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Monday, 31 December 2012

That's All Folks


Hello readers and a hearty 'harumph' in this, the twilight of the festive season.  We trust that you've over-indulged accordingly and hopefully taken the time to seek out a few new additions to your drinks cabinet.  Perhaps even from our recent 18 Under 30 list, which branched out from just whisky into the wonderful world of fortified wines, beers cocktails and other interesting gluggables- we certainly have!

Anyway, to mark the passing of a great year we'd like to mark down our particular highlights (and a few lows),  not just from a liquid perspective either - making a few predictions for 2013 as well.

The Highs: 

1: The spankingly rude health of Scotch whisky...
As 2012 proved to be a golden year for our Olympians, the same can be said for the whole of the Scotch whisky industry. With new markets such as Brazil, Taiwan, Mexico and South Korea flying high for blended whisky, the stats are looking ridiculously good. Scotch whisky contributes £134 EVERY SECOND to the UK balance of trade and currently supports 36,000 jobs in Scotland. Next year will see new markets turn to the brown side  including Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia.

Bakery Hill
2: The inexorable rise of the Craft Distiller...
Balcones, Corsair, Tuthilltown, Koval, Chichibu, Sullivans Cove, Bakery Hill, Adnams and the soon-to-distil London Distillery Company and Wolfburn in Thurso are all turning heads with some superbly made spirit, innovative practices or potential to change the landscape of distilling. Let's hope that 2013 brings us more sensational products along the lines of our BiG Award-winning Texas Single Malt.

3:Whisky companies playing outside the envelope with their launches...
Last year saw a few bright sparks reaching beyond the traditional route of whisky festivals and magazine spreads to bring us their new wares and this year has continued the upward trajectory in creativity.  Highlights this year were the superbly fun launch of Jim Beam Devil's Cut,  Highland Park Thor (the first whisky with a personality of its own?) Ballantine's Tshirt OS and Ardbeg Galileo's wonderfully 'flawed' video.  The same can be said for Aberfeldy's approach to partnering up with the creative arts in Scotland- see Unravel, Bits Of Strange and their very wall-friendly single cask releases complete with screen prints.  Next year is going to be even better... we've got a funny feeling in our tummies that some very unusual projects will be occurring... watch this space.  Also, let's not forget the importance of getting out 'in the field'.  Whereas most brands have an ambassador, working tirelessly to bring their whiskies to a wider audience, the best new ambassadors are the ones created by simple introductions to the liquid itself.  The Whisky Lounge, Whisky Live and the other open and inclusive whisky festivals are helping to bring new drinkers to the category, so three cheers chaps.

...Oh and we didn't all fall into a blazing brimstone-fuelled hell when the Mayan calendar ended.  Wondering if anyone out there decided to open that special occasion bottle, just in case... Good on you if you did!

A Few Lows:

1: Whisky writers feeling the need to have a 'pop' at each other...
Gentlefolk, let's play nicely in 2013. We're all adults and there's more than enough fun for everyone to have a taste.  And...like...whisky is supposed to bring everyone 'together', maaan... or something lovely-dovey like that.  Just a thought, eh.







2: Bizarre pricing strategies of Limited Edition whiskies... 
Clearly this is a contentious issue, but at some point, retailers and distillery groups should understand that everyone has their limits.  Making enthusiasts shell out for a whisky they don't want, just to get the one they really do smacks of blatant commercialism...but that's just our opinion.


3: RIP Alan Lodge... 
In February, drinks writer and all-round gentleman Alan Lodge tragically passed away aged just 29. Alan was a wonderfully colourful character never afraid to speak his mind and his writing style and wicked sense of humour will truly be missed by all who knew him.  

Now a few predictions.  Agree/disagree? Let us know...

1: Counterfeiting of whisky in Asia to become more of a headline issue... 
The bigger the markets grow for Scotch whisky, the greater the likelihood the black market will respond with inferior and, in some cases, potentially fatal copies.

2: The continued push in mature markets towards No Age Statement whisky releases...
With heightened demand for aged stock rising internationally, its not like distilleries can just turn on the whisky tap and make some more.  We have no problem at all with NAS whisky. In fact, in many cases, the art of putting a great whisky together is often hampered by having an age statement in the first place.  Just keep 'em interesting, flavoursome and affordable and everyone will be happy.

3: World Whiskies to become a lot more accessible and influential...
Mirroring our point in the 'highs', palates are seeking out more variety in whisky and any number of excellent whiskies are being made from Japan, central Europe and Australia -  mostly from smaller operations. But with Indian whisky on a huge upward spiral (the new Paul John operation is a very exciting proposition) and continued excellence from Kavalan, Suntory, Nikka and James Sedgwick, the future of world whisky looks in very safe hands indeed. There may be a few unusual whisky making practices that rub off on the Scotch whisky business too...

4. The 13th Annual Port Ellen release to dip in at just under £1000... 
Any takers, or unlucky for some?

Right. And with that, we're off to uncork a bottle or two of blended whisky to make this evening's festive punch as well as select a few treats from 2012 to toast in the new year.   From both of us at Caskstrength, we wish you all a very happy, successful and peaceful 2013 and look forward to bringing you more drinks-fuelled fun and frolics next year.

Joel & Neil x