Tag Archives: Scotch Whisky Association

Is The Blog You’re Reading Scotch Centric?

It’s a question I often ask myself after coming across various examples of this particular malaise.

But what is Scotch Centrism?

Tartan specs courtesy zazzle.com

Viewing the whisky world via the optics of tartan spectacles leading to undue bias – intentional or not – towards Scotch, positioning it on a pedestal beyond reproach, usually coupled with scant regard – veering to disdain – for whisky producing countries that aren’t Scotland.

My first encounter with this affliction was a few years ago.

A Scottish internet publication invited non Scottish cities citizens to give a flavour of whisky spots within their environs.

One resident had proclaimed there were no whisky distilleries in this particular location – despite myself having visited one!

The sufferer had such a bad dose of Scotch Centrism they were blinded & unable to see the distilleries operating in their own backyard!

The Scottish publication in turn failed to do any checks & subsequently released this false information.

A more severe example pertains to rules.

Sufferers believe any whisky produced outside of Scotland that doesn’t comply with SWA – Scotch Whisky Association – rules is basically ‘not doing it right’.

Effectively this shows a complete lack of respect for the different ways each country make their own whisky – and verges into cultural imperialism.

Such a position belittles the ‘other’, limits diversity & stifles innovation in the global whisky category.

A final – often milder – example is where the Scotch Centric drinker eventually does get round to sampling a non Scotch whisky & invariably expresses surprise at how enjoyable & well presented it is – often with a hint of patronisation thrown in.

Luckily Scotch Centrism isn’t a permanent condition.

Sufferers merely need to ditch the tartan glasses & open themselves up to a whole new world of enjoyable tastes & flavours.

Treating countries with different rules to those of Scotland with the same respect & having an open mind – and palate – to exploring their produce helps too.

Perhaps then we can learn a bit of ‘kinship, belonging & inclusiveness’ – to borrow an Irish Distillers marketing missive – & ‘Widen The Circle’ along the way when we’re at it.

Sláinte

Tartan glasses courtesy zazzle.com All other images authors own.

Innovation & Change in Whisky

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.

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Ireland says No! c/othewhiskeynut

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.

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Cameronbridge grain distillery. Largest in Europe. Built 1830 & still going strong. c/othewhiskeynut

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.

Blended whisky is the major player in worldwide whisky production today making up to 80% of sales.

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.

Sláinte

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Header photo Athrú Whiskey – athrú meaning change in Irish.

The Scotch Whisky juggernaut is running out of road.

All is not well in Scotch Whisky.

The fastest growing whisky making countries in the world do not include Scotland.

They do include Ireland, Japan and Canada.

So Scotch Whisky chooses to attack these countries in a series of articles and posts across various media platforms.

The common thread in all these articles revolves around the fact these countries manufacture and market their own whiskies in a manner not compliant with Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) rules.

Now I don’t know about you – but I must have missed the meeting when it was decided SWA rules applied worldwide. It shows a complete lack of respect for those countries indigenous rules, customs and practices.

The fact customers are seeking out those countries whisky products obviously means it has nothing to do with the rules – it must be something else.

Whisky from it’s very inception has never been about the rules.

Whisky has a long tradition and rich historical vein of tales involving illicit poitin & moonshine distillation, smugglers avoiding the gaugers on Highland trails and bootlegging during prohibition to name a few. It’s in the very DNA of what whisky is and has shaped the development of the spirit to this day.

Perhaps it’s about the taste?

Perhaps Scotch’s strict adherence to the rules comes at the expense of new and exciting tastes?

Perhaps those customers boosting non-Scotch making expression sales are seeking out those new tastes and the rules are not as important as they are made out to be?

I know I certainly am.

But there is an even larger threat looming round the proverbial corner. It’s a threat not of Scotch Whisky’s making.

Brexit.

Now the Scotch Whisky juggernaut needs a lot of space to manoeuver. It’s a cumbersome beast with it’s own inertia and inflexibility. It may not be able to negotiate the tricky corners ahead.

The Irish, Japanese and Canadian vehicles are smaller, more adaptable & nimble. They might be better equipped to handle the twists and turns thrown up by Brexit – as well as the US tariff fiasco.

The irony of Britain leaving Europe – and Scotch Whisky’s biggest market too – as it did not want to be dictated to by Brussels whilst Scottish Whisky tries to dictate to some of it’s competitors.

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Brexit Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

I think I’ll have to have a glass of Brexit Whiskey – a proudly non SWA rule produced very tasty Austrian Whiskey – and ponder over Rabbie Burn’s famous words;

‘O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.’

From where I’m sitting it isn’t looking pretty.

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Irish Whiskey Is Booming

The Irish Whiskey industry is experiencing an unprecedented rise in sales.

Irish Whiskey is the fastest growing spirits sector in the World  – prompting a rush of new entrants, new distilleries, new players and above all else – new Irish Whiskey bottles & brands to sample.

Things have never been so good.

Yet reading an article entitled ‘The Trouble With Irish Whiskey’ here – it would seem the author is in a parallel universe.

Within the first few paragraphs he suggests Irish Whiskey adopt wholesale Scotch Whiskey Rules.

ARE YOU COMPLETELY BONKERS!!!!!!!!!!!

The whole point of Irish Whiskey is that it is NOT SCOTCH!

But no – this writer would throw away the rich creamy delights of single pot still Irish Whiskey with it’s delightful spicy notes as in the marvelous Dingle Single Pot Still.

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Dingle Single Pot Still c/o@whiskeytalk2U

Down the drain would go the earthy savouriness & rich history of poitins such as Galway’s Micil Poitin.

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Micil Poitin c/othewhiskeynut

 

And the wonderful reintroduction of Irish Rye as experienced by lucky drinkers at the vibrant Whiskey Live Dublin who managed to sample the stunning single cask 6 year old rye pot still that Kilbeggan Distillery happened to have ‘under the counter’ would never see the light of day.

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When will this stunner be released? c/othewhiskeynut

Because all these superb whiskeys are not allowed under Scotch rules!

The joy of whiskey – for me at least – is experiencing new tastes, new flavours and new styles. I’d also suggest a growing number of consumers deliberately seek out Irish Whiskey for that same reason – because it is NOT SCOTCH.

But the biggest clanger of the whole article is down to one statement.

accurately and clearly naming the distillery on bottles of Irish Single Malt Whiskey. Like they have to in Scotland.

Now for a piece that has headlines stating;

Creating an honest sector‘ and ‘Misinformation and inaccuracies

this is simply breath taking.

THERE IS NO SUCH RULE!!!!!!

Section 9 of the Scottish Whiskey Rules here deals with ‘Names of distilleries and distillers etc.’

I must have read it a dozen times looking for the ‘you must name the distillery’ rule – but to no avail.

I wrote to the Scottish Whiskey Association on the subject and got the following reply.

‘ Scotch Whisky Rules do not require the distillery name to be stated on labelling.’

Oh dear!

Lecturing the Irish Whiskey industry on it’s misdemeanors based on a lie – or rather ‘Misinformation and inaccuracies‘ isn’t exactly a great start now is it?

There is an Irish word for such occasions which my father in law often used.

Omadhaun.

Look it up.

Because when you are experiencing the biggest boom Irish whiskey has witnessed for decades, creating an exhilarating buzz AND producing absolutely stunning new whiskey releases – the trouble with Irish Whiskey is letting such omadhauns have a platform in the first place.

Sláinte.

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India – Whisky Or Not?

India. A land of 1.3 billion souls stretching from the glacier valleys of the Himalayas in the North to the tropical jungles of the South.

India. A great track by 80’s indie rockers The Psychedelic Furs.

India. A land of whisky.

Yes – You read that right. I’ll say it again.

India. A land of whisky.

Those 1.3 billion inhabitants enjoy whisky at a similar rate to us in Ireland – which makes it a pretty damn big market. So big in fact that some statistics have it as THE BIGGEST.

Indian whisky sales

Not only is India THE BIGGEST market – it is also produces THE BIGGEST BRANDS for those consumers.

But like me – I think you’ll be hard pressed to name any of them.

Whisky Top 10
Which ones have you tasted?

So let’s get it straight here.

The worlds BIGGEST SELLING BRAND of whisky is an Indian expression I’ve never heard of.

Not only that – 8 of the top 10 brands are Indian and make up over 80% of actual volume sold.

There are similar figures for others years if you care to hunt them down.

So what is going on?

It seems as if Indian whisky falls foul of European regulations helpfully aided by The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA)  on what a whisky is.

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Annex II Regulation (EC) No 110/2008

But lots of Bourbons also fall foul of the above regulations in regard to item 2(a)(iii) and yet we can still buy it in the supermarket.

A bit of seeing things from a Western-centric angle going on here?

It seems to be accepted that lots of Indian whisky – and I’m talking here about high volume blends, not the excellent Amrut or John Paul single malts – are produced by a combination of neutral spirit made from fermented molasses and imported Scotch.

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My Amrut fusion had a short shelf-life! c/othewhiskeynut

So far so good. I see nothing wrong with using a by-product of sugarcane which is abundant in India for manufacturing a spirit drink.

When whisky makers first entered america there wasn’t much barley. They used what was available – corn, rye – and a new drink called bourbon was developed.

Couldn’t there be room for another category named ‘Indian Whisky’ that can cater for this?

There is already the term ‘Indian Made Foreign Liquor’  (IMFL) commonly used to describe such spirits.

There is also much talk about ‘fake‘ and ‘you can’t trust it’.

But wait a minute.Anyone who has read Naomi Klein‘s book ‘No Logo’ wouldn’t be surprised to learn that 6 out of the 8 Indian Whisky brands in the above table are manufactured by only 2 familiar names; Diageo and Pernod-Ricard.

If you’re not prepared to trust what’s in a bottle of Royal Stag or Bagpiper – why do you trust what’s in a bottle of Glenlivet or Lagavulin?  The same companies make it.

So when I stumbled across one of these Indian whiskys – I just had to try it!

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Royal Stag c/othewhiskeynut

Seagram’s  Royal Stag DeLuxe Whisky according to the label is;

‘A smooth full bodied feel of the best Scotch malts from the highlands and carefully selected Indian grain spirit.’

Bottled and blended by Pernod-Ricard India at 42.8% using the following ingredients;

‘Demineralised water, Grain neutral spirit, Scotch malt concentrate’ and that old ‘INS 150a’ or caramel to you and me. How many times do you see caramel listed on your bottle of Scotch or Irish?

Nose. Sweet

Taste. Sweet, thinking Baileys The Whiskey, Nomad territory here – and then some – but follows through with a lovely softly growing pleasant burn on the mouth and tongue – must be the Scotch kicking in – which lingers.

Finish. Satisfyingly long after the sweetness has faded.

Overall. A very pleasant whisky of 2 halves. The sweetness almost put me off during the first half but when that lovely burn came through in the second – it just made me happy – so happy in fact I had another during extra time!

Verdict; This is an easy going blend to drink. Needless to say I had it neat. The sweetness should be toned down for my liking but otherwise I can see why it’s a popular brand. I don’t think this bottle will last long!

Based on my experience with Royal Stag – I’d happily go on to try the other Indian brands in the top 10. The Bagpiper and Old Tavern names appeal to me – so if there are any reps out there heading home….

Whiskey for me is a journey of exploration,

a journey of taste, and above all

a journey of global discovery.

Go explore,

Sláinte

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