The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) recently relaxed the rules as to what kind of oak barrels can be used to mature or finish Scotch Whisky in.
This caused a few murmurings on the internet with some in favour – and others against – but it had me pondering on innovation & change in the wider whisky world.
Back in the 1830’s there was a major shift in how whisky was distilled. It centred round the patented design of Irishman Aeneas Coffey’s new still – the Coffey Still – that continues to be the mainstay of whisky production today.
The major whisky producing nation of the time – Ireland – refused to have anything to do with this new fangled machinery.
As the internet wasn’t around then – a book was written to say no to the Coffey Still.
Irish Whiskey was producing the market leading ‘traditional’ great tasting single pot still whisky at the time – why bother to change?
Meanwhile in Scotland, a growing band of mainly non distillery producers were experimenting with this innovative new ‘silent spirit’ to release a product called blended whisky.
Slowly but surely this ‘non traditional’ blended whisky caught on.
A combination of affordability, accessibility, easy tasting and clever marketing brought about a revolution in whisky fortunes and turned the underdog into the new master.
Currently Irish Whiskey is one of the fastest growing segments in the whisky community. Relatively unhindered by tight regulations it is innovating like mad and releasing fabulous tasting whiskey.
Failure to innovate nearly 200 years ago almost brought Irish Whiskey to it’s knees. All the more marvelous to witness the phoenix like rebirth & stunning growth happening now.
The ever pragmatic SWA will have noticed this – and are responding accordingly.
Header photo Athrú Whiskey – athrú meaning change in Irish.