Shockwaves went through the whisky world on January 25, as the Times published the outcome of a blind tasting of five whiskies that they had arranged. The results were stunning: the Taiwanese Kavalan nonchalantly beat three Scotches and an English whisky.
News agengy AFP also jumped onto the bandwagon and reported that the Kavalan beat “a trio of top Scottish blends”, and so the news spread around the world, propagated by online news services, blogs and Twitter users.
Now which Whiskies got Hammered?
If you look a little closer, the news loses much of its spectacular appeal. The contenders were:
- The already mentioned Kavalan
- Langs, “a three-year-old Scottish premium blend” as AFP put it (from Ian Macleod)
- King Robert Blended Whisky (also from Ian Macleod…makes you wonder)
- Bruichladdich X4+3 (not a blend but a quadruple distilled experimental whisky that has already been used to fuel a racing car)
- St George’s 3yo whisky from England
Panel members were
- Charles MacLean, prolific whisky writer
- Geraldine Coates, expert on gin (sic!)
- Zubair Mohamed, wine and spirits dealer
- Paul Laverty, screenwriter of the Ken Loach film Looking For Eric (“a relative newcomer to whisky”)
Is this a Serious Threat for Scotch?
The Times obviously selected only three year old competitors, and admitted themselves that maturation in the subtropical climate of Taiwan is much faster than in cool Britain, so this is not really a good base for comparison. Also including blends and the X4+3 which is more an aged vodka than a whisky is not really fair.
The Times even admitted that the tasting “was a piece of mischief-making”. In other words, it was deliberately set up to give the Scottish a whack. And without a doubt the choice of Burns Night – sort of like the Scottish natonal holiday – for publishing the results was not accidential either.
Anything to Learn?
If you pass on such a news, please read it carefully and don’t just thoughtlessly trumpet out the headline. In a way it’s funny, but this is how false rumors are created.