No Class in The Master.

The importance of not trying to be important.

Whisky blogging. It’s a total minefield. Whether your writing style is lacking, your opinion misguided, your patter is miserable or all three, there will always be somebody to bring you down with a bump. But regardless of your style, there can be some good points to remember while whisky blogging.

One of my fellow whisky bloggers IM’d me an article from another site (click link). I wished he hadn’t as my previous article had been a rant on why Black Friday is a bad for small retailers and I wasn’t wanting to spend energy on another emotional essay. However, something in the article felt wrong to me. The coin had been put in the slot and the rant button was pressed again for another go.


That button gets pressed far too much!

I’ve been following this site for some time now, but since an event in Jan 2020 which some of the Whisky Twitterati know as ‘Terroir Gate’ where there was a highly questionable article which attacked a fellow blogger who had the courage to question the relevance of Barley Terroir. I’ve had the website on Twitter mute since then. I’m sure they won’t miss me, but it was surely adventurous to challenge a farmer about growing barley. I’m sure the man has forgotten more about crop growing than they know.

The article on which I wish to comment concerns a writer who had the misfortune to have attended a disappointing virtual tasting. For one reason or another the event had come to be tagged a ‘Masterclass’, which ended up in disappointment for the reviewer, who went on to list some admittedly valid points. Despite the valid points, the rant didn’t sit well with me. Indeed, the whole page made me want to put on a tin helmet and go over the trench. I’ll admit to perhaps not following my own advice, but in this case, it is with good cause.


Advice Piece # 1. Don’t put people down publicly when trying to make yourself look good.

The whisky community is supposed to be friendly, isn’t it? Well, while the tasting was disappointing according to details provided in the article, anybody who knew about that event will be able to identify the host and the see the very public criticism of him. Pretty bad craic to run the event down then patronise the host afterwards. To write how “they might make a master one day if they keep on learning” does give the impression of the author looking down on this individual. It certainly seems to be a standard editorial policy for this site on a few occasions. The author seems to have forgotten even Masters can still learn daily.

Has the writer heard of the principle of “praising publicly, criticising privately?’ It’s a standard requirement in my industry, where failing to do so and humiliating a colleague in front of their peers not only sees the offender being ostracised, but also at risk of losing their teeth in a Glasgow style kiss. After all, the host himself didn’t call it a Masterclass, but regardless, I would say there is an onus on anybody attending these events virtually or in person to perhaps take such labels with a pinch of salt, unless you know the host, their experience and the drams involved. Quickly looking at these drams would suggest that these weren’t anything I’d associate with a Masterclass as I can get them straight off a supermarket shelf here in Scotland.

It’s a good point that you should be able to assume anybody with a Masterclass title connected would have an associated qualification – and I agree that it should, though there is still no guarantee of quality being present. The industry does lack regulation in many areas, but without casting aspersions on these titles just because some parade their being a Keeper of the Quaich or having a WSET qualification like a bull strutting his stuff in a field of cows, it still is sadly no guarantee of quality.

I’ve worked with some highly ‘qualified’ people in my industry that seem to have more degrees than a compass. While working in West Africa, we asked a guy to make the teas for the crew came back and every single tea or coffee was cold. As he’d never made tea or coffee before, he didn’t know you had to boil the kettle.

On the same ship, another guy couldn’t get the kettle under the tap of the small hand basin we had in our washroom. So rather than filling it with a cup like everybody else, he put the kettle into the toilet bowl and flushed. 10/10 for ingenuity, 0/10 for application – toilets on a ship often flush with filtered seawater.

The point is that you can still have a qualification but not be exposed to all aspects of the industry. Nobody knows everything. Doesn’t necessarily make you a w*nker. That leads nicely onto point 2.


Even John Knox knew nobody enjoys being talked down to.


Advice Piece # 2 – No Profanity

I’ve been in an engineering trade since I left school. Being a tradesman and Scottish means that swearing often comes naturally. The F bomb is not a big deal at all. The word w*nker hardly registers on the scale. But was there really a need to use it on a whisky review?

Does the author think are people w*nkers because they don’t know everything? We were all enthusiastic amateurs at one time, possibly overly so. Perhaps it would be better in the article not to be so rude but suggest that it’s better not to pretend what you know and when caught out, a simple admission should suffice coupled with a resolve to find out?

It’s not a crime to not know, especially when the host didn’t put himself in the Masterclass slot. As people with more experience, we should always build up and encourage in the whisky community rather than knock down those with less knowledge. Unless you want to look like a twat.

Advice Piece # 3 – Keep the Negativity levels low or non-existent.

I once spoke to somebody in the whisky industry about writing articles and one of the things I told them was that I felt that despite the amount of people in the industry and who follow it, it is a small world. Especially in Speyside where there are quite a few people involved in the production side. We discussed the website in question for this article and I mentioned the levels of negativity that often come out. The person just smiled, so I know I’m not alone in my thoughts.

While you should never be afraid of criticising a product or something that deserves it, there are ways and means of doing so. If you want a rant, at least make it entertaining. A regularly negative drone just gets boring. Far from challenging the industry or individuals, you’ll just start getting ignored. If you don’t like something, say it’s not for you, Don’t judge others for liking it and don’t constantly bang on about it.

I’ve never lived more than 15 miles from a Single Malt distillery. I can see one from my house. It has had its (fair) criticisms over the years, but nobody intentionally makes a poor whisky. You never know who will see what you write, and certainly running down a business in a small local community is definitely bad craic, regardless of who owns it. You only end up closing more doors than opening new ones.


The Whisky Police were finding it hard to put in yet another condescending comment. But they managed.


Advice Piece # 4 – Don’t be hypocritical or at least admit it when you are.

Hypocrisy. We all do it from time to time. And I am aware in what I’m writing I’m not following any of my own advice apart from this one. It’s ok to be hypocritical as long as you acknowledge it. Sometimes the situation changes and you must go back on your word. Don’t worry about it, just be open. I’ve had to be when I got caught out in the past with Macallan Folio 5 being released in far larger numbers than before, and I was forced to flip it. And I don’t hide how much I hate flippers. Thankfully I wasn’t very good at it, making a profit after fees of £37.50, so that sweetened a bitter pill, and being open about it preserved my integrity.

Going by the tone of the article I was sent, it is extremely hypocritical to slate somebody for having an ego when obviously displaying one yourself. I don’t think I need to add more to that.

Plus, being funded to maintain your independence? However you do it, this has potential to undermine your independence, something this site seems to hold dear. Patreon use for recovering expenses is fair enough, but you can get unlimited hosting and bandwidth for under £300 a year. But unless it’s a job (I’m assuming it is), should you not keep a hobby self funding? That’s the only way to preserve total independence. I’m not suggesting any thing is improper by using Patreon, but if you are funded by donation, that’s because people like what you publish. Human nature being as it is, if people are going to pay you for what you publish, the likelihood of you continuing to put out the same kind of content continues. Hence the egotist ranting often seen on the site perhaps?

I certainly don’t expect others to pay for my hobby or whisky, unlike many Patreon funded Whisky pages.

Advice Point # 5. Have a clear point to the end.

Often when this site publishes a rant, it doesn’t always have a clear point all the way to the end. They seem to have the maxim of “why use one word when several will do?”. Some of their contributors seem to have swallowed a Thesaurus. But what gets me is in some cases, the bones of the article don’t always seem to support the review at the end. In my mind, the worst example was the review of The Lakes Distillery release of The One, The write-up before had nothing at all to do with the whisky being reviewed, and was just an ill-judged irrelevant rant. Had I been the owner of the Lakes Distillery I would have been furious that my product was tied into this negative publicity.

The day they published ‘No Masterclass’ it must have been a slow news day for the team, as even though the reviews were relevant, it still seemed to be tacked on. The reviews just seemed like an easy way to get more negativity in. Personally, I’d think it better to keep a rant away from products, unless the rant is to do with the product in question. You don’t want to necessarily bite the hand that feeds you. Far from challenging producers, you will just encourage them to ignore you while you feed your sycophants. And this will mean things are unlikely to change for some.

As the site and people involved will invariably see this, what will be interesting to see is if I am subjected to a similar treatment that the other party in Terroir Gate received. Of course, they have a right of reply, but how it is done may be interesting and will certainly show their professionalism when it comes to responding criticism.

Unlike some, I’ve never felt the need to fly a kite with regards to my experience in the whisky world. I’ve been collecting since 2006, but that doesn’t make me an expert. Neither does living in a region heavily connected to the Scotch Industry, though I can say I probably know enough. But like tasting a whisky, our opinions on the same subject can differ. After all, some people think Bells is tasty, but that doesn’t mean they should be shot down for it. However, for this particular website in question, in their ‘About’ section, when they say difference of opinion is OK, do they really mean it, or are we dissenters “the poor little lambs’ condescendingly alluded to ?

It isn’t always Masterclass. Not always classy. As for the w*nkers, I’ll let you decide. But if you want a serious review site, Matt ‘The Dramble’ is a better bet in my humble opinion.


Yours in Humiliation, Hypocrisy, Negativity, Swearing and always in Spirits,

Scotty


Photo Credits

Keyboard – Authors Own

All Other Images – Shutterstock

Insane In The Membrane?

How Black Friday Causes Specialist Suffering.

I have to apologise from the very start of this article. Of course that is not like me at all, no Sir-ee! Mainly because the title of this article is from the a song on the Cypress Hill Album ‘Black Sunday’. Ok, wrong day I suppose for what I had in mind for this article. And while it is NOT like me, I actually own this album and listen to it on a rare occasion and enjoy it. You can’t listen to shoegaze all the time (apparently). What is at least accurate to some degree in my opinion is the topic today does have a slight whiff of insanity about it, although probably of a type we may not be aware of and suffer from in varying degrees. It’s about how we allow ourselves to become blind to the obvious.


The pin is out of the grenade. Time to get heads down. Incoming!

Once again my conscience has been pricked to write an article in defence of a body of people that have been undera silent attack for quite some time and since March 2020 this has been intensified. Unfortunately it is whisky drinkers that seem to be the people who allow it to happen, albeit not doing the attacking themselves. Given how friendly the whisky community is, I’m surprised that there seems to be little promotion and concern to people that are vital to our hobby, passion, or more to the point – obsession.

Independent whisky shops have had a tough time of it for some time now. This is something I raised on my blog Facebook page back in March of this year, going as far to break my anonymity and release a couple of videos. Use the Facebook links below to navigate to the page if you want to see the videos. In most cases these smaller retailers cannot compete with online retailers such as Amazon and don’t have the collective buying power of chains like The Whisky Shop, Oddbins or Majestic to name one or two. And you can forget any hope of being able to complete with any of the supermarkets.

What triggered this was the amount of people who seemed to be upset that there seemed to be not very many Black Friday deals on Amazon this year. I’m not having a go – in full disclosure I’ve bought booze from Amazon when I’ve seen a bargain, but usually it is when I cannot get a bottle anywhere else at that time. An Old Pultney 17 was my first bottle that I did this with just after it was discontinued and latterly when Glengoyne 18 was slashed to £70, though that was just before the change of packaging and it was bought for stash. Maybe for later of course…


Some independent retailers like a laugh on Amazon. Only £80 – £120 including fees at auction.

In a quick moment of research, certainly here in the UK are a myriad of places that do online only retailing. Drink Supermarket, Master Of Malt, Drinks Direct, 31 Dover, and Spirit Store are just a handful and I’d be sure that this would be replicated overseas where specialist whisky retailers may be thin on the ground. Even Whisky Exchange which does have a couple of shops probably makes the vast majority of its profits from online trading.

Look. I’m not trying to make anybody feel bad about seeking a bargain. It’s been a tough year for everybody with many people locked down for long periods of time; people losing their freedom, contact with family and friends, their jobs; people possibly losing a lot more. And I can hardly hold the moral high ground as I have made the occasional purchases from some of these retailers, especially Master Of Malt as the Drinks By The Dram give me a chance to taste older or more expensive whiskies without having to cough up for a full bottle. However let’s look at this from a slightly different perspective.

While online shopping may be very convenient and cheap (as an Aberdonian I can assure you this is very close to my heart!), let’s look at some very plain to see facts that often get ignored and I see no evidence to the contrary that we seem to be suffering selective blindness to these issues. Amazon does not need your money. Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s do not need your booze money. Let’s face it, despite the fun of #WhiskySanta, a company giving away £250,000 of drink does not need your booze money. However the hypocrite in me is very happy to promote the company by making my #WhiskySanta wishes. If they are generous enough to ‘pay’ quarter of a million quid for over a month of free social media advertising I’m taking my chance. You can bet your bottom dollar that an independent retailer of Whisk(e)y would probably wet themselves if they thought they could make £250,000 of profit, let alone be able to afford to give it away. And they certainly do need your custom.


A Facebook post by a local retailer. If you live close to Inverurie, Aberdeenshire I’m told it’s a great place for the ‘over the shoulder Boulder holders’. It’s not just whisky retailers that struggle against Amazon.

Speaking of local experience here in the Highlands, I can think of at least 4 local-ish (50 miles away still counts as local!) independent whisky retailers that have suffered the double whammy COVID has delivered. Not only were they forced to close their businesses when COVID first took hold, the businesses concerned were also in tourist areas, so once they’ve been allowed to open, there’s a lack of the normal crowds to sell to. I’m thinking of shops in Aberlour, Dufftown, Tomintoul, Pitlochry, Tyndrum, Inverary and Skye to name a few. The cancellation of the Spirit Of Speyside festival this year hit our region hard and without the same footfall, the whisky retailers in the area have had to rely on online sales to generate income. It doesn’t mean independent whisky retailers in large towns and cities aren’t suffering too – at least they have more chance of local footfall than one in the middle of the Cairngorms.


A brilliant Discovery from an independent shop and bottler in the tourist area of Highland Perthshire.

The majority of independent retailers have not got the same profit margins to reduce stock prices and remain viable. Some are forced to deal with wholesalers as they cannot buy directly with the distilleries or bottlers, further reducing competitiveness with online only businesses. To be fair to Amazon, there is plenty of independent traders use Amazon market place, but this is still not perfect as this still involves selling fees that further reduce margins. And therein could be the reason that there wasn’t so many Black Friday deals – perhaps the majority of them in the past have been supplied not from Amazon but small traders. They certainly cannot afford to be giving massive discounts at the moment.


Independents have greater overheads that the online only businesses don’t. And unlike Amazon they don’t have methods of avoiding a fair tax bill

The greatest benefit to dealing directly with an independent trader is that you’ll receive something that you’ll never get online – by buying over the phone or in person you’ll receive a personal service. Think about this when you next shop with an independent whisky retailer. They can tell you what is new. They usually have a great knowledge of the whiskies they sell. If you can visit one, you may get to try before you buy; something that has often seen me buy more than expecting to. You can build a relationship where the retailer may be privy to information that maybe of interest to you and they may tell you first, or at least keep a hard to find bottle back for you. At least one Whisky Twitterer has said he enjoys this type of situation and I have also found myself in this pleasant position too.


Never has a Twitter sponsored advert been so appropriate on the day of publishing.

This whole subject brings me back to a similar situation in a different retail environment; music. As I alluded to at the start of this article, I’m heavily into music, especially indie / shoegaze / post rock. There used to be a shop in Aberdeen called One-Up, of which I was a very regular customer. I always used them as the chances of finding something new, exciting and possibly undiscovered was high. But the ultimate draw was the service. The staff were excellent and one in particular, the well known shoegazer in local circles, Yogi Duncan used to recommend bands and albums to me so I could listen to it before making a decision. This was music I’d never have heard otherwise and would not be likely to see the suggestion on iTunes. You just don’t get that specialist service online and are at the mercy of an algorithm to suggest what you might like in the future. Just because some tracking cookie sees I’ve bought one album, doesn’t mean I’ll like the whole genre though it’s certainly cheaper to take a risk on a £10 CD than a £70 bottle of whisky.

It came to pass that CD buying fell out of fashion. People turned to downloads and with large overheads compared to online sales and a desire of one of the business partners to retire meant on the 18th of January 2013, One-Up closed for good. Since that store has gone, I’ve gradually fallen out of buying music. Perhaps it’s my age having an influence as well, but in the past 2 years I’ve found myself downloading more and more; my once proud music CD collection all but stagnated. For me nearly 8 years on, I and many others from the North East of Scotland still mourn the loss of One-Up


Gone yet not forgotten. And sorely missed by many. Thanks for the memories Yogi.

Regardless of my feeling, while digital retailing doesn’t mean we’ll fall out of love with whisky (goodness no!) it does mean we risk slowly falling out of touch with a more intimate way of connecting with the industry. If we only see what is advertised on line or by who we follow on social media, to me it just becomes a cacophony of marketing noise and other people’s opinion. The lack of personal contact within the whisky retail industry really means to me we are all perhaps following around on each other’s coat tails and are at the mercy of anonymous algorithms and advertising budgets which pigeon-hole us and see us getting targeted into purchasing blandness.

Let’s be clear however, as there is more we can do. It isn’t just spending our hard earned cash at independent whisky retailers that helps. Many of us on social media have our own blogs. Why not give one of the independent retailers a shout out on your blog? Review a bottle bought from them. Better still, if they bottle their own or have exclusive bottles to their shop, review one. I recently did, and the email that I received from the owner was one of pure gratitude. Not just because I genuinely enjoyed the whisky he had bottled, but because as an independent retailer in an area highly dependent on tourism it had been a tough year and he was over the moon to see his products promoted in such a way. 


It’s understandable we all have a budget but try to spend wisely whilst maximising your whisky purchasing power and remember the small guys

My blog is tiny and insignificant. However due to my review of his whisky, I know of 7 confirmed bottle sales as a direct result of what I said. Maybe only 1.13% of the bottling run, but that is sales that put money into a local business and a local economy; not into the bottomless pockets of CEO’s who don’t care a jot about whisky but just want your cash. If you don’t spend your whisky money at Amazon or get a Black Friday deal from an online only retailer, they aren’t that likely to go bust. Of course not everybody has the funds to avoid being frugal when it comes to whisky purchases, this year especially. The Mr Grumpy in me understands the situation and there is nothing wrong with that. Note: I’ve seen some whisky cheaper in an independent shop than on Amazon. Some retailers do promotions on free shipping if spending over a threshold amount. Shop wisely.


For Goodness Sakes! He’s gone off on one again. Don’t worry. Almost finished.

2020 has a lot of negative things to look back on. Don’t let it be the beginning of the end for a friendly independent whisky shop. Perhaps make an effort to reduce or let go of our building dependence on cheap online only sales. Once lockdown is finished, be sure to pop into one of the independent spirit retailers close to you. They’ll thank you for it. 

Feedback is welcome on this subject. My aim isn’t to offend but highlight the smaller businesses that struggling on an already uneven playing field. What’s your opinion?

Postscript

After One Up closed, Yogi Duncan was working in an Oddbins in Aberdeen. He could have become my shoegaze, wine and whisky guru, but sadly I left Aberdeen the same year as the lights went out at One Up forever. Then the nearest independent music shop was Imperial Records in Inverness, but sadly this closed the following year in 2014. Another store with a stunning customer service lost to the digital shopping paradigm, a service made more special due to the owner Mark and I having some great conversations based on initially realising a shared love of the music of Galaxie 500.

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

One Up, Allt Dour; – Authors Own

Old Pulteney 17 – Amazon

Katsize Lingerie – Facebook.

All others – Shutterstock

Burn The Witch

The Online Trial Of Jim Murray

How the mighty have fallen or may fall. Certainly there is a large fall from grace in the case of whisky writer Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible. This tome has been released on an annual basis since 2003 and many look to it as a guide to what’s good to drink in the wide world of whisky. The 2021 release has become a bit controversial, thanks to fellow whisky writer Becky Paskin calling out some of what can be considered lewd or sexual comments. Apparently comments like this have been made throughout the past 25 years, but according to Becky this edition she managed to count 34 questionable sexual statements. She made a post on social media saying how she felt it was unacceptable and now was the time to call time on it.


Last years Whisky Bible. My last one.

Indeed, it seems this is the time to call time on questionable behaviour. This summer has seen protests about Black Lives Matter in response to police brutality in the United States though in the UK this has mutated to also question the reverence paid to people who were involved in the slave trade of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. This was followed by protests and vandalism throughout the UK, with the statue of slave trader Edward Colston being thrown into Bristol Harbour.

Lets look at some of Jim’s quotes in the whisky bible by looking at this thread of Becky’s Twitter Feed. Click on this link Becky Paskin’s Initial Tweet to see the full thread.

While none of this is particularly dirty, there seems to be a general sexualisation of whisky, which to be honest I have to say is becoming more and more unacceptable as time goes on. It is juvenile humour at best and venturing into creepy old man territory at the other end of the scale. As a male, even I find it a bit distasteful. I don’t want to have images of a man in his mid sixties speaking about sex come into my mind when I am having a dram.

Jim himself, from what I have read on social media feeds almost seems dismissive in his defence of his comments, going as far to accuse the subject being pushed by those jealous of his writing and talent. But in my mind, this dismissal could well be Jim’s downfall.

Becky Paskin is not just another run of the mill whiskyphile or blogger such as myself. She was the editor of a great website scotchwhisky.com, a great resource for those researching whisky and industry news. She’s also a whisky journalist, consultant, presenter and currently is a co-founder of OurWhisky which aims to provide education about the industry while recognising the modern face of the drink. Becky is also a Keeper of the Quaich, so you can safely say that she would seem to have an excellent grasp of the industry. You can almost feel that Jim Murray’s accusation of jealousy may have been founded by the fact the person calling him out is a woman. Would have been any different if the whistle blower was male?

I don’t know either person, but to read what has been said by both of them, it would seem that Jim has become a dinosaur from a previous age. I think the fact that 50% of potential readers of his books would be female should give enough motivation to be careful in what he may be saying; many women wouldn’t be particularly happy in reading the various smutty comments that are in his latest publication. It may also have passed him by that a growing proportion of talent in the industry have XX chromosomes, with many distillers, blenders, brand ambassadors, distillery guides being of the fairer sex. I learnt something from this debacle that Penderyn Welsh Whisky is made by an all female distilling team. Just goes to show that what is between your legs doesn’t and shouldn’t affect how you progress in the industry.


What Glenfarclas gives Jim the horn?

What is more enlightening is the amount of female responses to Becky’s post, applauding her stand and letting their own struggles being known. Jim’s response to saying in the previous 20 odd years that he had not received a single complaint. Dismissal like this does not excuse any ill considered comments. Most people will just read, move on and get on with their day, but when it is consistent and throughout a publication then one has to ask what is the mindset to the author, especially when it adds nothing to the primary content which in this case is whisky. Have we forgot that many people don’t report sexual crime because they don’t want the fuss but once others start, then they feel encouraged and enabled to speak about their experiences. It may be unfortunate that Jim might also be facing the wrath of people affected by the actions of others and not just what has been written in his publications. He isn’t the first person to make questionable comments offensive to women in the industry, but he’s certainly being made the poster boy for the whisky world equivalent of #MeToo.

Continue reading “Burn The Witch”

Kicking It Old Skool

Taste Review #52 – Macallan 10 (Old Style)

No. I am not trying to get down with the kids. I am definitely not a cool person. But today’s review will be a refreshing piece of nostalgia, and we are going to be looking at whisky that many being produced today need to learn from. There may be a bit of Macallan bashing, but this is purely incidental, certainly not intentional and could be equally aimed at many other distilleries.


1990’s Macallan

How many of us remember a time when whisky was good? Hasn’t it always been good? Can it get any better? With Single Malt Whisky having exploded over the past couple of decades, the choice has never been better. However with this taste review, I want to put a concept to you. I want each of you who reads this to think about it to yourselves. And if you can be bothered, I’d appreciate feed back, either in the form of a comment below the article, through facebook, instagram, e-mail or even twitter. If your only means of communicating with me is carrier pigeon, then by all means send it, however I can’t promise that my dog won’t eat it. So if you are General Melchitt and your pigeon is called Speckled George, definitely don’t send it. (Fans of Blackadder Goes Forth will get the reference!)

I’m going to put to you the concept that some whisky is not better than it used to be. I would say it is demonstrably not worse per se, but definitely not as good as it used to be. I would say this has happened and continues to happen due to the large amounts of different editions through different age statements, non-age statements, cask finishing and the lack of decent aged stock available. This is something that all distilleries will suffer from. Each one is trying to obtain, keep or improve its market share.

For a while, I have felt that this applied to Macallan. This is not because I want to rebel against Macallan, as everybody seems to like them and I don’t want to rebel like a stroppy teenager. It’sbecause I feel the focus has moved. While I still believe that they do still make quality whisky, I feel that quality is definitely subdued. This was highlighted to me during a visit to their distillery in October last year.

The building itself is a marvel. You will have never seen a distillery like it, and I doubt if we will ever see one again, certainly not in the near future. Outside it looks more like an extension of Tellytubby land, but inside you can see the architectural masterpiece it is. The tour is good value too, albeit it seems very corporate, although now thinking about it, this is not a mistake. This is deliberate.

The Macallan archive is a wonderful masterpiece, with hundreds of bottles on the soaring shelves. But it is here we start to make our comparisons. One of my bugbears with Macallan is the amount of NAS they are releasing. To look across the way, we see the shop, where many of the products there have no age statements. But as I said before, some of what I am saying about Macallan can be applied to many distilleries, as aged stocks run low.

Macallan has been known as a distillery that exclusively used sherry casks, and one of the six pillars of Macallan is the quality of their casks. However, since 2004, they have been releasing whisky that has been made not just in sherry casks, but now uses Bourbon casks. Not that I have a problem with this as such, as this doesn’t make a bad whisky. However, it just isn’t as good as what has gone before from Macallan in my opinion.


one of my old style Macallan bottles

The tour I took at Macallan also gave us a sample of 12 year old Double Cask which is matured in American and European Oak, and the 15 year old Triple Cask which is also matured in a Bourbon cask. This, as far as I know isn’t the result of re-racking but a mixture of casks in the vatting prior to bottling. I never got a chance to try them at the distillery, as I was driving – and of course we all know drinking and driving is definitely not cool. So I got them to take home.

This fact was something that excited me, as I had a sample of a 10 year old Macallan from the 80’s or 90’s which I had been given by Matteo at the Speyside Whisky Shop, and I really wanted to write a review that compared all three, but the samples from the whisky tour just didn’t give me enough to write an objective review. However, although both drams were quite pleasant there was something that was very obvious to my palate. The old style whisky blasted the other two into outer space. Just no comparison.

Here are my tasting notes for the older whisky.


12 Year old 1990’s Macallan

Region

Speyside

Age

10 years

Strength

40 % abv

Colour

Deep gold

Nose

Proper sherry nose. Dates, plums, raisins, tobacco note, hot chocolate powder. More of a toffee note appears when water added. 

Palate

Instant, intense sweet hit on the arrival, with pretty much every note in the nose also on the palate. 

Finish

Medium to long, gently fades away. Slightly drying in the finish, toffee, dried fruits and a hint of spicy wood.


The dram

Conclusions

What I write now may be paraphrased from another article that I have written elsewhere about Macallan, but I’ll try and keep to the appropriate portions here.

I am indebted to Sorren at ocdwhisky.com for an article he wrote about whisky blogging. One of the things he said was that no whisky manufacturer deliberately makes a bad whisky. I know I might have had a bit of a rant over Jura Journey and Glen Keith, but Sorren is right. It’s just tastes are different, and you can’t like everything. However, that doesn’t mean that distilleries can get away with reduced quality whisky.

Of course, with a shortage of aged stocks, plus a decline in sherry drinkers has probably meant that sourcing quality casks has become harder and certainly more expensive for Scotch whisky producers. I would contend that Macallan has safeguarded the premium casks for their more expensive whiskies, which can cost thousand of pounds. However, they aren’t going to be doing that exclusive for whisky that is in the sub £100 bracket if they can get away with it. Use of Bourbon casks reduces the demand for sherry casks. This is something Macallan has been releasing since 2004. So, my concept I am trying to get you to think about is that have Macallan (or other producers) slowly weaned us off the premium whisky and onto something that is still good, but not as good?

I certainly feel this way, as the old-skool sample that I had was absolutely fantastic, and I almost regret giving my brother-in-law a small sample of the small sample I received. In a normal state of mind I wouldn’t have shared, but my brother in law is a good bloke and he very much appreciated his share. Is it a case of what we used to get as a standard 10 year old is now the quality standard for the 18 year old or above? I may have to take the plunge and buy a more expensive bottle to find out, or chum up my more generous Macallan drinking friends.

This is why I feel that with Scotty’s drams it is good to use the samples of older whisky, in particular my bargain basement miniature buying at auction is actually a valid exercise. The ten year old Macallan in the picture above is auctioning for around £300. The 12 year old I’ve seen as high as £450. A smaller sample is good for reminding us what has gone before and gives us a point of reference.

What is your take on this subject?

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here

Sorry for the double publishing – there was an error generated that caused the link to display incorrect information. It won’t happen again. Actually it probably will, but I will still be sorry.


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Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo credits

All Photographs author’s own.

My dirty secret

Confession is good for the soul…. supposedly.

This week is going to be much better than last week. Because I am writing my Saturday article on Monday, this will mean that I have no confession on Friday that I have nothing prepared. In fact, the way I feel now, that confession would be much better. Indeed I’d rather just not give you all a Saturday article and admit failure than give up the source of my shame.

For this, it grinds my insides even more than telling you that since my wee accident with the garage door, to this point not a drop of alcohol has passed my lips. It’s kind of ironic that a chap who writes a whisky blog and collects bottles has become temporarily tee-total. I have to confide that my whisky sin is worse than that.

Much worse.

It is an old proverb that says that confession is good for the soul, but this time I have my doubts, for the evidence of my shame will be on the internet, not just here but on another site for all to see, only you won’t know which one as there are some details that you just don’t need to know.

I’ve become a hypocrite.

Now that the truth is out, I can continue along the same theme as my article from last week in which my Macallan Folio 5 arrived. With the news so much more had been released than the 2000 per edition previously, it wasn’t going to meet my expectations. As I said last week, my intention had been to swap for a Folio 4, and maybe sell in the long run, but with Macallan reportedly releasing 18,000 more Folio 5 than Folio 4, the price of the former will never achieve the price of the latter.

Of course, I could always sell it on without a profit, but just cover my costs, but I do have a small amount of morality left, and I couldn’t sell my bottle to somebody knowing that even though they were just paying essentially what I paid, the price of the bottle is likely to fall below even that. That’s just taking advantage of people.

Lastly, I could always drink it. But I’m sorry, no Macallan NAS at £250 is worth that. Plus, when we take in consideration the excessive packaging, that alone must take up at least £20 from the RRP, and once drunk, what do I do with it? I’m not a Macallan collector in that way at all.

Even if I sell it to another punter who will drink it, I’m not sure my conscience will let me sleep at night knowing that I’ve met somebody face to face, or even a follower of my blog to sell them a whisky which in a couple of months will be a lot cheaper. That’s not how I roll.

So, with morals securely stored in a dark place, I made contact with an auctioneer to arrange pick up of my box. We had a nice chat about Macallan (Whisky Geek Scotty was in check this time!) which in my opinion could summarise the conversation by saying Macallan have definitely made an impact to the secondary prices of a few of their recent releases.

Indeed, the auctioneer made a very good point about how Macallan really should look into their application of the ballot system and how it really should be for known amount of limited bottles, something buyers of Edition 5 and Easter Elchies 2019 are probably thinking too. I’ve an article about that written, but will give it a break with the Macallan writing after today. Just to give your senses a rest if nothing else.

In all fairness, I should have seen the warning signs and not just blindly entered the ballot. No evidence of the likely age and no numbers of Folio 5 released. Plus there was a commitment to buy if you won the ballot, unlike the Easter Elchies 2018, which gladly at £750 they did give you a little breathing space.

The conclusion? I’m glad it’s going but I do hope that I recover most of my money from it, if not make a small profit. As from the comments from last weeks article, take the money and spend it on something you’d really enjoy drinking. That’s a great point, and already something has already popped up. Not telling you what it is, as you may outbid me.

As an aside to this article, my dealings with the auctioneer revealed that I could not set a reserve higher than the RRP. This is a great move as it helps limit the rip off profiteering that some online auctioneers facilitate. Of course, the price may go higher, but that is because of what people are willing to pay rather than people being taken advantage of through limited availability and the crazy prices some of the greedy, impatient or ill-informed are prepared to pay.

And these people all do exist. A quick look at an online auction reveals just under 120 bottles of Folio 5 available. Some ill-informed person has already bid £560, yet still hasn’t met the reserve, which means the auctioneer is essentially helping the greedy.

On the other side, there is bottles there still for sale under RRP but there is just over a day to go as I publish this and these may well make a profit yet. But seeing this gives me squeaky bum time, though it reinforces my belief that the price will plummet. Indeed, out of 118 bottles, 42 will still fail to make a profit going by current bids and not including the cost of getting them to the auction house.

Perhaps Macallan planned this mass release deliberately to ensure more whisky gets drunk, and I have to grudgingly doff my cap to them, but given the demand for the brand world wide, I am still sure if they were open about the amount produced it would sell out. Either way, do they care about the secondary market? They sell their product anyway, and surely that is all that matters? This is part of the Macallan article I am attempting to write, but my keyboard just defaults to ‘rant lock’ and I don’t fancy libelling anybody.

With that, it’s now time to go and think about what dram for later on. After all it’s Saturday night!

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Slainte Mhath!

Index of tastings here

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Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link

The Belly Button Superstore

Opinions are like belly buttons; we all have them.

This article is brought to you whilst I am currently in Inverness. The missus is out shopping for a party frock for her Christmas staff night out, and I’ve been told to go and amuse myself. While we were walking down the High Street, my better half indicated it would be better for me to do my own thing, sort of indicating in the direction of the Whisky Shop. Big mistake on a few counts.

Why? Sending me to a whisky shop means I am probably buy more bottles and also the Whisky Shop in Inverness is horrifically over priced. I remember the day I was looking for a 20CL Clynelish 14 and they were charging £29. This was available anywhere else at the time for £16. One of the hazards of shopping in a tourist town. Even now, the WS online price is £22 and a quick online search shows The Whisky Exchange selling the same item for £12.95.

Don’t get me wrong, customer service at the Whisky Shop is excellent, and they have passionate and knowledgeable staff. But I shop on price, and it seems that in Inverness prices aren’t set locally.

The other reason it was a mistake is that I am going to wonder into a whisky shop and bore some poor sales assistant with my whisky waffle, and today it was the turn of Jack at Wood Winters whisky and wine shop in Church Street to be the ‘victim’. This is my favourite local whisky shop (they are a wee bit closer than the Speyside ones!) and although it has a smaller selection than my other favourite shops, it still has a good selection of high quality wines & spirits. I know hee-haw about wine because I think there should be only four types – white, red, pink and distilled (😉).

To be honest, I was just in for a peruse, but once into full whisky waffle mode, we ( or should that be more ‘I’) ended up speaking about the Allt’a Bhainne distillery, and how I’d bought a single cask bottle from Strathisla the previous day, but was saddened to see a decent review site totally slate their recent single malt release with a 2/10 score. Although it wasn’t a whisky to set the world on fire, it was a decent pour, and at least one of the people who read my review (see here) bought it and enjoyed it.


Allt’a Bhainne distillery. Brutal architecture gives rise to brutal opinions


Yes, it was a bargain whisky, not too expensive, plus a whisky that is rarely, if ever, gets seen as an official bottle, rather it is normally released as an independent bottling. Unfortunately, because the reviewer had plenty of experience of these releases, he concentrated on the negative issues about the whisky. Of course there was plenty of marketing about it, and yes, it wasn’t a spectacular whisky, but it wasn’t unpleasant, and indeed I got a nice surprise. It was good to see the review has comments that picked up on the fact that 2/10 wasn’t fair. I bought mine at £22, and to be honest I’ve had bottles double that price be doubly disappointing. A quick look at other retail websites seem to suggest the vast majority of people who are reviewing their purchase seem to favour this dram.

Indeed, peated Speyside isn’t that unusual. Benriach does a decent one with the 10 year old Curiositas, which does have a natural presentation, whereas the 40% AAB doesn’t.


Allt’a Bhainne. One £22, the other considerably more.


It now comes to the obvious point that taste is a very subjective matter. Yes, the more refined palate may pick up more nuances that others might not, especially if you are lucky enough to be able to sample a large range of quality spirits, though it’s worth bearing in mind that not everybody has the same experience.

I did want to title this article as Opinions are like bum holes, but that’s even a bit too crass for me, as the blog is slowly picking up more views (keep sharing folks!) but it is true; we all have our opinions. Not all of these opinions are universal to everybody else. As much as I dig at Famous Grouse, it isn’t a bad blend. It may not be a quality one, but we don’t always need to be drinking premium spirits, especially if our wallets don’t allow it. My criticism of Jura Journey comes from a standpoint that it is not a young distillery, has some very very experienced people behind it, and has produced some lovely produce – Journey is just such a massive disappointment and obviously young whisky and marketing. They should have known better. But, if you like it, kudos to you, and I hope you will challenge me on it.

I will not name the reviewer or site I saw the poor Allt’a Bhainne review on, but one has to ask is their opinion valid, and should it influence us? All opinions are valid, as one man’s meat is is another man’s murder, but we should take one opinion on its own with a pinch of salt. The truth is you have to try for yourself. If you are looking to elevate yourself to find quality spirits, I would suggest that you won’t find them in a bottle of whisky costing £22, but what you may find is good value, which the reviewer seemed to miss.

Should another opinion influence you? No. As a person who is writing about the whiskies he tries, I am not really trying to totally influence you, but rather guide you and hopefully give you a bit of an amusing spiel at the same time. But to listen to one opinion in isolation does not tell the whole story.

What is partially annoys me is the Allt’a Bhainne seems to have a bit of a bad rap, but I think it is slightly unfair. It’s as though the brutal 1975 architecture of a distillery designed to be operated by one man inspires brutal comments. Some of these experts I think have their heads in a place that is pretty physically impossible to achieve, as they have been focused on different level of whisky. They can have their opinion, but sometimes they are written in a way that would be looking down on anybody that disagrees. While I will probably be wrong, it certainly doesn’t feel like that.

Similarly, I feel tasting notes are also only an opinion. Not everybody has olfactory nerves that detect aromas in the same way which can influence the flavours you also experience. Distillery tasting notes will always be guided by the type of cask used for maturation and what the master distiller can detect and was aiming for. Add in marketing spin and voila! For anybody else it is open season. Let your nose and palate guide you. And your wallet. Use tasting notes as a guide only, for the world is your oyster and don’t let anybody rain on your whisky parade.

In conclusion, look at reviews and tasting notes, but make sure at some point you get into the action and try for yourself as you may get a surprise. Just remember, the right dram is the one you are enjoying.

Do you agree or disagree? I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Slainte!

Scotty

– thanks to Jack for his great service and for selling me a Kilkerran 12 and GlenAllachie 12. And I hope I didn’t bore you.

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love ❤️❤️


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo credits

Distillery Photo – Ingo Wölbern (Wikipedia / public domain)

Other photos – authors own.

Brace yourselves…..


Why you shouldn’t fall for marketing.

After an elongated trip to 64 degrees north (that’s level with the southern edge of Iceland) which involved long periods of being cold out on deck of a ship, there is no doubt winter is now here in North West Europe. Now safely in my warm house, it’s -5c outside and I’m convinced I’m not moving from bed today. So, seeing that I now have proper internet and time on my hands, I’ve been catching up on the whisky auction action that I was unable to see while at work.

Now winter is here in Strathspey and Badenoch, it seems fully appropriate to now talk about the collection I have been most asked about since starting Scotty’s Drams. This has been the ‘Game of Thrones’ series, released by Diageo in collaboration with HBO. I can’t say too much about the series, as I am one of the few people in my circle of friends and colleagues who haven’t seen it. I’ve watched the first three episodes, and to me it’s all cack.

The question invariably turns to ‘is it worth collecting?’ For me it has to be a no, as I already have bottles from the distilleries in question. For the record, the GoT bottlings are :-

  • Dalwhinnie Winters Frost, 43% – House Stark
  • Singleton of Glendullan Select, 40% – House Tully
  • Cardhu Gold Reserve, 40% – House of Targaryen
  • Clynelish Reserve, 51.2% – House of Tyrell
  • Royal Lochnagar, 12 y.o, 40% – House of Baratheon
  • Lagavulin 9 y.o, 46% – House of Lannister
  • Talisker Select Reserve, 45.8% – House of Greyjoy
  • Oban Bay Reserve, 43% – The Nights Watch

There was also three Blends released:-

  • Johnnie Walker, 41.7% – White Walker
  • Johnnie Walker, 40.2% – Song Of Ice
  • Johnnie Walker, 40.8% – Song Of Fire

There is now also a 12th bottle in the series which is supposed to be the last one, but we will see. This gets released at the end of November 2019.

  • Mortlach 15, 46% – The Six Kingdoms

So is it worth collecting?

An article from October 2018 seems to think so.

Game Of Thrones Collection “is Coming”

However we have to read between the lines a little bit. This person certainly writes as though it’s a promotional piece. So of course they will say the whisky is good. But the drams were picked in New York and if they are only seeing Royal Lochnagar for the first time, then it’s also worth bearing in mind that maybe the lack of availability means the writer has not experienced the full depth of what good Scotch is.

Let’s just look at the selection. Only three in the complete range have age statements. You can bet your bottom dollar that the rest of them have a good proportion of young whisky in them. Lack of age doesn’t necessarily make it a bad whisky, but depends on how much is in there. The price point indicates you aren’t getting a lot of the old stuff. Indeed, the original 8 bottles cost £390-ish, and this will be available on Amazon at the end of November 2019 at a slightly lower price of £380.75.

(amazon.co.uk)


If you add the Mortlach (£120) and the three Johnnie Walkers (about another £100) you could be in to the collection for £620-ish depending on where you buy at retail. Again, we have to look at the detail. You can buy 16 year old Mortlach at 43% for £80. But perhaps there is more quality whisky been added to the vatting.

So, if it’s good for collecting, let’s take a look at recent auction prices.

Scotch Whisky Auctions – Nov 2019


Whisky Auctioneer – Nov 2019


Just Whisky Auctions Oct 2019


Whiskyhammer Auctions Oct 2019


Do you see the pattern? The complete sets are now selling for less than retail. Even the individual bottles are the same. How many were fooled when they saw pictures like the one below?


Whisky Auctioneer Jan 2019


  • Remember the laws of supply and demand take over when things are first released. And if demand is high, prices are fuelled by the impatient, gullible and the flippers. This is not unique to GoT whisky, but everything. Nearly always, the price drops back after the initial demand has been met. The exception is the whiskies that are truly limited. Even Macallan Genesis, sold for over £4000 a bottle at one point, has dropped to a new auction low of £1400 this month. The follow up of Easter Elchies Black 2018 now struggles to make much over retail price, some struggling to make even that. Factor in auction fees and you have a loss on your hands. And that is where GoT whisky is heading. I might be wrong, but here are my reasons
  • The whisky isn’t rare. Tens of thousands were produced.
  • The whisky isn’t special. Each distillery in the selection makes far better produce in other bottlings
  • The market for it is limited. The person it is aimed at is the fans of the show. Each one will probably have it. Some collectors may also purchase it, but when they see falling prices, may offload. There may well be a residual demand, but not enough to raise prices in the short to medium term (15-20+ years)
  • Fans that buy it may not store it correctly. yup, those fans may well keep it on its side. Something I recently saw on a Macallan Appreciation site, somebody had kept a 25 year old bottle on its side, destroying the cork. Should have been worth £2000. Net value now = £0. Poor storage affects price. Sometimes dramatically.

  • Conclusion

    And this brings us to the point. Anything that is bonded to a TV show is a gimmick. The drinks company know that people will buy it. They can shift a whole heap of whisky, especially the stuff that isn’t likely to make it into their standard or premium brands and make a killing. Certainly, I have spoken to a few people in the industry and they agree. Whisky takes time to mature. With high demand, the stocks of aged whisky are diminishing, and how can you make maximum money out of young whisky? No Age Statement, TV tie-in, added to the younger demographic watching this show of whisky drinking age and boom. The lower prices have guaranteed it will sell quickly – that much I will agree with the Forbes article mentioned earlier.


    Don’t get caught out by marketing.


    Indeed, if you would like any more proof that it was just all about the marketing, the first paragraph of the next article sums it up for me

    Diageo Releases Final Game of Thrones Whisky

    You see, Diageo doesn’t care about the secondary market. It sells product for drinking. If people will choose to collect it, that’s even better, as they may sell multiple sets to individuals. I know of people who have bought cases of each bottle. What happens to the secondary price doesn’t worry Diageo, as long as they manage to sell it first.

    Don’t feel down if you have bought a set. I may be wrong, and at the end of the day, you’ll have at least 9 whiskies that will be worth drinking. Might not set the world on fire, but at the price paid, for drinking value that’s a decent price. Give the Johnny Walker a miss. I’ve heard it’s not great.

    I have been tempted in the past to buy a set, and if the prices drop much more, I still might, but only to drink. But see where we are in 20 years. You may be happy to prove me wrong.

    Slainte Mhath

    Scotty


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    Photo Credits listed by picture.

    A road best less travelled

    Taste Review 25 – Jura Journey

    This review has been a long time coming. Indeed, it was one I wanted to do right at the start of my ‘Journey’ (pun intended) with Scotty’s Drams, but felt entirely uncomfortable with it, as I knew what I wanted to say, but didn’t know exactly how to say it. To be honest, it’s been a long and arduous challenge for my mind to come up with what I present to you today.

    the distillery

    I hope you appreciate my words, and digest them carefully, as this has been the easiest, yet hardest review to write so far. You’ll soon see why.

    Let’s get down to business. The island of Jura sits just to the north of that famous whisky isle / region of Islay. You can reach Jura by ferry from Islay, not too far away from Caol Ila distillery at Port Askaig. The main feature of Jura is a small collection of hills known as the ‘Paps of Jura’ on account of their shape. Pap is a Scottish slang term relating to a part of the female anatomy. The ferry journey is very short, so those of you who don’t have sea legs needn’t worry. There is only one distillery on Jura, and it is in the small village of Craighouse, on the east coast of the island.

    the dram

    Region

    Highland

    Age

    Jura Journey is non-age statement

    Strength

    40% a.b.v

    Colour

    Amber Gold

    Nose

    Honey, barley sugar, slight smoke, black currants

    Palate

    Soft arrival, watery, no real mouthfeel. Vanilla fudge, a wee bit of smoke. Disappointment abounds.

    Finish

    Short but sort of lingers. It ends in black currants in the end. Like Ribena, which is a soft drink in the UK. Something it has in common with Jura Journey, which can almost be classified as a soft drink.

    my 35CL bottle

    Conclusion

    Winston Churchill once said “Diplomacy is the ability to tell a person to go to hell in such a way that they will be looking forward to the journey”.

    This isn’t a Journey to look forward to. I’ve tried to be diplomatic about this dram, but my keyboard kept defaulting to ‘rant’ setting, and therefore I have abandoned diplomacy. This is dram you may well struggle to enjoy.

    If you are thinking of going for a ‘Journey’ of discovery with this whisky, abort the trip and pour yourself some Laphroaig. You’ll thank me for it. This Jura isn’t so much of a journey but the road to hell.

    This whisky is the reason why I decided to keep Scotty’s Drams independent, and wouldn’t have to modify my reviews on account of being in somebody’s pocket. I don’t rely on being provided samples, all are bought with one or two gifts on the way.

    This whisky was a present, but when it was opened, me and the gift giver decided the same thing – it was so insipid that it was as though we weren’t drinking a dram at all, or it had been flooded with water even though both of us had it neat. After a nip each, it was put away, but I thought I’d give it time to see if it improved in my mind. We soon moved on to better stuff.

    Coming back to it a couple of years later (yeah, I know!!!) my view of it hasn’t changed. It is terrible. There is no real character to it at all, which given the big guns behind this is a big surprise. Perhaps Richard Patterson had his day off when that recipe was concocted, and upon his return made the trainee stick to it, so he could learn from the poor reviews when you make a dud dram. You’d learn quickly.

    Jura has made some lovely whisky in its time, the 10 year old is a decent (but not great) dram, but I’m wary of NAS Jura, and this has confirmed my prejudice. I’d wouldn’t even use this for cleaning drains due to its lack of strength. It’s a training whisky at best, only so you know what disappointment is like. I may use it as a cooking whisky, or for visitors I don’t like.

    There are two good things about it, the first being that if you are given it, you’ll know one of 5 things about your friend

    ⁃ They know nothing about whisky

    ⁃ They are on a budget

    ⁃ They have no sense of smell or taste

    ⁃ They don’t really like you

    ⁃ Possibly a combination of the above.

    The second good thing? I lied. I couldn’t find another good thing.

    It’s not even that cheap, it gives an experience of a lower price point than it actually is. On a technical note, this seems to be really young whisky, which with a lack of cask influence is not showing the distillery character in a good light, which is a shame. There are good Jura Drams out there. Just not this one.

    If you don’t believe me, research on the internet, YouTube (other websites are available) is the best one to see what other whiskyphiles think of it. That is the other reason I waited so long to review.

    it’s about the same thing – really

    To be honest, had I paid for this, I would have felt violated. I enjoyed the Haig Clubman a lot more, and it’s cheaper. Jura Journey can be bought online for around £30 or £35 at Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s at the time of writing, but if you want my honest opinion, this is over priced. Tesco’s are selling the 35CL bottles at £12 on offer at the moment. That’s the price I would pay just as a cheap way of trying a poor whisky without breaking the bank.

    Whatever you do, don’t ask for this at a specialist whisky shop. You’ll be correctly identified as a moron.

    I’m away to rinse my mouth with Famous Grouse. At least that has flavour of some sort and is also cheaper than Jura Journey.

    Slainte Mhath!


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    Photo credits
    • Jura distillery – Gordon Brown / Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0
    • Road to Hell – john3corrigan.com

    Better Dramming Through Chemistry?

    Will age statements soon be in hours?

    It has been a fairly vexatious fortnight for Scotty’s Drams. During a quiet moment at work, I was reading an article about an American company who can make a whisky in not years, but age it in a matter of 24 hours.

    The timer for ‘aged’ whisky

    I’m not kidding. Click here for the link to the article. Not only that, but another Facebook page (Great Drams) wrote an article about it, so I’ve delayed mine in an effort not to be seen as a plagiarist.

    With regards to not having to waste* time ageing whisky, I’m sure this would be good for the bean counters and the shareholders, but is never going to be good for the consumer. Here’s why.

    1/ Although natural ingredients are used to flavour the whisky instead of ageing in a barrel, this should never be. In my opinion, there should only be 3 ingredients. Water, Yeast, Malted Barley. And E150a if absolutely necessary.

    Glenfiddich 24. Is that years or hours?

    2/ Making a whisky in this way means you are taking away any character. The stills, the barley and yeast strain mean nothing. Even the cask influence is now obsolete.

    3/ To me a good whisky is made by a great distillery coupled with a great master blender. For instance, Glenallachie has certainly taken a forward bound with the arrival of Billy Walker. His 12 y.o core expression is fantastic. That’s the skill we want and not just somebody in a white coat.

    Things went awry in the Famous Grouse Lab

    4/ Where is the soul in the liquid? I like the idea that my dram has been slumbering in a cask for however many years. It has taken on the character of the place it was matured, hopefully in a dunnage warehouse. For a coastal whisky, I want a brine influence and I’m wanting it from the cask, not because somebody has added some salt to the vat.

    5/ What about Single Casks? That would be pointless, as you can just cook up a recipe for your whisky. I like the variation of single casks, as well as the influence of the wood, depending on the cask type.

    Would we even need wooden barrels any more?

    Why would we do this??

    Obviously this is down to cost. If a product doesn’t need to be matured, then the need to hold something in a warehouse for 10, 20 or however many years is gone. Going down this route is only for financial benefit of the producer and not the consumer.

    Without wanting to go down a political path, this is one of only one threat to Scotch whisky from the US. There is already talk about the US insisting that the minimum age for Scotch New Make Spirit to be called whisky being changed to 2 years instead of 3. Of course, in the light of Brexit, the UK is likely to cave into demands in order to get a trade deal. It needs the revenue of a trade deal. Tax revenue on almost £5bn industry, this will make whisky a commodity that the UK treasury will not want to affect the export of. Especially to its largest export market, and certainly won’t want to see any tariffs added, which will be devastating to the UK Treasury and the Scottish Whisky Industry.

    But how would the refusal of artificially aged whisky equally affect the export market and tax revenue if the markets for Scotch reject it? It is a double edged sword.

    Scottish whisky is sold on not only its quality and taste, it’s also partially the tradition, the legend, and the perceived quality. Take this away by taking away the maturation period would put a big nail into the heart of the industry. What distillery would sully its brand so after decades or centuries?

    The Distillery of the future?

    Fortunately, the Scotch Whisky Association doesn’t expect the status of Scotch Whisky to change, but in uncertain times, we just don’t know. The other plus point is that it won’t catch on if people don’t buy it. Hopefully the people who regularly read my articles want to drink quality and not quantity, and aren’t afraid to pay a little bit for it. May it stay that way my friends. You will have a much more fulfilling whisky journey because of it.

    Can there be a worse whisky than Grouse after all??

    Slainte Mhath

    *its never a waste of time to carefully age a great dram.


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