About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Monday, 31 July 2017

AFTER 9 MONTHS OF QUIET - AN OPINION PIECE

Those checking in on The Malt Desk blog itself will have noticed its been quiet for about 9 months now.

Instead I've updated the The Malt Desk on Facebook and occasionally Twitter (@themaltdesk) with what I have been enjoying on the beer & whisky front...

So why this period of silence? To be honest, I'm not liking the path the whisky scene is on. I've previously expressed my thoughts on this and while I was thinking it had to stop, it has only gotten worse... Looking at how often I updated the blog during 2016, hell even 2015 its probably was a long time coming...



So what am I referring to? What's the reason I needed a break and are still considering if it should permanent? Well, several things actually... and this is going to piss off some people, but frankly I've never been a part of the political correct crowd, so I really don't care...

The reaction to this piece will reveal peoples standpoints clearly on the below issue and I hope that it at the same time can spark some debate...

INVESTORS/COLLECTORS:

Ok, let me begin with the a general observation - and you probably knew this was coming if you've read previous posts on here.

All whisky (no exceptions!) I've bought in my 17 years as a whisky lover has been with the intend to drink. I also do not encourage investing in whisky as it just drives up prices for real whisky lovers. That said, I also recognise market forces of supply and demand, but there's also a silly-limit on pricing in effect here at The Malt Desk. No whisky are IMO worth what some are sold for these days and I have also myself parted with a few on that account, but people spending silly amounts of money on whisky really have more money than sense.

I'm a member of a large number of whisky-related Facebook groups and also the (co)admin on a few. In lots of these, often the first thing asked by (new) members is 'What's this bottle worth?' and often its asked about a bottle of no particular value, so clearly more and more people are trying out their luck as whisky investors. Some are actually asking what their supermarket whisky is worth? Really guys?? Stop it, just stop it! If this is the depth at which your investment and interest in whisky runs, you should probably find another place to spend you money, 'cause right now you're just coming across dumb!

I had hoped that when distillers started raising their prices to take their share back from the secondary market, it would slow down, but it just seems that more and more people are trying to make a quick buck as the word of how popular whisky has become spreads around. Instead this has lead to a general increase in prices in both the primary and the secondary market :-/

Latest silly priced whisky on the secondary market is this Karuizawa... almost the same price as an Audi A8 in the UK.

So do you want this?

Picture from a facebook feed...

or do you want this? The choice is easy - at least for me... Audi it is...

The most scary part is that its not even the most expensive whisky sold at auction... according to thespiritsbusiness.com its this Macallan 64 year in Lalique Cire Perdu Decanter sold at a staggering £353.747 in 2010

Photo credit: Audi.dk

THE BLOGGING COMMUNITY:


I've also decided to turn the spotlight on the whisky blogging community...

I'm sure you have all noticed how the blog/vlog scene has litterally exploded over the past 5 years. Now, I've met some great people over the years from this crowd, both domestically and abroad (you know who are!) but there's also a crowd that I'm not terribly impressed with. I'm not gonna call out anyone specific here, but to me it seems that all more and more 'bloggers' are doing these days are brown nosing the distilleries/brands and appearing as nothing but an extended marketing department.

They can be doing it to receive free samples, of course, but reading many of these posts it more and more looks like a select crowd are trying to line themselves up as potential candidates the next time one of the whisky companies are hiring a new brand ambassador. I honestly don't think its pretty and certainly not trustworthy, yet the crowd doing it just seems to get bigger and bigger.... and nobody likes a suck-up brown nose and doing so entirely destroys your credibility.

Let me also add that I do get sent the occasional free sample but I'm also fortunate enough not to have to rely on samples to keep my blog going. I also run the local whisky club and have a fair stash to drink from as well. What I'm getting at here is that when I say something is good its not because I'm trying to get whisky companies sending me (more) samples - you can believe it unless your personal taste differs significantly from mine. That is also why I would like to ask you as a reader to go independent - not this blog in particular, but I do suggest you remain critical towards the little too glorified style of writing towards some, honestly, fairly average products we're seing these days....

There are still indeed some good whisky blogs out there, no doubt about that... but as with everything else - be picky, like when you spend your hard earned money on a bottle of whisky.

WHISKY FESTIVALS:

Since 2010 and up until last year (2016), I've been a regular at the Spirit of Speyside Spring Festival, so 6 years in a row... I've watched it grow year after year and accommodation and events getting harder and harder to book - that's one thing... there's only so many beds in central Speyside where everyone wants to stay.

There is no doubt that the Spirit of Speyside Spring Festival is good for the economy of the entire area, but I just can't help feel some of the spirit has disappeared over the past few years, when the big players decided that a posh crowd should drive some of the events forward. To be honest, I now feel that regular people has been driven out by introducing very expensive events that just a couple of years ago just cost half of what they used to.

To me, it now all seems about arriving in your Range Rover Sport, £200/night accommodation and mediocre off the shelf whisky bottlings presented by posh London drinks writers and people being on location and drinking the before mentioned whisky they could just as well have bought at their local retailer at a fraction of the price.

This became even more clear to me when I browsed through this years events for #dram17 as the festival is now tagged on social media. What struck me first was that there were fewer events I was genuinely interested in - and the ones I was interested in were all £100+ which to me are 2 other symptom of the regular punter being excluded... and before the critics cry out that its only because I can't afford this and/or I'm an old fart hanging onto what whisky was 15 years ago, let me just make it clear that I do all right, but like I mentioned above in the 'Investors' section I do have a silly-money limit and some of these events crosses those limits when you look at the price/quality ratio these days.

So for now, and in my opinion again of course, the Spirit of Speyside Spring Festival has been taken over by the posh crowd and shareholders in the big companies demanding profit. E.g. how much whisky are the guys at Macallan expecting to sell with they new distillery coming online before long? Let's hope for them its not all going to be all Teletubby land up there. I hope they'll still make decent whisky - that is if they'll give it time to mature in good quality casks... If you want to get a glimpse of what the Spring Festival used to be like, then visit the Dufftown Autumn Whisky Festival, its (still) less crowded and arranged by whiskylovers in Dufftown and the The Whisky Shop Dufftown.

** edit ** This piece was supposed to be posted just over 3 months ago, well before the I was on my way to the Campbeltown Malt Fest 2017. This would my 5th time going to Campbeltown but my first time at the festival and from what I was told, it was a festival still in a relative pristine condition.

This year however, and to the surprise of my seasoned Campbeltown Malt Fest goers as well, it seemed like all the bottle chasers and flippers also made their way to the wee toon this year. The good folks at Springbank and Cadenheads tried their best by limiting the number of bottles available per person and by introducing personalised labels this year, but still some bottles hit both retail shop and secondary markets - at a heavily inflated price, of course... I'll most likely be coming back for next years fest and knowing the folks at Springbank/Cadenhead there'll probably be another restriction or 2 in place next year, which is absolute fine with me.

The wee toon on Kintyre :-) © The Malt Desk 2017

Bottom line must be that there's no holy ground anymore...
Anything is fair game during the hunt for profit in the world of whisky these days... and on that note we get to my final section

PREMIUMIZATION:

OK, Lets take a look at the whisky industry in general here, first the big companies...

Let me start here by saying I'm not specifically lashing out at any one specific company and I'm purely using Highland Park as an example as its been highly profiled so everyone will probably know what I'm talking about and it can then easily be transferred to other companies and brands, e.g Ardbeg or similar

Now, while I do like and even applaud a well made branding from a strictly professional point of view I might add, e.g. the Highland Park Viking theme is extremely well done! Vikings sell! BigTime!
The viking culture, mythology, history all hits spot on with many, not only here in native Scandinavia, but everywhere around the world, adequately fuelled by the HBO TV series 'Vikings' and 'The Last Kingdom'... and its great when a brand succeeds, right? Good for business, jobs etc... yes, but not good for pricing and the punter on a budget who, much faster than usual, is left behind with a bittersweet taste in his/her mouth - not from the whisky but from not being able to buy what may be their favourite whisky.

Many brands have now reached a pricing level where average income punters have to think twice before they go spend their hard earned money on a bottle of malt to numb a hard days work. There are, of course, cheaper options if you just want to numb yourself, but if you want to have it taste good at the same time, your options are getting more and more limited and the sinner is the premiumization of brands and the luxury that is starting to get associated with them, much like what I commented above in the section of Whisky Festival-section.

The brands these days are simply tapping into a whole new customer segment, a segment with more money, more prone to the eat up the marketing and the 'make you feel a part of something special'-segment, and 'look at me'-social media generation, Millenials who's made a buck and are willing to spend it on being a part of something, when what they're really buying is a bottle of booze and a feeling...


THE END?:

Do I sound like a bitter old man? Maybe... Am I bitter old man? Maybe... but it doesn't change the fact that this is the direction not only whisky but our entire society is heading in - and I'm not sure I like it...

I'll close with a note for those getting into whisky these days... Unless, you're really well off and can afford to buy older bottlings for silly money, you're getting screwed with regards to how single malt whisky from your favourite distillery is supposed to taste like, IMO... but like I said, if you have enough money, you don't care you just buy the old stuff at a premium not caring if you're getting screwed in another way...

Instead, you should be asking yourself this... 'Would you be willing to pay a premium for new releases today if you know that a much better quality was available just a decade ago?' If you're serious about your money and the quality of your whisky, then the obvious answer to that question should be a big 'NO'...

Do you still want to get into whisky? Its a race, I tell you... a race - and you might want to consider if its worth your time...

2 comments:

  1. Much of what you write is also my opinion: For me the big thing with whisk(e)y is to drink it. I can understand collectors but I don't like the collectiong. Also pricing has gone insane but as you said supply and demand you can think what you do but it will always be there as a main factor.

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  2. Hi Claus, I was too busy composing independent Whisky Reviews to be able to write this myself (LOL) so thanks a lot! You are quite right of course on all accounts. Whisky is for Drinking, The Whisky events and festivals are getting out of control and the Blog/Vlog peoples should not act as an advertising arm of the industry. The industry is perfectly capable to do so themselves. And quality should be at least one of the drivers of the industry next to Marketing and Profit. Well I hope you feel better now and look forward to your new unbiased reviews whenever you're ready! Cheers, Jan.

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