Looking Back/Forward

Happy New Year to all my readers. If you’ll indulge a little navel gazing, I’d like to take a look back at 2017 on the blog and a quick look ahead to 2018.

As you may or may not remember, about 11 months ago I announced a change of focus for the blog. Fewer whisky reviews, I’d said, and restaurant reviews focused more on smaller, immigrant-run establishments; I also said I’d try to write more about books and films from the non-Western world. This stemmed from the uneasiness I felt about lifestyle blogging during the apocalypse. As you may also have noticed, by the second half of the year my posting frequency was back up to 4-5 posts a week. This is not because my concerns about the political environment in the US evaporated—in most ways, TrumpAmerica has turned out to be exactly what many of us feared at the time of his election, or worse; though I do feel more hopeful now than I did in February 2017 about possible resistance to it. 

The reason for my return to more or less normal blogging activity is that I channeled my political uneasiness into direct political engagement in my own community. I’ve become more involved with local groups working on immigrant issues. This engagement—limited though it still is—has made me feel more grounded, has given me “permission” to also continue to do more trivial things like write about whisky and food. (Separately, I’m also learning Spanish; let me tell you, it’s hard to learn a new language when you’re almost 50, and it’s very hard to remember how to be a student again.)

Anyway, 2018 will see the return to normal activity on the blog continue: you can expect three whisky reviews a week (with the occasional rum/brandy break); restaurant reviews will continue to emphasize immigrant-run establishments; and I’m actually going to post about books soon.

So, a look back at what was popular on the blog in 2017. These were the 10 most read posts of the year (in descending order of views):

  1. Glendronach Confusion (or What is a “Single Cask”?)
  2. Under Bridge Spicy Crab (Hong Kong)
  3. Black Bean Curry with Potatoes
  4. Pineapple Chutney
  5. Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017
  6. Shorshe-bata Maach/Fish in Mustard Paste
  7. Evan Williams Single Barrel
  8. FUCK!
  9. Is It Worth It? Buying Old(er) Whisky in 2017
  10. Four Roses Small Batch, Ltd. Ed. 2016

That post about Glendronach’s alleged “single casks” continues to be my most read post every year. It seems like every other month some whisky forum or the other discovers and posts a link to it. The interest in the issue does not seem to have any effect on the mania for these releases, however. I was surprised to see the Under Bridge Spicy Crab review so high up. It turns out that it’s somehow in the first few hits returned by Google for people searching for information on the restaurant—not sure how that happened. Two recipes after that. The black bean curry recipe was included in a Rancho Gordo newsletter. The pineapple chutney recipe is the source of pretty much all my traffic from Pinterest. I continue to wish that someone looking at that recipe will eventually post a comment.

Only three whisk(e)y reviews in the top 10 and only five posts that were actually made in 2017. The number of visitors to the blog did drop in 2017—I expect a large fraction of this was due to the reduced whisky content.

And here are the top 10 spirits reviews of the year (in descending order of views):

  1. Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017
  2. Evan Williams Single Barrel
  3. Four Roses Small Batch, Ltd. Ed. 2016
  4. Henry McKenna, Bottled in Bond
  5. Laphroaig Cairdeas 2015
  6. Glendronach 15, Revival
  7. Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 007
  8. Old Grand Dad, 80 Proof
  9. Hampden 6, 2010
  10. Springbank 12 CS, Batch 14

The few bourbon reviews I posted in 2017 were disproportionately more read than my single malt reviews: three of the four were in the top 10 for views, and the fourth one (Old Weller Antique) was close behind despite only having been posted in December. And I only posted three rum reviews but one of them hit the top 10. Alas, I’m not going to be upping my bourbon and rum reviews in response. I’m not chasing page views and will continue to drink (and review) what I mostly drink, which is single malt whisky.

I did review more recently released/current single malt whisky in the last part of the year and those posts did get a lot of views, and a couple of them will likely end up in the 2018 top 10 list. They also led to a number of people emailing me to urge me to do more of that kind of thing. I’ll address why I don’t and won’t in a separate post soon.

Politics aside, it’s been a bittersweet year in the world of whisky as well. On the plus side of the ledger was my first ever visit to Scotland—in particular on Islay at Lagavulin with Pinkie McArthur, doing the Warehouse Experience at Laphroaig, and touring Bowmore. Despite my unsentimental attitude to whisky, these proved to be unexpectedly emotional experiences and I can only wish that all whisky geeks get to make their own pilgrimages to the places where their beloved whiskies are made. On the minus side of the ledger is the continuing slide of the industry into product and pricing strategies that seem at odds with quality (see the discussion on #9 on the list above). And there’s also the loss of Sku’s blog.

I met Steve/Sku through whisky blogging and we’ve become friends over the years. We eat with his family on every trip to Los Angeles and it’s always a highlight of our trips. On a personal level, it’s not like I’m chatting with or seeing Sku any less than I had before. But his blog—as much fun as I made of his minimalist reviews—was an essential antidote to the logorrhea of blogs like mine (as well as some that are far more read than mine), and his ethos of honest criticism and generosity is one that should be a model to all lifestyle bloggers. I can only hope that like the Pixies or Justin Bieber he’ll change his mind and come out of retirement.

But enough cloying sentiment! Here are the reviews you can expect to see on the blog in January (not all of these but most of these):

  1. Allt-a-Bhainne 16, 1995 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)
  2. Arran 15, 1996 (Glen Fahrn)
  3. Arran 19, 1997 (Acorn)
  4. Balblair 16
  5. Balblair 2003
  6. Balblair 2005
  7. Ballechin 13yo 2003 Port Cask, Distillery only
  8. Benromach 9yo 2001, Cask Strength
  9. Blair Athol 25, 1988 (LMDW)
  10. Bunnahabhain 31, 1980 (Whisky Doris)
  11. Clynelish 17, 1997 (C&S)
  12. Craigellachie 25, 1990 (SMWS 44.67)
  13. Dailuaine 29 (The Whisky Exchange)
  14. Four Roses Small Batch Ltd. Ed. 2017
  15. Glen Ord 28
  16. Glendronach 25, 1968
  17. Kilkerran 8yo Cask Strength
  18. Lagavulin 23, 1979 (Murray McDavid)
  19. Laphroaig 18, 1995 (SMWS 29.148)
  20. Littlemill 12
  21. Littlemill 21, 1992 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)
  22. Old Pulteney, Clipper Around the World
  23. Tamdhu 22, 1991 (Càrn Mòr)
  24. Tobermory 17, 1995 (Glen Fahrn)
  25. Tobermory 18, 1994 (Wilson & Morgan)
  26. Tobermory 20, 1994, Oloroso Sherry (Wilson & Morgan)

If there are some of these you’re more interested in than others, by all means please write in below.

Here’s to a great 2018—I’m going to be toasting it in with a young Lagavulin and an old Longmorn. Let’s hope that sets the tone for the year.

4 thoughts on “Looking Back/Forward

  1. Balblair, Ord, Clynelish, and Pulteney are, as always, in my northern Highland wheelhouse. But sheer perversity demands that I ask for reviews of Littlemill and Tobermory. Relative obscurities like Allt-a-Bhainne and Dailuaine also deserve a share of the spotlight.


  2. Judging by your past viewership your 2017 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition will be viewed a lot. If you can compare it to something like the regular FR Small Batch or a FR Single Barrel or even Henry McKenna that would be more informative than 90% of the reviews of that whisk(e)y. (I will never taste this bourbon, so I only marginally care, haha).

    Personally, I’m curious about Arran. I want them to be good.


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