Whisky Magazine Issue 129
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The complexity of flavours
SO there I was, half way up a ladder behind the bar of Cobbler in Brisbane. “Jim McEwan did it,” they told me. Now I know that Jim has a dodgy hip so if he could so could I, though obviously I didn't stand on such a high rung as my old buddy. That would have been disrespectful.
Actually, throughout this flying trip ‘Down Under' it was noticeable how prominent library ladders were in many of Oz's bars. The reason is simple. There is so much whisky stashed on the shelves that the only way you can get to it is by ascending to the heavens.
Australia was important to Scotch. The assumption has long been that when exports started in earnest at the end of the 19th Century that most of the whisky was destined for the US. Not so. Australia was the most important export market for Scotch until the outbreak of World War II. You could argue, therefore, that Australia made Scotch whisky. Recent years have been less kind. This was a market where Bourbon RTDs (ready to drink) ruled and where Scotch was hard to sell. Brands had scaled back their operations, seeing richer and easier pickings elsewhere.
But now… The after-work drink is no longer wine or white spirit-based. It's whisky, be it as a highball, with fresh squeezed apple juice. The mid-evening drink is whisky, the late night glass is as well. Every city has dedicated – and rammed – whisky bars; every cocktail bar has a great selection. From pariah to the go-to spirit. The transformation has been dramatic.