It's early January and I have found it very difficult to get going. Taking two weeks off over the Christmas break is all very well and good, until you realise that on 4 January you have to get yourself into gear. I had a most enjoyable Christmas break and received a very interesting present… a build-yourself model of a trebuchet. It's what everyone needs over the Christmas period. Ideal for hurling nuts and such like at your guests.
In early December we had our annual Icons of Whisky Scotland awards in Edinburgh, which I co-presented with our Scotland Contributing editor Gavin D. Smith at The Surgeons' Hall. The problem with these events is that I never seem to have enough time to talk to the invited guests. However, I did have time to have a conversation with (I won't embarrass him by naming him) a young employee at Strathearn Distillery, who has only been in the whisky industry for a couple of years, but has taken to it like a duck to water. I was very impressed by his enthusiasm. One of our aims this year is to do a series of interviews with all manner of people involved in the whisky industry, and I hope said person from Strathearn will be one of the first.
All our Icon winners from America, Scotland and Rest of World now go forward to our Global Icons awards, which will be announced in London at our awards presentation in March.
In our quest to give our readers the best whisky coverage from around the world, we have appointed two new Contributing editors. Hans Offringa will be covering Europe and Stefan Van Eycken will be keeping us up to date on Japan. An area which we intend to cover in much more detail during the course of this year.
After the success of the Battle of the Blends, we are now making plans for Challenge No. 2, and full details of the new contender, who will battle it out with Neil Ridley, will be announced in our next issue. The presentation to Neil Ridley for winning Challenge No. 1 will be at Whisky Live London on 18 and 19 March, so if you are in London on either of those dates, then I urge you to book online at whiskylive.com.
This year we want to involve even more judges (299 last year) and our aim is to include more of our overseas readers. With the help of Master of Malt, I hope that we have found a way this year of getting you the samples that last year proved too prohibitively expensive to post.
Here in the UK, we been experiencing some serious flooding, and on a recent visit to Royal Lochnagar on Deeside, we went through the small town of Ballater. To see this town in the news recently, under water, was shocking and I sincerely hope that all those affected by the flooding are back in their houses and businesses as soon as possible. I know that some distilleries have also been affected, with a number having to be closed so that they can undertake the relevant repairs.
Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) has been rumbling on for some years now. For those not in the know, this is a method being sought by government to try and ensure that alcohol is not sold at very low prices, and thus allegedly encouraging more drinking. The European Court ruled on this before Christmas and has stated that it is a restriction on trade. The Scotch Whisky Association have expressed their approval of this ruling as they firmly believe that, had it gone through, it would have affected the sales of Scotch whisky throughout the world.
This news was closely followed by the UK government issuing its regular 'you shouldn't drink as much' edict. We are now advised to abstain from alcohol for at least two days a week and that the daily maximum intake for men could be cut to the same as for women, which is 2 - 3 units a day. This could cause a problem as I am one of the judges in our World Whiskies Awards in early February, so I may well go over the limit.
And finally, I will be on the Whisky Magazine stand at Whisky Live London 18 - 19 March and I would urge you to attend. We will be running a competition (no skill required) where six bottles of very good quality whisky will be offered as prizes. What are you waiting for?