Happy World Whisky Day, everyone! I do hope you're making the most of it. This wonderful day has its roots deep into... well, last year! when it was invented by a 23-year-old student from Aberdeen. That's Scotland. Blair Bowman, take a bow, sir! I wish I had been that forward-thinking when I was 23, but then Facebook was only a few years old. I'm not even sure if crowd-sourcing was even a word then, much less an entire concept (I'm being at least a little facetious).
This is Nosing the Net's World Whisky Day Edition - a chance to celebrate the manifold accomplishments of those courageous souls who first pioneered "that beautiful, soft spirit".
Starting with this :-)
My, my, how far we've come. You tell me whether it can be called progress.
The Perfect Whisky
Well, in case you're curious about whether a whisky could ever be considered to have achieved perfection, here's your answer. Apparently Highland Park's 25yo recently captured an unprecedented score of 100 (out of 100) at Ultimate Spirits Challenge [Ed. Is that like UFC with whisky? Bring it!]
This is an interesting decision on behalf of the judges. Interesting as in it has obviously never happened before. The salient question then is whether or not it ever should. You see, it's one thing to aim high and achieve that illustrious 99/100. A score like that is certainly nothing to frown at, or at least it wasn't until the first coming of our mighty redeemer (see photo above). When you see 99/100 on a bottle or a price sticker, it's a reminder that judges obviously thought this whisky was just about as good as mere words can describe. But 100... 100 is an entirely different plane of existence. I mean, if you're the winner of such a score how else are you supposed to react other than to literally shove this in the just-became-the-99-percent's faces? Luckily, Highland Park restrained from spiking the football and actually acknowledged there were competitors. May Highland Park's face shine upon them and be gracious unto them.
I'm not really sure we've grasped the ramifications of this decision yet. These judges (experts in their field) just said that this whisky is as good as whisky gets. This isn't a 98 or 99, where you - the jury - are left to determine the merits of the case. This is a judge (or panel of the same) trampling on due process. For crying out loud, 100 is a score that is supposed to be reserved for the soul. In that sense, 100 proclaims something beyond even "perfection" (which - truthfully - is unknowable). It proclaims enlightenment.
Now here's the rub. With a score this utterly adulerated, what happens when someone inevitably creates a better whisky? Do you go back and break up with Highland Park 25? Sorry baby, but this other whisky just gets me. She makes me feel things I've never felt before. I hear the creaking hinges of Pandora's Box.
In non-mountain-out-of-a-mole-hill commentary, congratulations to Highland Park for this stunning achievement. Congratulations also to Ultimate Spirits Challenge for completely delegitimizing your scoring system.
The Complete Widget
Some of you remember my article from quite a while back where I basically compared Ardbeg to Apple as far as how each company approached marketing and hype. I stand by those observations. However, when it comes to the production of the whisky, there is another son of Islay that I believe is more deserving of the Apple reputation.
Enter Kilchoman Farm Distillery, the first distillery built on Islay in 124 years, and one that has only been laying down spirit since 2007. I myself own a Kilchoman release from an independent bottling company I'm a member of (Single Cask Nation). Not yet reviewed on this website, the whisky is a 4yo expression aged in ex-bourbon barrels from Buffalo Trace Distillery. It is magnificent, complex, and mature beyond its years.
It's clear that in only 5 years of distillation Kilchoman has come into its own (amidst impressive Islay competition), as critics are calling it "The Little Whisky Farm Distillery That Could." Kilchoman's Machir Bay (a vatting of 4 and 5 year old whisky aged in ex-bourbon barrrels and finished for 4 weeks in Oloroso sherry butts) recently took the Gold Medal at the International Whisky Competition. This was a stunning win for a whisky so young, and it definitely got the whisky press' attention. The reason I think Kilchoman's successful future is now assured is because there's a story behind this distillery that will impress the thousands of enthusiasts now asking "Who's Kilchoman?"
Kilchoman is one of the only distilleries (it may be the only distillery, but I need to do more research) that produces the entire widget. "The entire widget" is a term coined by Steve Jobs to express the way in which Apple controls its entire hardware-software production and ecosystem. Mr. Jobs maintained it was this counter-intuitive approach to control (vs. "open source") which allowed Apple to build superior products. Taking a page out of Silicon Valley's playbook - and with great timing considering the rise of the organic / locavore movement - Kilchoman owns nearly every aspect of the production of its whisky, from farming the barley, to malting the barley (which only a handful of distilleries still do on their own), to distilling the wort, to warehouse maturation, to bottling. Every. Single. Aspect.
It's no wonder that a fascinating business ethos coupled with a "David vs. Goliath" narrative would appeal to the current generation of whisky consumers. With such an unprecedented amount of quality control, is it any wonder that we then have this unprecedented win from such a young start-up? There's even an upshot for would-be collectors. Given its very young age, even the most expensive single malt from this distillery can usually be found for under $70, a positive steal. Check 'em out.
The night is young, and you want to do something interesting with your whiskies that doesn't involve a Glencairn glass and cool, still water. I get it - whisky does have a unique flavor dynamic that makes it irresistable to mixologists. I give you then this delightful little gem of an article, complete with the most famous whisky cocktails and their more experimental incarnations. You're welcome :-)
Speaking of mixology, if the robot apocalypse happens to occur anytime soon, at least we can rest assured that all the little T-1000's will still be able to enjoy a proper Old Fashioned. No word on whether "Liquid Metal" will become an instant cocktail phenom in those days, but I'm willing to bet that some Applebee's will survive the carnage.
Blade Runner 2
In case the future is more of a sunny, android-infested dystopia than robot apocalypse, we'll settle for the idea of an "inhalable whisky tornado" that will totally get you drunk. No, for realsies.
Slainte, friends, and a blessed weekend to you all!