By Dominic Roskrow

Any way you want it

Dominic Roskrow argues that we should act now to beat the censorship lobby
The highlight of Whisky Live for me came at the end of the masterclass by The Easy Drinking Whisky Company. The trio, fronted by former Macallan maestro David Robertson, had been mixing Scotch with all sorts of strange things, including bourbons. It was brave stuff.They admitted later that they had half-expected a kicking from a partisan, malt loving audience.What they got was a standing ovation. It was a great moment.I'm not sure the same thing would have happened even a year ago, but I sensed a coming of age for whisky at this year's event and it reinforced my belief that whisky is entering an exciting phase.I knew how Robbo and his team felt. Dave Broom and I had introduced - a little mutedly, admittedly - a whisky cocktail challenge at Whisky Live for the first time. And it wasn't as if we just got away with it; it was a triumph.Single malts remain at the core of what we're about, and will always do so; but we - not just this magazine but many of the characters in the trade - seem to be increasingly willing to make room for those who taste their whisky in a different way.In the pages of this very issue, alongside great and weighty features on Longmorn and cask-strength Islay malts, we have a debate about vatted malts and a feature not just on blending but on blending products from different countries - just as the Easy Drinking Whisky Company did at Whisky Live.This sort of mature and pluralistic approach to our trade is increasingly important because I suspect we will need as many friends as possible on our side in the months and years ahead.It seems the storm clouds of restriction, censorship and abstention are gathering and that alcohol might be set for the same sort of fate as the tobacco industry has faced .My views on this subject are sort of encapsulated in a joke that the late, great British comedian Bob Monkhouse used to tell. He said that when he died he wanted to go like his father, peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming in terror like the passengers on his plane.As far as I'm concerned, if someone chooses to down a bottle of Scotch with some sleeping pills that's his business. If he's too stupid to know that this is not a good idea, no distiller or retailer should be held responsible.On the other hand, if he decides to then drive a car, wield a baseball bat or operate heavy machinery and endanger lives, then the full force of the law should be brought to bear. On him, and nobody else.I resolved the issue of drink-driving years ago. I don't drive. Now I expect to be left in peace to drink when and as I see fit and providing I don't infringe on anyone else's rights by doing so, I don't expect to have my right to drink infringed upon.But across the world nanny states think otherwise. There's a case with smoking, because smokers have a habit of intruding into other people's right to smoke-free air. Drinking alcohol per se rarely has the same knock-on effect.Nevertheless, the warning signs are there; restrictions on where drinking can take place, obligations to publish alcohol units on packaging, the call for health warnings on bottles - it all adds up to a not particularly thin end of a particularly large wedge.As a strong alcohol, whisky is obviously likely to be in the firing line. Which is ironic when you consider that the worst abusers of alcohol are younger drinkers who wouldn't be seen anywhere near a glass of premium malt.We need to distance ourselves from those that abuse alcohol and treat it as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.To do that we have to introduce its charms to as many people as possible. We have to open the world of whisky to the sort of people who might pass judgement on us, just to show what an educated and trustworthy bunch we all are.And if that means pink whisky, cherry-flavoured whisky or whisky with a coloured umbrella, so be it.Anything, in fact, for a quiet life for the rest of us.Dominic Roskrow