This has been rumbling on for some time, but the mutterings are getting louder, and some disillusioned bloggers are suspending their postings or turning their attentions to other drinks. It would seem that high prices for quality whisky are pushing out a lot of former imbibers. So is this a manifestation of an increasingly serious problem for scotch whisky?
Perhaps, but there are caveats, the main one being that Twitter is no place to go for anything like objectivity. Its very nature encourages superficiality, meaningless showboating and over-simplistic debate. That said, though, the fact that there are rumblings at all should be worthy of note because, let’s face it, many of those writing about whisky online do so in the hope of getting free samples from the producers. On any given day there is a stream of sycophantic nonsense from self-appointed experts, writing pretentious garbage as part of online tastings – the whisky world’s equivalent of a quick tryst in a darkened alleyway.
So if they are prepared to bite the hand that feeds them, something’s not right. Some respected heavyweights have joined the clamour. And you know events have taken a turn for the worse when a leading whisky blogger puts his blog into hibernation and takes to tweeting about sausages instead.
Oliver Klimek is a member of the prestigious Malt Maniacs but a few months ago he quit his dramming.com website. His grievance is that good scotch whisky is no longer affordable to regular folk, and the scotch industry is speaking with forked tongue. On the one hand it talks about approachability, but on the other it is overseeing eye-watering prices while it wraps itself up in tartan and holds grand banquets under swords and stag heads in Blair Castle. And it palms off ordinary single malt without an age statement to regular whisky drinkers, arguing age is unimportant, but releases 50-year-old whiskies in crystal decanters with a price tag of £50,000, as Whyte & Mackay did last month.
“The whisky industry is doing the splits,” he writes on his new blog site. “I just hope they don’t strain their legs.”Whisky has long enjoyed special status as an affordable luxury, but increasingly that status is being called into question. Regular whisky bloggers mutter darkly of ‘whisky being in a bad place’, or spent Christmas writing about fine wine, armagnac and cognac. In markets as far apart as America and Australia, home-produced gin is resurgent, and in the UK its array of flavours, regionality and highly competitive pricing have made it an on-trade favourite. So much so that valuable bar space is being given over to gins, often at the expense of single malts.
“Blogging about whisky is not as fun any more for me as it used to be,” says Klimek on dramming.com. “I have noticed myself branching out to other, more affordable spirits, and at the moment whisky probably makes up less than half of the high-octane booze I drink.”
He’s not alone. Maybe the scotch malt whisky bubble is set to burst after all.