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Closing For Refurbishment

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“Well, we’re finally here, my friends. Sometimes it is better to leave on a high.” At least, that was the introduction I had typed some months ago when we were taking the decision to close down Malt for good.

Malt 1.0 started as my own humble blog back in the middle of 2012. It merged with Jason’s Whisky Rover site several years later, then we added a new stream of scribes, rebranded, relaunched and for the past four years has done rather well in terms of viewing figures.

It was reconfigured to be visible in searches – long-form content based around a whisky, making sure all the header tags are there. A fast-loading site. So that people searching on their phones at the point of purchase – an airport, a supermarket – might be able to find some insight. Boring stuff you don’t need to worry about, but it worked rather well. In terms of traffic, we were therefore to leave Malt as one of the most significant whisky blogs in the world.

For me, personally, Malt helped me earn other magazine writing gigs on whisky; I became a taster for Whisky Magazine, a competition judge. Now I’m working with a hero in the whisky industry and I think it’s safe to say much of where I am today is because of the early days of Malt.

In the meantime, as I stepped away from the front-end, and carried on hitting things with spanners at the back end, the site rolled on and saw some wonderful new writers join, with their own unique opinions and different tastes. It has been a diverse cast – though not as diverse as I’d have liked, admittedly – with unique voices, and somehow the whole thing held together. There have been a few posts that caused a bit of bother, not that I’m proud of my own part in those. I suppose it is worth taking a moment to apologise to people in the community for the things myself and others did not get right, in tone or content.

Looking back at some of the spicier reviews, I have come to believe that people online tend to mistake honesty or independence (whatever that means, for in this curiously small whisky world we all have skin in the game – whether or not we care to admit it) for negativity. I can’t recall anyone commenting on one of my glowing reviews as being ‘refreshingly honest’, only the negative ones. People enjoy playground kickings. I’m not sure what that says about our community, or our own heads. But the private messages, the emails, the quiet words at events… I honestly did hear you and took it to heart. At its best, Malt might have stirred the soul; at its worst, Malt might have fed the trolls. So, sorry for when we got things wrong

Editors have not always agreed with each other about what and how to post either. Why should we? There ought to be healthy disagreements in any creative endeavour. But for the most part I think Malt pulled in the right direction, had achieved some good things, and it had become something of a SEO (sorry for swearing, Serge!) beast.

Maintaining a website was no longer a simple affair. There’s not just the matter of co-ordinating writers, but uploading content, maintenance and all the behind the scenes technical stuff to keep a high-traffic website in flow, answering emails, responding to complaints, fixing things, finding new writers, posting on social… It had long since been too much for just me to post regularly anyway – it was hard to continue doing big set pieces. As I say, I just loitered at the back-end of the restaurant fixing things – and Jason kept the thing going front of house splendidly for a good couple of years.

So we declared, on social media a little while ago, that it was all a bit too much, we’d taken things to a pretty good place, and that we would finally call it a day; with that final day being some vague hand-wavy day at the end of March or April. When we made that announcement, it was clear that a good number of readers wanted the site to continue. Or rather, you liked the format: an author, some preamble on a topic, and some tasting notes. You wanted your regular dose of Malt.

We, too, reflected internally. A few people still wanted to write. People still liked the platform. So I’m very happy to say that after a good deal of internal discussions, we’ve figured it out and Malt – once a very little blog, now a behemoth – will no longer be closing down. It’ll carry on.

The New Era

Malt is going to regenerate, Doctor Who style, and it will basically continue under the stewardship largely of Taylor Cope and Kat Aagesen. Taylor has been a huge contributor to the site over the past couple of years. You’ll all know him, you’re all familiar with him, you might even watch his recent YouTube additions. Kat is newer to the site, but has already left her mark with a fresh perspective and a unique voice. I can think of no one better suited to take Malt forward with a new, enthusiastic and positive editorial direction – eventually, a break with the past so they can do their own things with the site. It will be theirs to drive; except, being in the US, it will be on the right-hand side of the road.

Our previous closing down announcement was therefore in the great tradition of provincial furniture store sales or second-hand car dealerships. It turns out, we are not actually closing down.

Getting into full swing will take a month or two, and may require some fine tuning after that. Things will be different, though there will be a few lingering posts that cross over from the Ancien Régime.

Cider Review

As a side note, I’m really enthused to say that Adam, one of the most talented writers to ever grace this website, has launched Cider Review, and all of his previous posts on Malt are already redirecting to that new home. There, he will without doubt build a truly positive community around cider – but it is a place where he will be able to just focus on the category alone. It makes sense for a whole bunch of reasons, but it is very exciting for the cider world.

I’ve had a bit of fun in helping him set up the site behind the scenes – it took me back to my old days setting up Malt, in fact. But if he manages not to break Cider Review, I’m certain it will become a destination site for apple botherers – if you enjoyed his posts here, as they say, you will enjoy them there.

Do make sure to follow him there.

A final note

We are not particularly a sentimental bunch. All that’s changed for readers is that Malt will grow into a slightly different place under the new editorial direction. The site has already survived several different iterations anyway, so I’m confident it will thrive.

Audiences will change. People who were part of the community fade, others join in. The whisky community, perhaps a microcosm of life itself, is a fairly transient place.

I’ve lingered around the community for the better part of a decade and the people involved in whisky now are 90% new faces – a great many have moved away; a small few have very, very sadly passed away. We shouldn’t take any of this online stuff too seriously.

But at least for now, Malt endures, and I’ll still chip in. From me, simply the fellow who turned this site on back in 2012, a simple thanks for reading over the years – or weeks if you’ve just joined us. I hope you will continue to visit again on a regular basis when we’re back up and running. It might only be a couple of days, it might be a week or so.

Stay tuned. Don’t go anywhere.

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  1. Scott Handley says:

    “The King is dead, long live the King, (and Queen)”
    I love reading MALT and am well pleased it will continue to entertain, educate and inform my next whiskey tastings. Thanks for everything so far and the work put into it, and I look forward to the next articles,and more from Taylor and Kat please, if her last article was anything to go by, you are on to a winner!!

  2. Anders says:

    Glad to hear that Malt is continuing on! Many congrats to Taylor and Kat for the new endeavor. I’ve enjoyed Taylor’s perspective over these last couple years. I’m not as familiar with Kat–I may have to get used to her style, but carry on and do your thing!

    Thanks to all the other folks for the great reads over the years! It’s been a great resource for me. Skål!

    PS: any inclining if the focus will shift to mainly American spirits? Or will there still be a good dose of scotch still?

    1. Mark says:

      Hi Anders. Appreciate the comments. As for focus – well, I suppose if we add more US-based writers to the mix naturally there may be some ambient shift. We had long ago hoped to get global representation anyway – and we see any number of market exclusives these days. What is interesting also is the fact that 70cl bottles can now enter the US market, so that might suggest some of the more obscure Scotch whiskies end up there as well. Who knows?

  3. Greg B. says:

    Glad to hear there will be a Malt 2.0 and I look forward to seeing the occasional piece from you and some of the other longtime contributors as well. This is my preferred whisky site by far and I look forward to good things.

  4. Welsh Toro says:

    All the best for the future Mark and lets hope we see the odd contribution. To be honest I’m amazed that the team managed to keep posting every day and do the extra on Patreon. The relentless daily upload was sporting of you but I think Jason, particularly, could do with a little rest. Cheers. WT

    1. Mark says:

      Cheers, WT. Well hopefully I’ll post the same as always – which is to say infrequently – but I have about 3 posts in the next month or so, which is an improvement if anything! Who knows, I might pick up a little.

      Yes, I think it’s fair to say that a well-deserved rest is in order.

  5. Heeksy says:

    My first comment, triggered by today’s announcement.
    As I malt whisky drinker since the late 1970’s, but only a relatively recent reader of whisky blogs, I find the continuation of this particular journal to be a blessing. Some articles have perplexed me,(Jason’s lack of love for Dalwhinnie 15) whilst others have cemented my opinion that a lot of whisky may be technically better today, but has less character than previous incarnations. Some previously beatified distilleries have become shadows of their former self. (Highland Park, The Glenlivet and the dagger to the heart that is Macallan!!!!!) Thank you for your efforts and I look forward to your continued existence along with the website of a certain Monsieur Serge.

    1. Mark says:

      Thanks for the kind comment, Heeksy. I think it’s fair to say many distilleries are not as good as they once were, whilst others are better than they once were, and in the meantime we have a whole host of new distilleries who have set up with only very good things in mind for flavour. So I’m very optimistic about the future of whisky: indeed, I think drinkers (rather than collectors) have never had it so good!

  6. Surfs says:

    Am very happy to see that the site will continue. We are told, ‘change is good’ and I hope that it proves correct. It’s nice to see that you’ll still chip in on occasion then.

  7. Jani Liukkonen says:

    I’ve been an avid Malt enthusiast for some years now and I’ve wholeheartedly loved your articles even though I might not have agreed with with everything written. This has been my go-to whisky site since I started reading and just wanted to extend my sincere appreciation for what you’ve all been doing for the global whisky community.

    Glad to hear that Malt will continue onwards as well!

    All the best from Finland!

    Cheers,
    Jani

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