Riptides are dangerous natural phenomena that reside beneath a calm exterior, possessing great power that can sweep away unsuspecting individuals. At times the best option is to ride out the storm rather than expelling energy competing against its sheer strength. For bystanders looking into the whisky realm, it may all seem relatively peaceful, positive and everything is well, just generally superb much like those idyllic Caribbean beaches, yet one should question what lies beneath?
Changing tack and riding into the headwind, public relation companies and distilleries create this wave of positivity that sweeps away bloggers, vloggers and the types who seem to think everything is just great. Except it isn’t. For those that retain their independence – otherwise known as common sense – the law of averages dictates that the collective cannot reach such lofty heights otherwise this becomes the new minimum setting, or average, thereby shifting greatness further out of reach.
Lately, this wave has become a towering inferno threatening to destroy any individual that doesn’t follow suit and dares to step out of line. Looking back, I engaged once with a high profile clickbait priestess about her refusal to publish critical reviews, which she wrongly viewed as being negative. A good score does not need to follow an upbeat, forward-thinking review text. In fact it’s fun to play with the expectations and critique a whisky before landing the sucker punch of a score. I’m not naming this French blogger, as there are several sites out there I feel are guilty of the same thing and more so vloggers. The defence she offered was that there was too much negativity in whisky and she did not want to add to it. A bizarre defence as what she deems is negativity is a rare commodity indeed, as I’d see it has honest and genuine criticism. Then, going so far as to suggest any feedback would be given directly to the provider rather than a public exposé. It’s great to know that some are fortunate to have a hotline to the distillery when they need an opinion.
These paragraphs are mere skirmishes around the topic where many out there are swept up and away by the hype and not wanting to offend, disappoint or relying heavily on those retweets. Arguably there’s nothing more satisfying than a virtual pat on the back from a distillery or brand ambassador other than receiving the next bundle of samples when the distillery comes to decide who deserves the honour. Except, it shouldn’t be viewed as such, nor a reward or an incentive, but sadly nowadays these seem to be the widespread reactions and thoughts from onlookers.
The dynamic of reviewing has become twisted and abused. That’s why everyone involved at Malt is determined to create a reliable, genuine resource that remains independent and transparent.
Recently, I recalled a discussion around a certain website where the host and whom he met, seemed to take more precedence than the whiskies themselves when it came to any reviews. This approach seemed to cause an allergic reaction from certain onlookers. The instigator raised the valid point of when the host in question last posted a critical review – a difficult question to answer as it turned out. You could suggest that this was partially fuelled by the green-eyed monster except this person was seeking a review of the whisky itself. The site didn’t need to be named as it was obvious particularly following the Diageo 2017 Special Releases and the Glenfiddich Winter Storm articles online. My own thoughts are if you don’t connect with a writer or host who has a specific approach or style, then its best just to avoid fuelling any ill thoughts by moving on.
As Malt begins to grow in size and create some traction, we’d like to think this is due to the benchmark we’re laying down, the variety we’re offering whilst retaining our independent outlook. Steering away from the rocks we’re heading towards Arran. There is plenty to celebrate with this distillery following its successful growth and independence. Such facts tend to get lost or trampled upon by bloggers and their ilk, stampeding to rave and proclaim about Arran releases. Except I’ve never really been a huge fan whatsoever finding their whiskies pedestrian and at times lacking quality casks. The best Arran remains the 20 year old from the guys at Dornoch, which was delightful, and the official 18 showed some potential. Beyond these I find Arran to be rather inoffensive and tepid. Perhaps I’ve been cast adrift with such views, left to feel marooned on a distant Hebridean island. At times the role of the lone voice is a difficult one to relish. This cult of Arran is I find rather perplexing. Arguably my taste buds could be detuned and Arran offers a potential blind spot, yet I’m unable to water down my opinions or join the crowd. The only thing is to continue trying and experiencing whiskies from as many distilleries as possible. When asked about tasting and reviewing there’s little advice I can offer except to go with your gut reaction.
Weighing anchor, we’re faced with this Arran whisky selected by the Whisky Exchange who have a track record of selecting the odd cracker. This Arran was distilled 7th August 2002, before being bottled on 23rd August 2016 at 14 years of age. The sherry hogshead (2002/581) produced 285 bottles at a palatable 54.3% strength and has since sold out.
The Whisky Exchange Arran 2002 – review
On the nose: maybe I’m drinking too much diet – or light as my Dutch friends call it – Irn Bru these days? Fleeting memories of Scotland’s favourite fizzy drink and orange peel, ground coffee beans and rubber. Red liquorice mixed with walnuts, a touch of tobacco and lightly warmed wholemeal bread. Time reveals caramel, cloves and a toasted pine element.
In the mouth: vanilla, ginger and more of those walnuts. A creaminess resides, along with raspberries and chocolate. There’s nutmeg rather than cinnamon, green peppercorns, pencil shavings and a touch of rubber than one can appreciate rather than loathe.
The sherry hogshead has worked its way around the Arran spirit and lifted it out of its slumber. The outcome is a good whisky with an obvious sherry taint that should satisfy. Solid but in my humble realm nothing to declare or engage the blogger ass kissing mode; although that wouldn’t stop some out there.
Featured image credit: The Whisky Exchange