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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Blimey... Did That Just Happen?

Wow, the month has surely shifted on. Only a second ago, we were sitting in our office, enjoying a brace of old blended Scotch whiskies we had won in an auction, lamenting the time it had taken for us to post anything meaningful on Caskstrength. Then suddenly it was the middle of December.  
Take into account two house moves, several hundred whiskies to sell and a lot of other nonsense - and you realise that all of one's good intensions have simply vanished into thin air.

Needless to say, that we return within a month where Scotch whisky has already faced three fairly major discussion points.

The whisky elves wait for a comment from JM  
First up and we find Best PR Campaign Of The Month#1 in full swing. Yes, the vibrant, yet choice words of whisky writer Jim Murray, who this week apparently claimed that Kentucky was producing better whiskies than the ones coming from Scotland, or words to that effect.

Journalists across Fleet Street were poised over their keyboards looking for the killer headline. Was this the end of Scotland's dominance in the whisky world, its mighty crown lying tarnished amongst some mythical whiffy sherry casks? Or was it simply just a well chosen sentence from the adroit Murray, in an attempt to give some much needed Christmas spice to his latest edition of The Whisky Bible, of which one assumes he has a warehouse-full ready to ship as stocking fillers.   
Either way, people chatted, tongues clacked, keyboards rattled and Twots Twitted, all somewhat having the desired effect, we imagine.  Effortless PR at its very best. 

Seriously, most people who own a bottle of bourbon and a single malt Scotch whisky will be able to tell you that making any comparison between the two is like comparing the sound of a Tuba with that of a Xylophone. Yes, they sit near each other in the whisk(e)y orchestra, both offering wonderful layers of  texture to the symphony of spirits, but singularly, they have vastly different timbres, which is a quality to be celebrated.  We love American whiskey.  Hell, we even awarded a blisteringly youthful single malt from America our new release Whisk(e)y of the Year last year in the Best in Glass award (this year's is being hosted in January, folks)-  but that doesn't mean that all Scotch is redundant, or that the US is officially producing 'better' whisk(e)y. No, they're producing different whiskies with their own wonderful character. 

It's high time to celebrate the category as a whole, driving success forward, ever challenging boundaries and above all, bringing drinkers together in a way that other spirits can only dream - both men and women (hmm...see our final point below)  

Yes all this is probably sentimental tosh and yes, it is 'just whisky' but clearly, people care and that is good.  
A thoroughly modern Mortlach

Speaking of which, earlier this month, Diageo announced that the Mortlach distillery is to expand its range of whiskies, including two no age statement releases (Rare Old and Special Strength) an 18yo and a 25yo. Alas, the tremendous 16yo is to be discontinued, but for any new Mortlach to see the light of day is truly exciting news.  Mortlach remains a criminally underrated distillery and we're looking forward to trying the new expressions soon.  The Mort, the merrier.  

Finally this week, PR Campaign Of The Month #2... of sorts.  Dewar's, no stranger to courting controversy (earlier this year releasing the questionable Highlander Honey) unveiled its 'Meet The Baron' campaign, where a sturdy, reliable and all-round good egg can be seen selflessly helping various drinkers in perilous situations, such as being chased by rabid dogs and chatted up by a buxom lady.  

Hang On!!  what was that??  Oh yes, the Baron's skills apparently spread to effortlessly intercepting an approaching blonde assailant (a larger lady), allowing the intended 'victim' to hang out instead with a bevy of lingerie models.  

Watch the film twice and we're pretty sure you can just about make out the sound of the hand grenade pin hitting the floor of the marketing department, coupled with anguished flailing executives desperately trying to regain control of the inevitable explosion that is about to occur.  
The Baron, shortly before the 'car crash'-of-an-advert
was pulled

Sure enough, it did. After numerous complaints citing sexism, the video was (rightly) taken down from Youtube and similar online sources.  But not before nearly 300,000 people had seen the clip.  

Not only does the advert brilliantly slip on its own banana skin, but it highlights how desperate whisky companies are to try and appeal to who they perceive as 'The Drinking Man' (actually the brand's campaign slogan.) What surprises most is the fact that given the firewall levels of market research, focus grouping and other more robust legal checks most sensible companies go through, no one thought that the advert might come across as a poorly put together and totally outdated piece of 70's thigh-slapping nonsense. 


Like a faint waft of Brut aftershave, the video has now disappeared into the ether, so it's unlikely you'll be able to find it.  Don't worry though -  Anchorman 2 is about to come out.  Whammy...

Back on lighter, more enjoyable grounds, we met up with the fantastic Tom Bulleit yesterday and tried his newly released, higher strength Bulleit Rye. We'll explore this later this week, but needless to say, it is excellent.  Now what was Jim Murray saying... ;-)