By Tom Stinson

Here's to grumpy old men...

This month's guest writer is market analyst Tom Stinson
At Manchester Piccadilly railway station they have turned the area outside platform 13 and 14 in to what they laughingly describe as a lounge.The concrete and glass area has been fitted with seats and some thigh high sloping metal bars which you're meant to lean on. There's a Costa Coffee and a WHSmiths, and at the top end there's a neon digital display informing you about train arrivals which everyone stares at gormlessly.And this 'lounge' has illusions of grandeur. It thinks it's in an airport. So passengers are told to 'wait in the lounge' until two minutes before the train leaves and then to 'go to departure gate.' Well not quite, but you get the gist.Being the contrary sort of person that I am, I went to my platform before I was told I could just to see what happened. Nothing did. I mention all this because it's just one more example of how our society is changing, and for the worse. Never mind that your train doesn't run on time, or that it's dirty and over-crowded - at least there's a nice waiting area in the station.That's nice as in 'anaemic', 'sterile' and 'sanitised.' I have this theory that the reason whisky is so cherished is because it has come to symbolise tradition and heritage. It's a totem unaffected by market trends that have created global drinks brands and homogenous retailing opportunities.I should declare at this point that I don't like whisky - or at least not the taste of it. Can't stand the stuff. But I like the idea of whisky, and I certainly like a lot of the people who drink it.There's a certain rebellious charm about the whisky drinkers I know. And the ones I know tend to be like those featured in the British television series Grumpy old Men - professional males in their 40s with opinions on everything, a cynicism on most, and an endearing bewilderment about the society they live in.Like me they are at a loss to explain why people allow themselves to be herded like sheep by marketing men and politicians, how people are prepared to accept so little. They despair that there is so little choice, from real ale in pubs to books and compact discs, where it's the top 40 at half price or nothing.They get angry when the server can't order peas instead of beans because the pre-programmed till doesn't allow it. And they can't understand why half a million British men buy weekly soft porn magazines and nations across the world are gripped by Big Brother. But they are endearingly loyal to anyone or anything that passes through their critical gate, and malt whisky falls in to this category.When it comes to a drop of Scotch, they're like Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison or Rolling Stones fans - they'll dabble elsewhere but come back to their true passion time and time again.So I pose the question - when this magazine writes about new and young drinkers discovering malt, is this really such a good thing? Should we celebrate the decline of the 'alcopop','ready to drink' fruit-flavoured alcoholic beverage with such glee? And do we really want the High Street teenager to be plumping for whisky as his or her drink of choice?Of course the whisky maker wants to sell more whisky. But what if demand is such that more and more stock is put in to younger five or seven year old brands and is diverted away from the more premium end of the sector? What if 'standard' malts become the whisky equivalent of Foster's lager or Starbucks coffee?There are probably a hundred reasons why this won't happen. But next time you find yourself with time on your hands in a railway station departure lounge, having already spent the two minutes required to assess the book and magazine choice in the nearby newsagents, bear it a thought.There's something to be said for grumpy old men yet you know.