Learning From the Masters or How I Became an Idiot Scotch Snob

by Oliver Klimek on March 20, 2010

Whisky and ice can certainly be an explosive mixture. Renowned whisky writer and bourbon expert Chuck Cowdery published a blog article called Scotch Snobs on Parade taking on the criticism of The Macallan Ice Ball Serve that was expressed in various comments on the publication of the press release at What Does John Know? including myself.

Snobby Soit Qui Mal y Pense

Chuck basically accused all those of being scotch snobs who were trying to express their adversion against scotch on ice or were criticizing Macallan for their marketing strategy:

“Here’s how to tell if you’re a whiskey snob. If you berate other people about the way they enjoy their whiskey and you berate producers when they stray from your idea of whiskey purity, you just might be a whiskey snob.”

I was specifically targeting the marketing issue, as can be read in my post linked to above, so I felt addressed by the second category.

So I guess I am a snob because I don’t approve Macallan’s strategy of drawing new customers from the pool of cocktail-drinking hipsters. My fear that the traditional values behind Scotch whisky might get diluted by explicitly promoting ice balls “to modernise the way single malt can be enjoyed”, as the press release states, seems to make me a patronising know-it-all. Is this really a good way to deal with contrary opinions?

Macallan’s target market for scotch on the balls are people who don’t give a damn if their drinks are pumped out of column stills after having been distilled and filtered to death for five times. They also don’t care if it’s coloured (just look at that Pinky Vodka). For most of them, whisky is just another spirit in their repertoire that happens to be brown instead of pink or blue.

And not even the ice balls are are a new invention. There even is a company called Gläce that is selling their balls for $8 a piece because they are made from ultra-purified water. This is what I call snobbery.

If it is snobbery to defend the traditional quality-focussed approach to whisky making, the artisan way as Ralfy Mitchell likes to call it, then I am happy to be called a whisky snob.

Idiot Savant?

Some further browsing in Chuck’s blog brought up an interesting article about the obsoleteness of the traditional method for measuring the alcohol concentration in proof. Although I absolutely agree with him on this topic, the article contained a passage that struck me:

I have encountered a few idiots who claim they drink for flavor only and wish they could avoid the alcohol effect altogether, but such delusions are easily dismissed. Of course we enjoy the alcohol effect, but that’s not the same as getting drunk. Many, possibly even most drinkers today want to enjoy some effect short of intoxication.”

I state frankly that I am one of those idiots. More often than not I refrained from pouring another dram because I felt I had enough alcohol and wouldn’t really be able to enjoy it anymore. Which basically means that I wished away the alcohol effect. And I don’t go for that state of “feeling good just before feeling pissed” either. Is this idiocy? Is drinking whisky for the physiological effects of alcohol really the wiser choice?

I could take the easy road and return the compliments by saying that this kind of attiude might be caused by an overexposure to whisky on the rocks, but I won’t. It is not my style to attack my readership, be it globally or personally.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel offended by this statement, I can take a wallop. And I also appreciate when people voice their opinions loudly. But some readers out there might be more sensitive than me and may even consider such statements insulting. I don’t think it is a signature of sound journalism to fire shrapnels at one’s readers.

Or Am I a Whisky Renegade?

The funny thing is, after I had posted my cocktail recipe for The Machattan, the distillery published the link on their Facebook page. Soon it received comments like “No one is adulterating my Macallan with anything!” or “You’d get kicked out of a Speyside pub if you asked for this.” Sounds quite funny for being a scotch snob.

I take it as a good sign being called a snob by one side of the camp and an adulterator from the other. Or am I just doing everything wrong?

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