Why So Negative, Mr. Klimek?

by Oliver Klimek on October 2, 2013

Yesterday a blog post received this anonymous comment: “So many of your postings only focus on very negative things. Why is that?” To which I replied: “What you get here is my honest view of things which you may like or not. Why are there so many “negative” posts here? Because I think these points neeed to be addressed. You might just as well ask the question the other way around “Why do so many whisky blogs only focus on positive things?””.

I will pick up this question in a proper blog post because I think it deserves a longer explanation. When looking back at the timline of the articles I posted over the years, I myself have sometimes wonderered if I shouldn’t have been more positive, or cheerful if you wish, at times. Or how they say: “Hey, it’s only whisky! Whisky is about fun and enjoying drams with friends.”

Yes, whisky is wonderful and usually fun. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been bothering to blog about it for over four years now. I am not a masochist. But what is fun for us whisky lovers is a buisness worth billions for the industry. And I cannot deny the impression that the fun aspect of whisky often makes consumers and also bloggers look at the whisky world through rose-coloured glasses.

“Hey, whisky is so much fun. I just bought the 2013 annual Port Ellen. Price was a tad steep but I desperately need it for my collection. And they say it’s a stunner.”

“Hey, whisky is so much fun. I’ve just been to that fab Glen GooglyMoogly launch event where they presented their new virgin oak finished travel retail range in which for the benefit of …err… quality they got rid of the numbers on the labels in order to be able to use younger casks and crank up the prices by 20% without having to feel guilty about it. I like the whisky so where’s the problem?”

Some whisky lovers are so deeply in love with the liquid that they don’t seem to care if they are being ripped off or lied to. Also some some whisky bloggers don’t seem to care if they are instrumentalized by the whisky industry for their marketing.

In my 2012 article about Why Private Whisky Blogging Is So Important I have already stated – and I still stand to it – that there isn’t really such a thing as watchdog journalism in whisky. Professional whisky writers have to balance criticism with the need to generate income. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” comes to mind, because for their work they need to rely on good a relationship with the whisky industry.

But despite not having this dilemma by definition – apart from receiving freebies – many non-professional whisky bloggers just like the pros choose to focus on the nicer aspects of the whisky world: good whisky, fun events, interviews, whisky travel, and maybe an occasional rant about high prices. Fair enough, and I don’t want to accuse them that they are only in it for the free whisky.

I for one am interested to find out why things are the way they are. And quite often I am not amused with what I learn. One should not be surprised that under the carpet it can be dirty. Not that I indulge in it, but I can’t help looking.

 

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Barry Bradford October 2, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Great comments! As a new independent whisky blogger myself, I don’t really know or understand that much about how the industry is actually run behind the scenes – so it would be impossible for me to comment on. I guess for those of us who fund our whisky research personally perhaps more commentary should be made about the whiskies we leave on the shop shelf and the reasons why? Personally I tend to only make negative comments on whisky that doesn’t suit my taste, or where I feel there is distinctly unpleasant imbalance in the whole experience of drinking it; which are both highly personal opinions. I simply can’t afford the mega-bucks whiskies so I have already decided they are out of my price range and unsuitable blogging material. So perhaps the whisky consumers are their own watchdogs in a small way…? Until whisky stops being a sellers market [i.e. the day you can pick up a bottle of Port Ellen down the local co-op for less than £25] then the industry will feel like they can push onto the consumer whatever they want. Perhaps a few years of generating no-age statement, virgin oak-finished retail exclusives that don’t sell may turn into an expensive mistake for a distiller or two? At the moment it all seems to the consumer like experimentation and diversification.
Anyway would love to keep hearing your thoughts & commentary.

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Florin October 2, 2013 at 4:01 pm

I don’t feel you are overly negative, and even if you were there’s plenty of room for quite a range of critical review – I find yours very lucid. Heck, I even enjoy reading a paranoid whisky blog or two (there are some out there).

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Jeff October 3, 2013 at 1:34 am

Interesting post, but if professional writers do indeed have their criticism curbed by “not biting the hand that feeds them” as you imply, but won’t state (it only “comes to mind”), then they aren’t really journalists, watchdog or otherwise – they’re marketing people with the benefit of the appearance of objective credibility via plausible denial. Even here, paradoxically, the naked truth only gets so naked.

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Pieter October 3, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I like this blog most because of its independent take on whisky subjects. I guess Oliver, that you made some “enemies” in the whisky-industry, because it seems that you don’t write much tasting notes these days, because your sources aren’t really keen on giving you samples ;) I was a bit surprised you got the Macallan siena, gold etc (i suppose those were samples sent out to you by the industry because around then several people reviewed them). But as always you stuck to your motto: you say honestly what you think about it, freebie or not.

That’s why your blog stands out. And it’s not about criticism only, as you were pretty amazed by the Roseisle new make for example. And the “whisky is business get pver it”-article. While Roseisle must be the most popular item when geeks start ranting about big whisky companies.

Thumbs up, you’re doing great!

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Oliver Klimek October 3, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Thanks for your kind words, Pieter. “Enemies” in the industry probably is an exaggeration, but you are right. I don’t get many samples from the industry, let alone invites to events. And the Macallan samples you mentioned I bought myself because I was curious. ;)

Just last week I compared the Alexa traffic rankings for quite a few whisky blogs I know, and dramming.com ranks solidly in the top ten. A lot of bloggers with less traffic than me have a much better relationship with the whisky fairy than me. I’m perfectly fine with that, by the way and not the least bit envious. I suspect the industry considers it a risk to send me samples because they can’t be sure what I might write…

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two-bit cowboy October 3, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Hi Oliver,

I’ve been with you since you started. I come back every day. I like your honest opinion, straight-forward style, and willingness to tell us how you see it (whatever “it” is).

There seem to be a fair few “only the good gets talked about here” blogs. Perhaps your anonymous critic should stick to them if (s)he only wants to read the positive stuff.

Real journalists report the news. They don’t make the news. You’re among the former. Keep it up.

Bob

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Jason Debly October 5, 2013 at 3:48 am

Your critics like to use labels like “negative” rather than address the truth of a given matter. Sometimes the truth hurts and the public does want to know what you really think.

For example, I like the way you are challenging as nonsense the purported reasons put forth by Burns Stewart for making changes to Black Bottle.

Keep it up! It is appreciated by many.

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Marek October 8, 2013 at 1:56 am

Sir !
You are not negative
You are objective
Life is not a paradise, even in whiskey land.
It may looks like You are on “dark” side, because 99% of whiskey blogs are “kissing” the sky, pardon me, the hand.
I read and I admire Your independent work.
You are one of the kind
Keep it up !

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kallaskander October 9, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Hi Oliver,

don’t fret. What you do is absolutely neccessary. I ran into criticism in one or two whisky forums as well and have been accused of negativity concerning whisky, too.
All I do is to say what I think about “the whisky industry” and the brilliant ideas it produces every day. And I find it hard to cheer about every non-sense that is marketed and promoted by this industry.

A friend of mine called my way to see parts of the world “merciless realism”. I find that term can apply to you and your postings, too and I can find my views in many of your postings.
So if some people take umbrage a what you say or write take it as an incentive to carry on – you are doing something right and people do react.

Greetings
kallaskander

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