By Rob Allanson

Changing Times

We have a long way to go but the movement has started
We live in strange, worrying, but incredibly exciting times at the moment. The winds of change are starting to blow strongly in a really good way.

The gathering pace of calls for reform and equality are sweeping many industries and the whisky world is not immune, and neither should it be. Just take notice of several voices on the social media channels and you will realise that healthy debate is happening and a much needed change in perception is garnering momentum, supporters and force.

I still find it staggering that the opinion “what do you know you are a woman?”, should still be tolerated in our world. Irrespective of background, religion or race, this is not acceptable.

I remember doing an interview in Russia and the journalist left me floored when he asked me, “Why should we let women drink our whisky…?” Simply staggering. Just for the record my answer was a measured “Whisky does not see gender any more than a stone does… and do women need your permission – No.” I seem to remember a few expletives in there too, but you get the gist.

However, change is coming. We are moving further from the peak macho imagery and male-centric marketing of the 70s and 80s, but still those lines get trotted out by various marketing agencies. We have a long way to go but the movement has started.

One beacon that will, I really hope, make a difference is the OurWhisky campaign, launched recently.
This is the world’s first campaign to unite the global whisky industry and whisky lovers in a combined bid to dispel common myths of who modern whisky drinkers are.

Although the consensus within the industry is that whisky is a drink with widespread appeal, the perception remains among many consumers that whisky is still a “man’s drink” – an opinion perpetuated by decades of male-oriented advertising and ingrained sexism.

This is where the genius and game changing potential of the campaign lies

This is where the genius and game-changing potential of the campaign lies – it is inclusive. It is not bashing one side or the other, it genuinely welcomes the diversity and bonding qualities that whisky stands on. To find out more and indeed lend your voice to this excellent campaign, have a look online and make a difference.

From one pet peeve to another – the denigration of blends. This edition sees the close of our Battle of the Blends competition and now the winner’s crown will rest in the public’s opinion. Lyndsey raises an excellent point that I have been banging on about for ages, that the art of blending is often much misunderstood, difficult to do, and perceptions still need to change around blends. Mid competition I received a comment that the competitors should not be blending so much decent whisky together. Again I found myself reminding the person that really without the big blends, no matter what your opinion of them, you would not have single malts. If you have such incredible whiskies as ingredients then the final output will likely be wonderful, it’s a misconception that blends are inferior whisky.

Despite what some quarters say, the grain element is not just a bulk filler. The grain has an active effect on the single malts, the same as water would have, moving and changing its flavour spikes.

For me, the role of master blender is akin to being an artist. Add to this, the parcels of whisky you as a blender might have available to you each week, let alone each month, will vary dependent on what stock is ready to go. You still have to hit that established flavour profile of the blend you are creating while someone keeps playing and changing your ingredients.
I would ask politely that we stop bad mouthing the big blends, they might not be to your taste that’s one thing, but to be dismissed out of hand as rubbish is frankly short sighted.

So that said, now the Battle of the Blends is closed the competitors’ fate is in your hands. The way to participate is to head over to the Master of Malt website, search for the Battle of the Blends and order a kit. Then sit down enjoy, savour, be critical, and vote.

I look forward to crowning the winner very shortly.