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Bushmills, boiled socks and baloney

Brigid James rounds up the latest news and opinions from the definitive whisky website, www.whisky-world.com
By Brigid James
The storm caused by the Bushmills article, regarding alleged claims about the distillery being the oldest in the world, continues to rage. The general feeling amongst the majority of visitors to the site’s forum is that Bushmills’ marketing offensive shows a clear disregard for the authentic heritage of distilleries and patronises the consumer.Forum participant Iain comes up with an excellent ‘Bushmills myth’ of his own, concerning the fermentation of yaks’ milk and boiled socks in 34BC, which prompted bemused contributor Erik Huurman to ask if he’s checked his facts! Several of you felt that we shouldn’t get too bogged down in these facts, including CheekyMonkey, who stirred things up considerably with the ironic comment: “Let the marketing monkeys get on with the marketing rubbish that no one listens to anyway.” Any “marketing monkeys” out there who wish to defend their honourable profession? Come and join the forum.Currently, the consensus of opinion seems to be that Bushmills simply falls into a geographical area where a general license had been granted. The distillery did not receive its own license until later, making it the oldest distillery in Ireland – not in the world. Iain claims that it is incorrect to suggest that distillery foundation dates are lost in the mists of time because distilleries have always been subject to excise duties, regulations and taxes – therefore they feature in government records. He cites that A Short History of the Art of Distillation by R.J Forbes (1948) is a useful resource for those wishing to find out more about foundation dates and the history of distillation. This in turn leaves us with a new debate about the birth of distillation with various theories put forward by Whisky-World browsers. Are the origins of distillation in the storing of vodka and mead in barrels in Scandinavia? Wine becoming brandy in Denmark? Or were the Irish monks, Celts or even the Arabs responsible? Why not air and share your views and join the fray.Sensory sensitivity and very expensive whiskyThe whisky poll question of whether whisky tastings should be conducted blind evoked a general feeling (68% of respondents) that tasting blind is a good idea, as having preconceptions before embarking upon a tasting would bias the conclusions. It was also remarked that readers of tasting results should be made aware if the whiskies were tasted blind or not. A rather different observation from Mr A Gurner is that he conducts his tastings “blind drunk on a Friday at 11.30pm”. Surprisingly, this wasn’t the time at which he posted his comments.Many people may harbour suspicions that Frederick Lindgren keeps Mr Gurner company on Friday evenings: his entry managed to link Scotland, Crewe, Chester and Tarpoley Manor House with no mention of any kind of tasting. However, in a later, seemingly more lucid, entry he concludes that it is not possible to identify whisky through a blind tasting, even for an expert, and draws parallels with auditory ‘blind’ tests where gifted musicians were not able to identify different kinds of speakers. But is it too simple to compare different senses directly in this way? By all accounts, Mr Lindgren is a bit of a Whisky-World fire-starter and leaves us with the sweeping comment that the difference between a $40 - $60 whisky and a $400 - $600 whisky is really very minimal. I can only assume that many Whisky-World visitors were left wondering how many people have the luxury of being able to compare whiskies on this scale and whether Mr Lindgren would like to indulge us! The link-up club
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