Technical Ecstasy

Of Marketing and Masterclasses

Thanks to ‘The Captain’ as he likes to be known at Whisky Apocalypse for prompting the first part of this weeks #Views – I suggest you go read his post When does marketing turn ugly 

If you have the time, familiarise yourself with Bill’s Hyde and seek post also 😉

We have blethered previously about when Limited Editions are limited, or even editions perhaps? I have to agree with similar sentiments that editions of 10,000 bottles or more can hardly be called Limited. Whisky bottle labels however are adorned with all sorts of nonsense – most of which isn’t technically covered or legislated by the Scotch Whisky regulations or policed by the SWA.

Limited Edition it seems is a perfectly acceptable statement as officially all whisky expressions are limited and editions. Looking to other fields of collectible (admittedly objects rather than consumables) and any Ltd Ed product would carry a certificate of authenticity stating that the particular object you held in your hand was uniquely numbered 1 or 7 or 3,912 of however many were produced. On this basis, any whisky bottle that is uniquely numbered (i.e bottle 1 of 215) is part of a Ltd Ed., any single cask bottling (e.g. SMWS) that states produced XXX bottles at outturn is Ltd Ed., the rest is just marketing bollocks.

We all know how whisky is made and what it is made from. Fresh water and malted barley is used to feed and water Scottish Unicorn’s. They are told bad jokes and their tears are collected, fermented with yeast and distilled in big copper pots. It spends three years in a cask and is bottled as NAS. Aeneas Coffey discovered a method of shooting Unicorn’s through a pair of giant copper pipes, such that all their liquid (Unicorn’s tears – remember) is left behind so we can make more whisky in Scotland in a second than it will take mankind to consume in a hundred years. After that the industry portrays cask maturation as subject to some mythical mumbo-jumbo Angel’s stealing the whisky as it matures, whereas is can all be explained quite simply by the physics of EVAPORATION! Admittedly Ken Loach’s classic film probably wouldn’t have fared so well with the title Evaporation – I imagine it would have been a bit like watching paint dry.

Despite and because of all this, elaborate and time-consuming fakes are made to keep the obsessive-compulsive whisky fanatics swearing at badly functioning auction-sites which crash with the extreme traffic at final bidding time. The industry fabricates newly forgotten lost distilleries and remaining casks of whisky or bottles thereof to tempt us into thinking it’s the last few precious drops and we need to drink them.


Map of Islay – depicting where the queue for the special bottles starts and ends…

Whisky producers themselves have cashed-in to this electronica induced mass hysteria. In particular distilleries on the least electron-visited island in Scotland, Islay (it’s still officially waiting for 1G to turn up in the post, and don’t even think about wi-fi!). Here they release all sorts of official limited editions, teasing you to buy it directly through their website that crashes at the first hint of use. They even hold an annual Islay festival of queueing for Europeans and arseholeism for auction-flippers to fight-over or drink overpriced Ltd Ed. bottles. Best of all, despite mankind being able to land and send electronic communication back from the moon over 5 decades ago, the weird Bermuda-like triangle between Islay and Scotland’s mainland seems to disrupt even the simplest of video live-streams should any distillery attempt one during their click-fest frenzied network-crashing launch of one of their Ltd Ed. whiskies.

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
Oscar Wilde

In other news, industry standards on Masterclasses were brought into disrepute by another anonymous contributor to ScotchWhisky.com this week. The insinuation that anyone that can some how button-mash their predictive text into anything resembling it have been using the word ‘masterclass’ instead of ‘tasting’ after whisky. Perhaps a masterclass on masterclasses is required. Or maybe an overpriced 15 minute Scotch whisky masterclass diploma course & qualification is required? In a monitored telephone call to the Trading Standards office, reports of ‘some beardy bloke dressed in tweed attempting to give a masterclass without the appropriate actual knowledge of whisky’ rang alarm bells this week. Sure his beard and tweeds* were probably the genuine article, he may even have a blog or have written a book at some point on the subject – neither qualifying him as possessing enough actual knowledge on the subject however to call a tasting a masterclass – apparently. I guess until a couple of hired goons from the Keepers of the Quaich pop round and kick the shit out of him and tell him not to do it again, then the whisky universe will be back in balance again.

Learning is experience. Everything else is just information.
Albert Einstein 

Unfortunately some of us who drink whisky feel that we are pretty well equipped when it comes to information. Bloggers are potentially the worst, as they often exist in some weird existential self-reinforcing little bubble of their own creation – whereby they view themselves as not only part of the whisky industry but also as essential to it! Some of them also have ‘the banter’ (or just bantz – so I’m told the kids these days call it), someone of my age would call them ‘a used car salesmen’. Spectacularly good at over-inflating their relative sense of worth, but like most balloons, just full of used hot air. I would echo the advice to anyone buying a ticket to a so-called ‘Masterclass’ to ask themselves ‘Have I even heard of the chump (or chumpette) who is delivering it?’. Unfortunately – just like most of the bumf on whisky bottle labels and packaging – whisky events are not subject to SWA policing or regulations and so the field is ripe for artistic license.

*The author still maintains that Tweeds are acceptable but beards are clearly not and thus pairing the two together is a shootable offence. To that end we would like to congratulate Mark at Malt-review and Jason of Whisky Rover for combining into one wonderful whisky-consuming human centipede – so long as Jason doesn’t grow a beard at any point in the future – lets keep this strictly Tweed gents.

Categories: Opinion

1 reply »

  1. Thanks for the link, and yeah, Unicorns tears a plenty these days.

    I think there should be standard for limited edition, say under 5000 bottles with a guarantee it won’t be made again within a decade seems fair.


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