Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mandatory Reading

Scotch Whisky: Its Past and Present, David Daiches (1969)

Much that was around in 1969 still feels contemporary today: the music can be heard everywhere, everyday; the fashion has come, gone and come again; the ideals, ever resilient, continue to be subjected to relentless pressures but have never been defeated in over four decades. The whisky world, however, was a very different place.

In 1969 there were 14 grain distilleries and 108 malt distilleries. Were I to boast of a lovely Ben Nevis or Lochside I had last night, you would have been right to ask, “malt or grain?” Port Ellen, Rosebank, and Hillside were all in production. Only a handful of malt whiskies could be found outside of Scotland. Thirty Speyside malts used the suffix –Glenlivet when their spirit was bottled, including Balvenie-Glenlivet. Scotch whisky, mostly blended but also malt, was just beginning a decade of unprecedented growth before a dramatic crash. Today, well… perhaps little has changed (call me in ten years!)
David Daiches was born in Sunderland but grew up in Edinburgh where his family moved when he was young. He studied at the University of Edinburgh and then Oxford. He published his first work examing “place and meaning” in poetry before WWII broke out at which point he began producing pamphlets and writing speeches for the British Embassy in Washington, DC. He continued to publish prolifically and taught at ten universities in the UK, US and Canada (shout out to McMaster!), founded the English department at the University of Sussex, and chaired the judges of the Booker prize.
Apparently, he somehow found time to fish. 
His 29th published book, and first on the topic, Scotch Whisky: Its Past and Present does not read like a technical study of the whisky industry nor a critique or evaluation of its histories, errors and victories. He even introduces it with the disclaimer, “This book does not claim to be a complete and authoritative account of all aspects of Scotch whisky.” And while Daiches’ can be observed wearing his academic hat as objective researcher throughout, ­Scotch Whisky is a love-letter to whisky: facts delivered without judgement or cynicism, undue favour or anti-industrial bias that thoroughly soaks and weighs down so many contemporary works on the subject.
This illuminates a final major difference between 1969 and today. Today writing has been democratised in such a way that one needn’t be a white (Jewish) male from the academy to publish 160 pages on whisky. Travel journalists can do it. Bartenders can do it. Bloggers can do it. You can do it. I can do it.
But what would we make? And would it come close to capturing the sheer magnitude of its subject with any lasting value? Daiches’ work remains profoundly relevant. It is still an insightful and invaluable resource in the documented social and cultural histories of Scotch whisky. And if 2,796 Whiskies to Try Before You Die is in it’s 11th impression in 40 years then I will happily stick my slipper in my slurper.
Originally posted HERE

Monday, February 18, 2013

Take off, eh?

Crown Royal, Canadian Club, two of Canada's proudest exports (and two of ginger ale's best friends), are in the news on the back of an advertisement that is "misleading", "confusing", and "decieving" while "tarnishing" their good names.

Texas Crown Club (couldn't squeeze a Royal in there?) from Houston-based drinks company Mexcor Inc. is accused of unlicensed use of Crown Royal's image to attack it in an advertising campaign. What concerns me, however, is the fear of what lurks beneath the surface: a resurgence of American anti-Canadianism. 

In Canada, it is a sad phenomenon that visible minorities still suffer from racism and discrimination from the playground to the burial ground. In fact, the very term "visible minority" was found by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to be offensive and racist. Worse still, however, is that outside of Canada in North America (ie. anywhere on the same landmass but further south), Canadians are marginalised as an audible minority. Finally, this unspoken subject might now come to light with Canadian identity itself now suffering in the bars and liquor shops of America following the old journalism idiom: if it's booze, it's news.

I know. I, too, suffered anti-Canadian slurs and slander in my two years as a legal alien living in the USA.

The current controversy stems from an advertisement which features a barmaid in an Old West saloon ordering a round of Mexcor's Texas Crown Club whisky for a group of grizzled cowboys. When a "strange cowboy" ambles into the bar brandishing an unmarked bottle in a purple, drawstring pouch, the barmaid jeers, "We don't drink that poison in this neck of the woods," Diageo, owners of Crown Royal, reports.
Tossed out of the saloon, this Alberta cowboy being unwelcome as implied by the barmaid, the camera pans to a bottle of Texas Crown Club and shows a second bottle, in a pouch that resembles the Texas state flag, slammed down on the bar next to the first bottle. Red, white, and blue. Not purple like that silly Canadian flag. 

"[I]n light of the fact that defendant is selling and advertising a directly competitive Canadian whiskey, it is obvious that defendant intended to literally communicate to consumers that the cowboy is carrying Crown Royal whiskey, and that Crown Royal whiskey is the "poison" that the defendant denigrates and tarnishes in its commercial," the complaint said.
While the Texas spirit makes no claims about its origin, it is implied to be "local", ie from Texas, it is clear that this outsider elixir, this "poison" is drippings from the north. In it's Texas guise enjoyed "round here", the Canadian Crown Royal whisky and the cowboy it rode in on is washed of its cultural identity. This message, the one that many of my countrymen face daily living under American rule, is "assimilate or get out"... or in the lyrics of Neil Peart, sung in a register achieved only from an upbringing in -30C winters, "conform or be cast out
photo courtesy of JShapiro, steaks courtesy of heaven 
While rumours continue to swirl around the potential source of the leather that decorates their website background (human? Canadian? Canadian human?), the fact remains that Diageo says it never agreed to let Mexcor mimic Crown Royal's look for the commercial, which it says dilutes the value of its trademarks, and wants the court to bring a stop to it. But there is much more that must be stopped here.

Civil and human rights organisations agree that "discrimination permeates all aspects of life in the United States, and extends to all communities of color." Discrimination against African Americans, Latin Americans, and Muslims is widely acknowledged. Members of every major American ethnic and religious minority have perceived discrimination in their dealings with other minority racial and religious groups. 

Canadians, stay strong: your plight has finally come to light. The achievement of liberation begins with achievement!

Monday, February 04, 2013

Blending, Maturing

You really can't make a quality stew without a little Worcestershire sauce. A Bloody Mary or Caesar is just a boozy tomato drink without it.  A dash in a Bolognese can work wonders.  In fact, it has been said that a few drops behind the ears will drive the ladies wild.
But I just noticed my Lea & Perrins says "expert blenders since 1837". This piqued my curiosity and I learned that time and maturation was as vital to this tasty condiment as to great whisky. I also learned that it's not for vegetarians.  
Forgive the pronunciation, but worth a watch.

Originally posted HERE.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Canadian Whisky Awards

While I was in Sweden aboard the Viking Line Cinderella for their annual Whisky Fair, winners of the 3rd annual Canadian Whisky Awards were announced at The Victoria Whisky Festival on Thursday, January 17th, 2013.

Canadian Whisky of the Year
Forty Creek Port Wood Reserve

Connoisseur Whisky of the Year - Multi-market:
Forty Creek Port Wood Reserve

Connoisseur Whisky of the Year - Domestic:
Gibson's Finest 18 Year Old

Connoisseur Whisky of the Year - Export:
Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old

Sippin' Whisky of the Year - Multi-market:
Century Reserve Lot 15-21

Sippin' Whisky of the year - Domestic:
Forty Creek Copper Pot Reserve

Sippin' Whisky of the Year - Export:
Masterson's French Oak

Value Whisky of the Year - Domestic:
Canada Gold

Cream Whisky of the Year:
Forty Creek Cream

Flavoured Whisky of the Year Multi-market:
Tap 357

Flavoured Whisky of the Year - Domestic:
Gibson's 100th Grey Cup Limited Edition

Award of Excellence - Innovation
Kruger Wines & Spirits - Sortilege

Award of Excellence - Canadian Whisky Profile
Diageo - Crown Royal Maple

Award of Excellence - Line Extension
Beam Inc. - Alberta Premium Dark Horse


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Still relevant?

God, has it been quiet around here. 
Sure, we have had over a million unique visitors to date, still see 400 visitors a day on this long (13 months!) dormant blog, and Dr. Whisky keeps busy with whisky and more, but worthy of praise?

I thank Karen and Matt for including me on their list of top blogs, and after all, even a dormant web log is, by definition a web log, but seriously? Seriously? 

I thank all of you for continuing to visit and share, for following me on twitter (@dr_whisky), on facebook, and for checking out my new outlet on The 
In fact, right now I am prepping my colleagues for a series of pretty controversial posts about cold fingering and the projected myths about maturation...

So business as usual, just not in these pages. Go get informed via the links to the left.

See you all in the real world soon.