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Issue 60 - The innovation game

Whisky Magazine Issue 60
November 2006


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The innovation game

Dave gives us his thoughts on the latest crop of new whisky

Another month, another ‘innovation'. Whose turn is it?

William Grant! Step up please and amaze us with the new thing you've done to whisky. I see... using roasted barley in the mash for a new limited edition 14yo Balvenie. Michty me! Whatever next? You may accuse me of undue cynicism, but you tend to be when you're continually being presented with new ‘innovative' ideas to improve whisky, especially when most fall flat on their faces when it comes to flavour delivery. Others believe that believe that innovative means giving their whisky a ‘funky' name. I even came across a pink whisky the other day which had been made to appeal to da laydeez, which is about as staggeringly patronising as you can get.

Actually, Grant's idea is a very sound one. Why not see what flavours are produced if you roast barley to the same level as that normally used for stout.

Only a percentage is used then blended back with traditional malted barley at mashing. You can't help wondering what would have happened if they'd just used the roasted stuff... a genuine Loch Dhu??!* That would have got Diageo twitching.

In fact, you can gauge how clever an idea is by the scorn which rival distillers pour upon it. “Swamp Oak? Pah!” “Roasted barley? Gimmick!” they cry, then immediately berate their innovations departments for not having thought of it first.

“Don't we own Guinness?!” Fact is, the new Balvenie is good, bloody good in fact and a considerably better notion than the moment of i...

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