocktails in the quite near future I suspect.” 

Angry, disenfranchised midwestern man, Larry Jackson, who has seen his wages stagnate over the past few years said:

“I understand this has been a divisive election. I appreciate that electing Putin’s Wank Glove as POTUS is not a result which will immediately unite the nation. But, remember the alternative was a big, menstruating death female getting in the White House and ruining everything with her terrifying, sabre-toothed vagina! Anyway, America will be great again in a few weeks and then everything will go back to normal just like the 1950s. Personally I’m looking forward to the bits where we can tell black people to get off the bus again.”

Whisky added:

“To all those people who like to try and date old bottles of me by radio carbon dating. At least now there will soon be a second major definable radiation signature on stocks of me around the world. It’ll be pre-Hiroshima, post-Trump or ‘that middle bit’…” 

 

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It was announced this morning that Whisky is no longer to be made available to normal people. After studies – and just looking at the internet – have consistently shown that consumers have had an almost exclusively negative effect on Whisky, it has been subsequently widely restricted.

Professor Hieronymus Porsche, Head Of Whisky, said:

“It’s been going on too long. All these people getting ‘into’ whisky and ruining it by wilfully buying it. Talking about it ‘online’ and doing things like trying to sell it in auctions for a profit. It’s really spoiled everything. The fact that the companies that make it are now constantly clamouring for more and more people to ‘get into’ whisky just goes to show the extent of the problem. More people enjoying and buying whisky is precisely what is wrong with the drink today. It has been exactly the source of its ruination. As a result, starting today, we’re going back to about 1968 when malt whisky was largely restricted to poets, jolly businessmen, school marms and debonaire young novelists.” 

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That’s quite enough of that thank you!

The Scottish Government will later today publish a list of social groups and individuals still allowed to buy and enjoy Scotch whisky. An early copy of which has been leaked to Whiskysponge:

Poets (Irish and Scottish ones only – others by application of tortured verse)

These guys:

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Working Class theatre directors and Ken Loach

Teachers who are a bit like Michael Caine in Educating Rita

‘Nice’ Tories like Ken Clarke or the comedy ones who are good for a laugh but who hopefully will never be allowed near government like Jacob Rees-Mogg

Dinner Ladies

Grumpy people who work in Post Offices

Rural Doctors

Farmers but only those who agree to drink it while simultaneously carrying a shotgun

Brian Cox the actor

Rude, elderly barmen who would punch you in the face for even so much as talking about Cocktails

People who drive Ferrys between Scottish Islands

Proper traditional Folk musicians who have the common decency to wear cummerbunds and avoid standard tuning on a Guitar.

Journalists who take lunch between 10am-5pm

Landed gentry who get angry because their typewriter won’t connect to the wifi

People who are Mark Watt

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Allowed

Anyone not automatically in one of these categories will have to apply for a whisky license and demonstrate that they can enjoy it in the carefree, passionate, properly irresponsible, late-night, social fashion in which it was intended. Whiskysponge can also reveal the questionnaire they will have to complete upon application:

1: Are you Victor Brierley?

2: Are you Joel Harrison or Neil Ridley?

3: Are you Dean Callan?

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Not allowed!

4: Do you, or have you ever, described whisky as a ‘portfolio’?

5: Do you pretend to enjoy grain whisky?

6: Do you think Haig Club is acceptable if it ‘brings newbies into the category’?

7: Would you, or have you ever, described mixing a measure of whisky into a cocktail as a ‘serve’?

8: Are you able to read an Ardbeg press release without needing to do a ‘rage poo’?

9: Have you ever liked, shared, re-tweeted or hashtagged one of Diageo’s ‘Love Scotch’ things?

10: Do you own fewer than 30 bottles of Speyburn?

11: Have you ever queued for longer than 30 minutes to buy a bottle of whisky?

12: Are you able to finish a 25ml measure of Monkey Shoulder without crying?

13: Are you a German who wilfully wears tartan?

14: Are you the sort of person who describes new bottlings as ‘innovative’?

15: Are you a ‘bartender’?

Even a single ‘yes’ will result in a life ban from whisky.

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Come on boys. Time to let someone else play with the whisky now…

 

 

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It emerged yesterday in some shop that whisky does indeed actually taste like whisky. Shocked retail assistant at Edinburgh based wine merchant ‘Hipster Binge Supplies’, Tessa Finkelstein said:

“I was just forcing my overly joy-ridden retail initiatives on a customer when they told me they didn’t like whisky. I of course countered with the fact that there is certainly a whisky for everyone and that they just hadn’t found ‘their’ dram yet. I was shocked when upon giving them a taste of our new Macduff 7 year old Zinfandel finish they told me that it ‘just tasted like whisky.’ Some customers are so rude!”

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Just because you don’t like Talisker, doesn’t mean you won’t like Highland Park.

Weary capitalism facilitation prole, Julian Parsons said:

“I was in looking to buy a birthday present for my Dad. I don’t like whisky. The woman in the shop said I did and insisted on making me drink some. It was clearly whisky which, as I have said, I do not like. Nothing about this process altered this fact. She proceeded to ask me what sort of whisky my Father enjoys, to which the answer is pretty much anything on discount or special offer.”

Tessa Finkelstein added:

“People who say they don’t like whisky clearly don’t know what they’re talking about. There is a a dram for everyone, it’s not as if there’s already enough people buying whisky. We need everyone we can possibly get! Otherwise we might have to not employ all the clever people with special trousers that write the nice stories on the back of the bottles!”

Jan Birch, the Drumnadrochit Minister For Tarte Flambe said:

“Why can’t these pushy retailers just respect people’s personal tastes? Everyone knows the only whisky that is enjoyed universally by everyone is Speyburn.”

 

 

 

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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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God's the one on left...

God’s the one on left…

In the beginning, there was an astonishing amount of infinitesimal but staggeringly complex physics. Quite a considerable amount of time later, on a small planet full of idiots, these physics were retroactively re-categorised as ‘God’. God – who was a metaphor, a fact she was totally unhappy about – made a man in her image. The image she was going for that day was one of a disheveled, 13th century Scottish crofter and lo: Murdani, a snarky teuchter bastard was arisen.

Murdani would fish, farm and hunt and complain. One day he said unto God, “Hows about a way tae get mair cash fer aw this spare barley God ya bawbag?”

And God said unto Murdani, “Take thee thy bushels in the months of winter and grind as thou wouldst for bread. Take thee the grist of thy labour and mix with waters both vigorous and sufficiently temperate that ariseth wild vapours. This wort shall ye ferment to an ale of potable qualities that ye might distill it through this metal of copper to a fine and clear make.”

“What bloody use is that?” said Murdani unto God

“Well ye can flog it tae English jessies doon south ya bam!” said God in an unconvincing Scottish accent.

“Aye alright, but whit’s all this aboot copper. There’s nae copper aboot here!” exclaimed Murdani to God in a fashion that suggested he was thick as mince and a wild bampot to boot.

“Get thee thy copper stills from Forsyths of Rothes.” said God unto Murdani. “Although twill surely taketh over two years so you’re best just getting a turnkey approach. Or thy might asketh Speyside Copper Works for a competitive quote.”

Order thee thy stills before Macallan buildeth another silly distillery and choketh up the production schedule for another three years!

Order thee thy stills before Macallan buildeth another silly distillery and choketh up the production schedule for another three years!

“What about wan o’ these Portuguese companies that dae these wee Shallot-shaped stills?” enquired Murdani unto God.

“Don’t be bothering with that shite!” boometh the lord. For she was enduring some cosmic PMS and not in the mood for Murdani’s dreadful patter. “Also, what’s all this about Shallots? Hast thou been shopping at Waitrose you swanky little gobshite?” so sayeth God unto Murdani.

And so Murdani carried out the word of God unto each holy letter. Although he did skip a few bits by getting cheap intermediate spirit receivers and and some dodgy heat exchangers from a geezer called ‘Funky Joe’ from the local boozer, but prevail he did. God looked upon Murdani’s creation and was pleased, for it was a fine size that might be approved without need of a major planning application from the local council and had suitable disabled visitor access.

God said unto Murdani, “Go forth with the life giving waters of the stream and maketh them truly the waters of life.”

And Murdani said, “Errr… stream?”

And God said, “Aye! Stream!”

And Murdani said, “Whit fucking stream?”

And God took a long weekend and returneth from her Spa treatment whereupon she said unto Murdani, “You’ve got to have water to make fucking whisky you smelly-fingered goat shagger!”

And Murdani said, “You can be really hurtful sometimes.”

And God said, “Oh fuck it I’ll do a magic borehole.”

Twas like this one, only in Scotland and without photoshop...

Twas like this one, only in Scotland and without photoshop…

And lo God produced from the very earth the soothing waters of a stream and all that came unto that place were amazed as the drilling company had managed to find water in the allocated time and within budget.

Now Murdani allowed the wisdom of God to guide his hand in the craft of whisky making. Although not too much as he quickly became mightily pished on wash. A substance he proclaimed to be “Nae snazzy like, but better than that White Lightening pish from the Co-Op!”

And so the clear nectar did runeth from the stills. A heartening and virtuous liquid that captured the harmonious essence of the Scottish sunlight which God had bestowed upon the Earth and all her creatures. A liquid which presently made big Shug from the Corner Shop go blind and try to picketh a battle with a flock of unsuitable pigs in the manner of a Tory Prime Minister.

Drinketh thee not the methanol lest ye 'do a David'.

Drinketh thee not the methanol lest ye ‘do a David’.

So God said unto Murdani, “Stop you total numpty! Thy new make spirit is too greatly populous with deleterious matters that offend the hearts and minds and bowels of my faithful peoples! Especially the bowels!”

And Murdani said, “You’s are talking pish God! I’ve been at it all morning and I’m feeling pure frisky like!”

And God said unto Murdani, “I’m up here you total jobbie-brain! That’s a puddle you’re talking to!”

And Murdani said unto God, “Aye maybe it’s time for a sly Scooby Snack!”

And God said unto Murdani, “Do thou as I commanded thee in the first place and runneth thy stills at a temperate pace without haste or fury. Draweth off only the purest heart of the liquid and shove it in yonder wooden barrel.”

And Murdani replied, “I bathe my hairy heiland sister from Drumnadrochit in yonder barrel. Art thou sure God? That sounds like a pure reekin’ idea…”

And God said unto Murdani, “Aye! Maybe use the other barrel!”

And so it was on the finest of God’s fine mornings that a wooden cask was filled with the purest nectar. It was both viscus and oily and had a notable old style quality about it for it was centuries before some total git came along and invented M strain Distiller’s yeast and ruined everything.

Presently Murdani said unto God, “Should we take a sample to yon laboratory for analysis?”

To which almighty God replied, “Have thee not faith in the fine articles of thy spirit Murdani?”

Unto which Murdani said, “Aye, but we burned a lot of peat in the malting process and we’ll struggle to get our product into the US market and Canada if our Nitrosamine levels are too high.”

Unto which a mighty and wrathful God hollered unto Murdani, “Shut it cock-face! I’m God! You know I hate that science shit!”

Murdani’s heart was presently filled with sorrows and his faculties reduced in muster for he was badly looking forward to getting pished in New York City on expenses with his brand rep somewhere down the line. “Oh almighty God!” Murdani did presently call out to the heavens above, “Why art though such a ballbreaker?!”

“Oh shut it!” replied our great and holy lord while eating a fish supper. “Just wait three years and we shall have made the most wondrous and legal whisky thy might imagine.”

And Murdani exclaimed unto God, “Three fucking years! You mean I have tae drink some pishy wine for three whole bloody years!?”

And God said unto Murdani, “Get thee to thy local Brewdog bar if thou art so consumed with spurious desires Murdani.”

Unto which Murdani replied, “Naw. Cannae be daein’ wie that fizzy, yankee ripoff juice.”

Unto which Murdani added, “How come we huv tae wait three whole bloody years God?”

And God did answer unto Murdani, “Speak to the SWA about it not me!”

A lo that is the history of whisky. A mighty tale of mighty God and mighty Whisky and considerably less mighty Murdani…

Although Murdani did presently interrupt the end of this holy blog post to pronounce the following question: “How is this the history of Whisky God? Whit aboot yon Chinese fireworks and Persian fake slap that both requireth they fancy pants distillation stuff? And isn’t there aw that patter about crusades and monks and beer and some King and his bushels?”

And God said unto Murdani, “Tis really just to do with word count Murdani, here! Taketh thee a loan of my personal copy of ‘Blogging For Dummies’ that thy might be illuminated by its wisdom and surprisingly easy to navigate contents page.”

And God did enquire unto Murdani, “One last thing God. Did you create the heavens?”

“Yes.”

“And all of space and time and all the stars and planets and all the people including Morag from the post office who I sort of fancy?”

“Where are you going with this?”

“Well, who created you?”

“Oh shut it. That’s got nothing to do with International Whisky Day?”

“What’s International Whisky Day?”

“It’s a global celebration of Whisky. Whisky’s official big ‘day’. Everything has a day now. In fact I’m pretty sure that most things share ‘days’ with other things now because I messed up the potency of your local celestial object and its habitable zone. I should have made it so that years were longer but I can’t be responsible for everything!”

“Do you mean the ‘International Whisky Day’ that’s run by the small child with the beard who sells hoovers and water?”

“No no no! That’s the other one!”

“So what’s this one then?”

“This is the one that celebrates Michael Jackson’s birthday and just whisky in general.”

“Right, who is Michael Jackson?”

And lo God got really fed up with Murdani’s incessant questioning and did presently squash him with a flying cow and introduce him to Michael Jackson in the afterlife who happened to be having a jovial arm wrestle with David Bowie after a few too many jeroboams of Chimay Blue. Michael told Murdani his whisky “Had potential.”

Unknown

Merry International Whisky Day from thy kindly Whiskysponge.

Slante!

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Him

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

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

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

“Ah, ok, I like it…and?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But how do I do that?”

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

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

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

Rory the Whisky Walrus. Just add whisky to activate.

Rory the Whisky Walrus. Just add whisky to activate.

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

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

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

“Whatever is the matter Whisky?”

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

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

“Like who…?”

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

Ho ho hold me back!

Ho ho hold me back!

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

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

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

It's a highly effective strategy.

It’s a highly effective strategy.

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

Good luck with the whole sleep thing now.

Good luck with the whole sleep thing now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What seems to be getting you down then?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

********

Merry Christmas Humans!

 

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