This week I finally found time to read through the launch issue of Cask and Still Magazine (Issue 1 is available to download for free from www.caskandstillmagazine.co.uk)
Amongst the many interesting and varied articles which I really enjoyed reading there was a story that - at least to me - slated the “new age” of whisky bloggers.
It was written by founder of World Whisky Day and self proclaimed “whisky expert” Blair Bowman, who for the record, I actually think is a good guy who has done a huge amount to promote the world of whisky.
Which is why I’m even more surprised the article smacks of old fashioned thinking, the preservation of the old establishment and a very large smattering of hypocrisy.
Much of the piece plays on the fact that some bloggers in the past have transitioned into roles in the industry, either directly with brands, as PR or in a writer type role, and as such those who began blogging in recent years have done so with the misguided belief that doing so will earn them a job in the industry.
Blair unfairly and cynically badges these people as the Dime A Dozen bloggers. Well thanks to social media, I know many of these bloggers and, like me, all they want to do is share their passion for the water of life. Nothing more. And I know for a fact many do NOT wish to be closely involved with the industry to enable an element of independence that is often missing in traditional media.
Surely the fact Jim Murray’s independence and neutrality is questioned – rightly or wrongly - in the same magazine suggests that the more independent opinions there are out there, the better?
Regarding Blair’s quote: “However, it is often hard to understand why enthusiasts would want to read fellow amateurs’ tasting notes about a whisky, when you could just drink it instead.” This to me shows a complete misunderstanding of why people are blogging and why people are reading, again a complete surprise bearing in mind Blair’s credentials in this area.
The price of whisky is on an upward streak, the amount of new and limited edition expressions sweeping across the whisky world means the selection is vast, so who do people turn to for advice?
Ten years ago the only advice on this would have come from shop staff or books by the likes of Michael Jackson, Dominic Roskow, Charlie McLean, Ian Buxton, Gavin D Smith and Jim Murray. All still welcome and credible.
But we now have the ability to quickly source tasting notes from a wide variety of people with an independent view, giving consumers a much wider scope of knowledge. And the more opinions there are the more it is possible to weed out the top and bottom 5% so whisky lovers can create their own informed opinion before spending their hard earned cash.
I know there will always be some that will question the independence of those bloggers who receive free samples from the whisky fairy, but to be frank their opinion is no more or less valid than those who believe they are experts. After all, it’s all personal opinion in the end.
For me the new age of whisky bloggers has shaken up the establishment, made the sector so much more social media savvy, and provided instant feedback for consumers. How can that be a bad thing?
Before I sign off, I had a discussion recently with a few of my fellow Dime a Dozen bloggers and we all agreed there are genuine whisky experts out there such as Rachel Barrie, Dr Bill Lumsden, Richard Paterson, Ian Buxton, Charlie Maclean to name but a few.
But they are an elite group with decades of experience working first hand in the industry. The rest of us are all really just amateurs in comparison, working at different levels of amateurism, but amateurs all the same. Including, with the utmost respect, Mr Bowman!