This is my first year as a whisky blogger and, as my handful of readers know, I try not to buck convention. Everyone else is producing end of year lists or giving out awards. From the big boy end of the spectrum we’ve already had the postmodern comedy stylings of Malt Advocate and the yearly celebration of hard to find malts from the Malt Maniacs. At the regular folks end of the spectrum Sku has already summed up the year rather well (and given out a hard-fought “Worst Whiskey Company” award as well); Macdeffe has issued probably the best list of actually thoughtful awards (white text on black background alert!); and Tim Read has mocked the year in marketing hype in great style. There’s little left for me to do in retrospective vein and so I have instead a list of things I’m hoping to see in 2014. Some of these are even serious.
1. The TTB fucking with Sku. Some people go through celebrities’ trash, some people read subway graffiti for information on the coming invasion from the Gamma Quadrant; Sku reads the The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s COLA site for information on upcoming bottles. It’s his thing. Nothing gets by him. It’s time for the TTB to mess with him and load up some fake COLA applications: Barrel aged bourbon and 7-up made with old stocks of Stitzel-Weller for a hipster tapas bar and sewage reclamation plant in Brooklyn; Japanese Cherry Blossom Flavoured Whisky; Old Great-Granddad; a Four Roses “American Icons” Small Batch series with Guy Fieri, Carrot Top, Rick Santorum and Paula Deen limited editions leading the way; Old Forester 30. Something.
2. More in the vein of the Edina Liquors Tomatin 11 CS. Edina Liquors is the municipal liquor store of the town of Edina in Minnesota. They’re pretty fancy as municipal liquor stores go and their selection of Scotch is extensive but nothing special. For some reason, however, they now have a store bottling of a cask strength Tomatin 11, 2002. And it only costs $29.99. Now, Tomatin has a very large production capacity and if they are trying to make a push with their single malt in the US (which they must be if Edina Liquors has a store bottled cask) I get that they probably have a huge enough stock of casks that they don’t need to make money on every one. But it’s still refreshing to see a single cask whisky at cask strength offered at this price–only $10 above their NAS entry-level Legacy and only a few dollars above their criminally underrated 12 yo. Compared to what is happening with well-nigh every other single malt brand this seems almost quixotic. And what’s more the whisky itself is pretty good (I’ll probably review it next month). Please let this become a trend, even if only from the lower tier distilleries in terms of name recognition. (Let’s pretend for a moment that we don’t know about the perfume bottle Tamdhu 10 at 40% that’s going to debut in the US in the $50 range next year.)
3. Octomore 7.2 “Fuck It”, Matured in Oloroso Sherry Casks. Apparently, St. Jim has an Octomore coming that’s (part?) matured in eau de vie casks. Before things get out of hand and into a Jágermeister cask let’s just get back to boring basics and put out some Octomore that’s stealthily been maturing for 10 years now in premium oloroso casks. Surely there must be some? I’ll even pay $200 for a bottle. Well, maybe not.
4. Dear Leader’s Private Reserve. Pre-1960 Bowmores, Springbanks, Lagavulins, Macallans and Highland Parks from the private collection of Kim Jong-Il; all highly collectible and packaged in the skulls of sorry bastards who failed to clap enthusiastically enough at state functions. To be bottled only for Decadence Solutions and their highly affluent and depraved clients. Each bottle to cost at least 10x North Korea’s GDP per capita (what? you don’t have it memorized?). Samples available to any blogger willing to help with promotion.
5. Some progress with the legalization of shipping of hard alcohol among the 50 United States. It’s all the same country, goddammit. Why is it that Canadian whisky can be brought into the country and sold as whiskey from a Vermont farm distillery but I can’t have a bottle of that whiskey delivered to Minnesota from Illinois? Let the USPS deliver alcohol, mandate sales tax collection if that’s what’s needed, but let us buy from and let stores sell to wherever we/they please. I need The Party Source and Binny’s to come back to me. (And also, now that same sex marriage is on the way to becoming legal all over the US and two states have actually legalized marijuana can we just agree that prohibitions on Sunday liquor sales are not going to hold back the apocalypse?)
6. No more giving of a free pass to bloggers and whisky writers we like for doing the same kind of stuff we excoriate in people we don’t like. That is all. (More on this next month.)
7. For everyone to acknowledge that Karuizawa’s whisky is no more special than that produced by distilleries that have been so foolish as to stay in business. I acknowledge that I’ve not had very many Karuizawas, but the ones I’ve had have not been markedly (or at all) better than similar (and much cheaper) whiskies from such distilleries as Highland Park and Glendronach. Let the madness end, people. Just because some company bought up all the remaining stock and has been trickle-releasing it with fancy labels through its chosen affiliates doesn’t mean we have to buy it or their bullshit.