The blog turned 10 today. Well, not exactly. If I recall correctly, it went live to the public closer to March 29, 2013—but the first post was dated March 24. The blog began as a whisky blog and for the first several months I posted a whisky review every single day. Ten years later, I can’t believe I kept that up that long (even as I acknowledge that Serge still posts a minimum of 10 booze reviews a day). In those days I was very much a whisky blogger. In that first post, the other subjects I say I might occasionally post about are film, music and books. I have done a little of that over the years but it’s funny that the thing I don’t mention is food. Funny, because by now this is probably almost entirely a food blog in the eyes of most of my readers—and I now have far more readers than I did in the early years of the blog. I can’t say I had any idea when I started out of how long I would blog but since 10 is a nice round number, let me take the opportunity to look back a little (and then a little bit ahead).
Those first food posts were meal reports from a trip to Los Angeles in the summer of 2013, beginning with dim sum. I was still posting whisky reviews almost every day—the restaurant reports didn’t really displace that content. Nor did the first batch of Twin Cities restaurant reports—I posted four of those that year as well, starting in October with a dinner at The Bachelor Farmer (we were not impressed). I note that my first four reports include two very good meals at two of the restaurants we still eat at in 2023 (Grand Szechuan and On’s Kitchen) and two relative disappointments at fine dining restaurants (Tilia being the other). In general, that’s probably a fair allegory of my feelings about the restaurant scene in the Twin Cities as they’ve been recorded on the blog in the nine and a half years since: smaller immigrant-owned restaurants have, by and large, made me much happier than fancy restaurants, and those are still the places we return to most often.
That’s not to say, of course, that we’ve not enjoyed fine(r) dining restaurants in the Twin Cities in the last decade. The late, lamented Piccolo, Alma, 112 Eatery and Spoon & Stable always did/do it for us—as does Piccolo’s successor, Tenant. And we’ve had many good meals at newer places that opened (and closed) in the last decade. Of course, we’ve also had some farcical experiences across the spectrum (see Travail and Mandarin Kitchen) and some very disappointing ones (see Owamni). My views on some of these places—and especially my views on dim sum and sushi in Minnesota—have made me many, many friends among Twin Cities food writers and diners alike; my ho-hum reviews of a few other critical darlings have also helped.
But even as restaurant reviews became more frequent in the second and third year of the blog (from four Twin Cities reports in 2013 to 32 in 2014), this was still decidedly a whisky blog. (The number of restaurant reviews actually dipped in 2015, 2016 and 2017.) My whisky reviews received far more page views than my restaurant reports, and some of my non-review whisky posts were read a lot. The posts in which I endeared myself to most of my fellow whisky bloggers (here, here and here—for example), the Glendronach “single cask” post, my takes on whisky marketing, my piece on the place of tradition in American whiskey: some of these are seemingly still finding new readers every month. And, of course, I was still posting whisky reviews at a steady clip in that period. But I never quite became a well-known whisky blogger. There are probably many people who considered themselves whisky geeks over that period who never even read my blog, if they’d even heard of it.
My self-serving view of the fact that I never became a household name among whisky geeks is that this was largely baked into the structure of the blog. With a few exceptions (Sku, Michael K, Jordan D., Tim R., Josh F.), I largely kept my distance from the so-called “Whisky Fabric” (is that still a thing?) and indeed was actively disliked by many of the then active and popular bloggers (picture me, 10 years later, decrepit and bobbing on a makeshift raft in the Pacific, looking up at them in the distance and shouting, “Hey, you bastards—I’m still here!“). I also kept my distance from the industry—I did not accept samples, my “Contact Me” page actively discouraged industry people from contacting me. And I also very self-consciously did not let my reviews be driven by marketing and novelty. My reviews were mostly untimely and of little use to anyone looking for a buyer’s guide. All of this is still true, by the way: I still don’t accept samples and still don’t have any industry friendships (with the exception of Billy A.—and that’s mostly due to his magnificent beard). And my reviews still have very low utility.
As to why so much of my whisky readership left me in the last five years, I’m not entirely sure. Some of this probably has to do with me and some of it with larger developments. Taking the latter first, the two big things are: 1) Facebook groups (public and private) became the place for whisky discussion; and 2) the whisky industry—and here I am referring mostly to Scotland, though what I have to say is true of Japan and the US as well—made it hard to remain excited about whisky. Prices kept rising, along with the NAS and novelty whisky tide, and it’s been a while now since you could get well-aged whisky for a reasonable price from even the indie bottlers. Large amounts of money have flowed into the whisky market and unsurprisingly the whisky producers have moved with alacrity to get it into their pockets. It’s not that single malt whisky was ever cheap, per se, but now you really have to have a lot of disposable income to be able to drink anything more than 12 years old (and sometimes even 10-12 year olds are massively overpriced)—and there’s still no guarantee you won’t end up with a bottle of swill.
And I’m sorry to say that many of the new whisky drinkers have done a lot as well to suck the joy out of whisky. I don’t mean that they’ve affected my ability to enjoy the whisky I drink but that there’s little pleasure to be had anymore in the places where whisky geeks gather online (I’m referring, of course, to the English-speaking whisky world). In the Facebook era, whisky spaces have become places of conspicuous consumption, bubble inflation, and, of course, flipping. Most whisky is seemingly bought now either to be able to show other people pictures of the bottles or to sell a few months later at a higher price or both. There’s no interesting whisky conversation to be had online anymore. Call me a nostalgic old fart (I am one) but just as I miss being able to buy good, reasonably priced whisky, I also miss the heyday of the discussions in the comments section on John Hansell’s old blog (What Does John Know?), on Sku’s Recent Eats and on forums like WhiskyWhiskyWhisky.
But would I want to have those conversations now? I said earlier that a part of the decline in my whisky readership in recent years probably has to do with me. And it’s the case that while I still enjoy drinking whisky as much as I ever did—thankfully, I bought enough in the days when good whisky was cheap and plentiful and didn’t have to be bought within a minute or two of becoming available—I don’t find whisky very interesting to talk about anymore. Certainly not as much as food. It’s fair to say that since 2016 or so, even as my whisky reviews have continued at a thrice-weekly clip, my own energies have clearly been directed more and more towards recipes, restaurant reports and the larger world of American and Indian food discourse. Much of this latter has pulled me away from the blog to Twitter and, more recently, Instagram (and has made me many, many new friends in those spaces as well). Cultural and political issues in the world of food resonate far more with my other interests (personal and professional—I now teach a class on food writing, for example) in ways that never had an analogue for me in the world of whisky. And I’m sure some of my readers who don’t share my interest in food sense that and feel that this blog is no longer for them, even though the whisky content emerges at the same rate at which it has for most of the life of the blog.
So, if whisky discourse doesn’t get me excited anymore and if most of my energies now are expended on Twitter, what then of the blog? Sku called it quits after 10 years and last year I was inclined to do the same. But now the 10 year anniversary is here and it feels like a lot of effort to stop. I still write very fast—even my longer posts, including this one, are composed in just about the time it takes to type them—and so the writing itself is not a chore. I do still have a drink every evening and I do still find that taking notes on what I drink helps me concentrate and enjoy it more. And so I’ll continue to post those useless whisky reviews (at the same thrice-weekly clip? I don’t know). The major change is more likely to be on the food end of things. I’ve been posting more and more recipe Reels on Instagram and there’s a good chance that most of my recipes going forward will show up in that far sloppier format there. So if your primary interest in this blog is in the cooking end of things you should follow me on Instagram if you don’t already. That’s not to say I will not be posting any more recipes at all on the blog, but I’m unlikely to go back to posting one each week. The restaurant reviews will continue at their normal rate.
All in all, I guess this is a very anticlimactic post. I’m not shutting the blog down, and I’m not making any major changes. Whether you like or dislike the blog, you can mostly expect more of the same.
Let me close though with a note of appreciation for the readers who have stuck with me for most of the last 10 years and those who’ve found me more recently—whether via social media or by accident. As I said, at the beginning, my readership is now much larger than it was in the early years of the blog and is growing every year. I don’t take your interest for granted—and while I don’t write to please anyone but myself or to cater to anyone’s interests but my own, I do appreciate that enough of you find what I write interesting enough to keep coming back. I do wish more of you would write in to the comments from time to time but you can’t have everything, I guess.
Okay, now I’m going to take a shower and go to Costco.
I’ve only been reading since 2015 or so, but I still enjoy all your whisky posts. I can tell by a combination of distinct hand-writing and certain labeling quirks that we probably get some of our samples from the same people. Keep the fire burning!
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As a longstanding reader and fan, I am happy to announce I will continue to read your entertaining and informative blog – at least the excellent recipes and restaurant reviews, which have been very helpful. Also liking the reels.
I will continue to comment as well. All this, while accepting the risk of being somewhat…mildly…ahem…annoyed.
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Congratulations on ten years of blogging. I’ve been reading for probably eight years or so, discovering your blog after a cruise in which whiskey tasting featured prominently (“What am I drinking? Why is this one so different from that one?”). I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything I’ve read, even the unfamiliar topics (like Indian film to which I have had no exposure). The recipes have been a great introduction to Indian food and have helped me understand there’s much more to Indian food than tikka masala.
I look forward to reading this blog as long as you’re willing to write it.
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Congrats and Cheers! I enjoy your whisky-stuff, and have for quite a while. Reasonable chance I’ve been hanging around since the get-go. All the best!
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Congratulations and thanks for your work.
I came here for the whisky years ago and now enjoy your food reviews, and recipes, just as much.
Really interesting seeing and experiencing your site developing and growing. Much appreciated.
congratulations for pulling it through and not giving up. Especially on the whisky side. As I used to lament about on another now definitely defunct blog (https://allthingswhisky.com/) whisky or more prcise the whisky industry has killed the enthusiasm that used to be part of the fun. That development found a sad climax with the whole NAS business and went with accelarating speed downhill from there.
Do you remember that I posted something here on your blog along the line “whisky is dead the only one not knowing this is whisky” ? You replied your humble little blog was not the right place to make the announcement.
But you came the same way as many others, found the final commom pathway away from enthusiasm to boredom.
So keep it up, doing that in the eye of the whisky catastrophe we experience at the moment is quiet an achivement.
So thank you.