Monthly Archives: September 2014

Scotland Says “No”

So… despite being a very close affair, Scotland has voted against its independence from the UK and the European Union.

Firstly, we should state that we do not believe that the “no” vote was anti-patriotic. Far from it. If anything, it was a vote in favour of maintaining Scottish development. But… given that scotch whisky can only, by its nature (and by law), come from Scotland, we at WU did have to wonder what would have happened if a “yes” vote had prevailed. As such, we kept a keen eye on the build-up to the big decision and how it would have affected the whisky world.

One of the loudest voices to be heard on the matter was that of Diageo. Along with many other establishments, including the Royal Bank of Scotland (!), their concern was the initial impact upon the economy that independence could have. It was widely reported that there was no plan on what currency the nation would operate by, given that they would be divorced from the British pound. Furthermore, there did not appear to be any strategy for how cross-border trading or taxation would operate. Due to such uncertainties, a lot of businesses were facing the very real possibility of having to relocate south of the border in the first instance, so that they could maintain their operations, inevitably taking their employment and profits with them.

Whilst Diageo stated that they were committed to making sure that their distilleries would still run and that they would have done their bit to protect the industry as much as possible (after all, they do own roughly 40% of all scotch whisky production), most economists predicted that the split would have seen an initial hike on all distilleries’ base costs and export charges. The natural consequence of this would have been an inevitable increase in the price of whisky to us willing purchasers. As for the distilleries themselves, particularly those without the big money backing, some frugal decisions would have had to have been made with jobs at stake and even potential closures being faced.

Obviously, Scottish independence could not have simply happened overnight. There are many, many factors and variables that would have needed to have been considered here to successfully separate a country with 300 years of British integration. What cannot be denied about the whole campaign though is the volume of those that voted “yes”, and whilst the impact of independence is somewhat of a moot point for now, the referendum has undoubtedly caught the world’s eye and resulted in greater devolved powers having been promised to Scotland. Today, David Cameron has thanked the Scottish public for choosing to stay within the Union, and what we will hopefully see therefore is a concerted effort within the UK to address and improve the Scottish economy, its businesses and, from a whisky perspective, help maintain and develop the country’s third largest export.

.

Categories: Whisky Waffling | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

For Peat’s Sake!?

If you enjoy a smoky kick to your whisky then chances are that you’ll already know your best friend’s name is ‘peat’.

Peat itself is quite an interesting entity (if you’re into that sort of thing) and represents something that is hundreds of years in the making. Personally, I was pretty blown away to find out that a 1 metre deep cut of peat has roughly 1,000 years of history to its name.

‘So what is it?’ you ask. Essentially, peat is layer upon layer of compressed, decomposed vegetation that has built up over time.

Islay Peat Bog

Islay Peat Bog

‘So why is this boggy dirt so important to whisky?’ you then ask. Well, despite being a wet sludge out in the open, it is a surprisingly great fuel that can burn quite ferociously – essentially like a primitive form of coal. Distilleries collect, dry and burn the peat and then channel the smoke towards their malt before it goes off to form the base liquids. The smoke rising from the peat infuses with the malt (or grain or whatever is being used) and then forms an essential ingredient and characteristic of the final spirit that is produced. Distilleries then measure the peat smoke intake in their final product by looking at the phenol count in parts per million or “ppm”.

The world’s peatiest drams tend to hail from the western isles of Scotland, where the majority of the lands are covered in fields of deep peat. Down on the south-east coast of Islay, in particular, you’ll find the industry’s 3 biggest peaty players, Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig, who have their core range of whiskies averaging between 40-50 ppm.

Octomore 6.1 - Scottish Barley

Octomore 6.1 – Scottish Barley

Interestingly, the world’s peatiest whisky is not produced by any of the 3 distilleries listed above but is, in fact, crafted by the good people of Bruichladdich, on the other side of the island, whose experimentation has resulted in the beast now known as Octomore. At the time of writing, their biggest hitter is the Octomore 5.1, which weighs in at a whopping 169ppm! That’s basically 4 times as much peat per sip than the world’s smokiest staples! Incredible.

(Since first writing this post, Bruichladdich have since released Octomore 6.3 – at a colossal 256ppm!)

There are, of course, other ways of getting that smoky taste into whisky, which use different methods and materials (such as the charcoal ‘mellowing’ used by Jack Daniel’s) but when it comes to winter-beating, ashen drams you just can’t beat a bit of peat!

M

Categories: Whisky Waffling | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.