I’ve encountered folks refusing to drink a whiskey for not divulging where it was distilled.
Are folks really that petty?
Let’s dial back a bit however & answer a few basic questions.
What got you into whiskey?
For me it was primarily taste & flavour.
The joy of exploring different whiskey using a variety of grains, distilling techniques, maturation & blending practices to produce a never ending cornucopia of brands for my palate to enjoy.
Is where the whiskey distilled important?
Starting out on my journey it wasn’t.
Initially I’d be unaware of the myriad of distilleries around the world – even if they were printed on the label – but as time progressed I’d begin to favour certain flavours & styles over others & take notice of where it came from.
Does knowing where the whiskey is distilled make a difference?
My buying & drinking experiences began to be predicated on my previous encounters. A bias or prejudice towards certain styles or distilleries formed which I’ve subsequently worked to overcome. Blind tasting & doing an WSET course worked wonders in this regard & challenged any bias – conscious or not – & helped develop an open mind about the whiskey in my glass.
Do you need to know where the whiskey is distilled?
Legally there is no jurisdiction that stipulates distillery of origin must be named. Usually they are – as it enhances brand recognition – but it’s not necessary. Knowing can automatically engender bias – so I often immerse myself in the taste & flavours of the whiskey in front of me before finding out the details.
What if there’s no information as to distillery of origin?
Enjoy the whiskey.
Blended whiskey by default do not name the distilleries the individual components came from as they are often made up of numerous malts, grains & single pot stills from a variety of changing sources to bring about a uniform flavour in the one brand.
Single Malt & Single Pot Still releases from blenders & bottlers may also be subject to legally binding ‘non disclosure agreements’ from the distilleries involved & whilst they come from a single source – this does not preclude that source changing. Distilleries are capable of replicating the style of another’s to provide consistency of flavour.
What do you want in a whiskey?
An enjoyable drinking experience that excites my palate.
While learning about where it was distilled, who made it & all the other information may enhance that experience – it’s not a prerequisite. If on the other hand knowing those details is more important to you – we’re not on the same page. Giving up the taste & flavour experience to a prescribed set of data that must be met before drinking is rather sad.
The frisson of excitement & growing sense of exploration & adventure in anticipation of tasting a new & unknown whiskey is a joy.
It centred on Rum – but applies to all categories.
One train of thought is the more information the better.
But every time the issue arises a chorus of similar phrases crop up.
‘Lying’, ‘cheating’ & ‘out to gouge us’.
Paints a rather paranoid & fearful picture of those big bad spirit manufactures & regulatory regimes that conspire to outwit us – into buying a liquid we enjoy drinking??
Just don’t buy the stuff if you’re that worried.
Spirit manufacturing is a highly regulated, highly legislated industry – regardless of country of origin.
A whole raft of rules & standards have to be adhered to before any product reaches market – one of the most important being that it’s fit for human consumption – and anyone who doubts that clearly has no faith in those measures – nor the manufacturers.
So why would additional labelling provided by those very same bodies make any difference if you don’t trust them anyway?
The other train of thought is simply the taste test.
It’s called blind tasting – & I’m a fierce big proponent of it.
Many spirit competitions are conducted using this method and it’s the most honest & transparent system there is.
You are presented with a line of identical bottles stripped of branding, fancy presentation & flowery prose extolling the virtues of the liquid within.
I trust my palate to decide in such situations whether I enjoy the spirit or not.
And I also trust the regulatory systems in place that the spirit before me is safe to consume & is what it says it is.
If you want more information then buy from manufacturers that provide it – but don’t make out those that show the minimum legal requirements are somehow ‘cheating’ you. They will taste just as good – or bad – as those with with the complete works of Shakespeare attached.