Nick Brown wrote:I have noted Jim McEwan's offer to beat me up. It speaks volumes.
As does, perhaps, your choice to take McEwan's blether at face value. (And me, yours?)
Nick Brown wrote:I want to like Bruichladdich whisky, but at the moment I don't. I find the product basically bland. Attempts to flavour it by mixing it with heavily peated whisky or putting it in wine casks have not, IMO, created balanced whiskies.
Nick Brown wrote:I have a wider issue, not confined to Bruichladdich, with the concept of finishing. I find it akin to adding flavouring - and if finishing for only a few hours can produce a noticable effect, I think the argument that it is about maturation in wood over the years is exposed as a sham.
An interesting point. It has been accepted for over a hundred years to mature whisky in casks that previously held sherry, among other things, and we talk all the time about sherry influence (or port or whatever). It is perhaps disingenuous not to recognize this as the addition of flavoring. But that cow left the barn a long time ago. So where do we draw the line?
Nick Brown wrote:At the moment, there is a trend to find ever more exotic sounding casks that I can't believe are selected for the beneficial effects they will have, but rather to add mystique in spite of the damage that they do to a whisky.
Even a "bland" one? If a "bland" whisky is made palatable or interesting (to some, anyway), is that bad? There is indeed a lot of experimentation going on, and no doubt some works and some doesn't. Maybe, in your opinion, none of it does. But your imputation of motive here is suspect.
Nick Brown wrote:I also wonder about the attempts to create the most heavily peated whisky in the world, ever. This seems to me to be...a publicity stunt and an attempt to shift units to people who will go for anything extreme.
Publicity stunt? No doubt. It has not, to my knowledge, been (pardon the expression) repeated. What of it?
I would be willing to bet that the extremely peated Octomore will be undrinkable on its own, and will be used for vatting.
Nick Brown wrote:I also wonder at the trend of selling every whisky as a unique, not to be missed, special limited edition. This claims attention from the press and money from punters that I would like to have seen shared around a little. It also fuels the demand for the silly finishes, as each bottling has to be made demontrably different and novel.
Most of Bruichladdich's many bottlings are straight bourbon casks, or sherry, or some mix of the two. I, for one, feel no compulsion to get them all; I grab one when I want a Bruichladdich. If any brand suffers from that, it's Bruichladdich's own standard bottlings. I remember laughing when told the Yellow Submarine story at the distillery, which ended with a shrug: "Any excuse for a new bottling." I think what is being done there, for the most part, is assembling casks for various batches, without worrying whether this batch is the same as the last. The names are for fun. Is it any different, really, from issuing a'bunadh Batch 14, or Macallan 18/1986? Is it worse than pretending that the Talisker 10 you buy now is exactly the same as the Talisker 10 you bought ten years ago?
Nick Brown wrote:The selling of "futures" is not unique to Bruichladdich, and does provide revenue up front. But I wonder whether people who buy them really appreciate the true costs of the product after tax, bottling and delivery or are aware of the hit-and-miss nature of single cask whiskies. Most single casks on the market are selected post maturation because they turned out well - the rest are mixed into blends or with mixed with other casks to create OB single malts. Buying the cask up front is a huge risk.
Good points. Caveat emptor. buying a cask is expensive enough, though; I doubt many people do it casually.
Nick Brown wrote:In terms of whether Bruichladdich or MMD are stepping outside the rules, who knows? I am not familiar enough with the rules. But they have packaged other distilleries whiskies in Bruichladdich tubes.
This is not, I think, the first time you have made this charge. Do you have some evidence of this? I am not aware of it.
Nick Brown wrote:They are marketing Speyside whiskies as being matured on Islay and mixed with Islay water. If this is not outside the rules, then it ought to be.
As opposed to being warehoused in, say, Elgin and cut with Elgin mains water? Or matured in one of the vast warehouse complexes outside Glasgow?
Nick Brown wrote:I know others like Bruichladdich's products - and fair play to them. My worry, though, is that they are fueling a general trend in the whisky world to create novelty regardless of whether it represents an improvement.
A fair enough worry. Quite aside from your very personal and arguable judgment that Bruichladdich are creating "novelty regardless of whether it represents an improvement", my opinion is that there is indeed a certain amount of trendiness going on, and like most trends, it will pass or at least subside. But for all we know, we are looking at the beginning of the new reality. It wouldn't be the first sea change in the whisky world. But I tend to think the trendies will come and go, and ultimately the people who care most about whisky--we, the consumers--will decide what constitutes quality and fair practice.
Thanks, Nick, for making us think.