News

Spirits in the air

A few issues back we looked at the best whisky company websites. Here Richard Jones hunts down other whisky information sites
By Richard Jones
Since the advent of the internet, anyone with a personal computer, a modicum of literacy and ‘a mate who knows something about computers’ can set up a website and become an authority on whisky.Today, there are hundreds of different whisky websites, with the numbers continuing to grow apace. Reflecting the broad international appeal of the subject, many of the websites are written in languages other than English – for example http://www.buxrud.se/linklib.htm lists no fewer than 75 Swedish websites, as well as 18 Danish, 10 German and eight Norwegian sites.As you would expect with so much choice out there, the quality of the websites varies dramatically. Some have clearly been put together at great expense with swanky designs and flashy features, but this is no guarantee the content is quite so exciting.Other amateur sites lack presentation, but manage to compensate with the depth and coverage of their information. Unfortunately there are also some websites that look dreadful and, on closer inspection, turn out to actually be pretty dreadful too.Here, then, and largely excluding our own wonderful site, (at http://www.whiskymag.com) is Whisky Magazine’s guide to the outstanding whisky websites on the internet. On the grounds of linguistic incompetence, the reviews have been confined to English speaking sites. However, if you would prefer a website in a different language, the Buxrud link mentioned above is probably the best place to start.Best general websiteshttp://www.scotchwhisky.net
Currently the best all round Scotch whisky website on the net combining easy navigability with masses of useful information. The site claims they receive more than 100 million ‘hits’ a month, and it’s not hard to see why. Amongst the highlights are the comprehensive distillery profiles (with links to main distillery websites), a detailed look at the process of whisky production and an extensive list of whisky cocktail recipes. If you’re so inclined, the website even has a list of companies that supply the Scotch whisky industry such as malt producers, label printers and bottlers.http://www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/home/jhb/whisky/
The Edinburgh Malt Whisky Tour claims the title of the ‘web’s oldest malt whisky site’ and is currently described as a ‘hard hat area’ undergoing a major cleanup. Don’t be put off by the ‘functional’ presentation, occasional broken link or out-of-date information (Bruichladdich is still listed as mothballed, for example!), there is still masses of useful background detail to be discerned here. The strength of the site probably lies in its historical sections on distilleries (with decent maps), although there are plenty of other useful features such as a pronunciation guide and exhaustive tasting notes.http://www.classicwhiskey.com
It may have an appearance that only a mother could love, but this is the most comprehensive website on Irish whiskey. History and distillery profiles are all here, plus a ‘Fun Stuff’ page containing whiskey related quotations and jokes.http://www.kybourbon.com
As you might expect from the official website of the Kentucky Distiller’s Association, this attractive, well-designed site contains plenty of information which is more relevant to the trade. However the sections on ‘History’, ‘What Makes us Special’ and ‘Brands’ provide an excellent introduction to bourbon whiskey. The latter also contains links to the official distillery websites.Websites with personalityThere’s plenty of content to be found in the following sites, but what really strikes you about them is their style and attitude. These are not content to simply regurgitate the facts, but are rather a source of entertainment in their own right.http://www.maltmadness.com
The website of self-confessed ‘malt madman’ Johannes van den Heuvel is an absolute cracker. From the visuals through to the content, everything about Malt Madness reeks of character and originality. Particular favourites include his Liquid Log, an on-line diary of tastings and musings on life; the Almanac, hosting whisky reviews and profiles (including categories such as a Hit List and Shit List!); and a superb section devoted to whisky ‘Beginners’.http://www.peatfreak.com
Despite the name, this is not solely about whiskies packed with phenols, although there is a slight bias towards Islay. Whilst it may lack some of the in-depth features of its competitors (distillery profiles, for example), this is a hugely engaging website packed with original ideas. Virtual Reality tours around (sometimes inside) 10 different distilleries. And you can even rid a virtual distillery of its rodent problem in their online mouser game.Best articleshttp://www.lfw.co.uk
Home of Loch Fyne Whiskies, which is well worth a visit for its superb range of whiskies – however for articles click on ‘Scotch Whisky Review’ from the options menu on the left hand side. Here you will find the wonderful world of whisky as told by owner Richard Joynson, a remarkable character and an extremely accomplished writer. The Scotch Whisky Review is published twice a year and contributors include the likes of Charles Maclean.http://www.maltmadness.com/maniacs.html
The Malt Maniacs section of the malt madness website is a collaborative effort from a number of other malt-mad people around the world. There are a large number of excellent articles and discussions here, including contributions from luminaries such as Martine Nouet and Charles Maclean.Best forumsIn case you’ve yet to discover them, a forum is a place where like-minded people get together to ‘chat’ over the internet. Someone will ‘post’ a topic and then others will reply and discuss with posts of their own. There are plenty of whisky related forums out there on the web, however the majority seem to lack dynamism, due to a lack of active participants and infrequent postings. Here, however, are two of the best:http://www.bladnoch.co.uk/cgibin/ultimatebb.cgi
Part of Bladnoch distillery’s excellent website, this is unquestionably the most entertaining forum (in English) on whisky.http://www.bourbonenthusiast.com
Although it contains other sections (such as whisky reviews), the real strength of this site lies in the strength of its forums. These are divided into a sections with lively debates and regular postings.Best link pagesIf you want to discover the hundreds of other whisky websites out there, link pages are an excellent place to start.http://www.buxrud.se/linklib.htm
Not pretty, but quite simply the most comprehensive list of whisky links you’ll find on the web. Everything from producers through to collectors and whisky auctions are here.http://www.whiskylinks.com
More attractive to use than buxrud, helpfully including a brief introduction to each link, but there’s generally less to see.Best tasting noteshttp://www.whiskymag.com
OK, shameful self promotion on our part, but there are thousands of Whisky Magazine tasting notes available free of charge on our website.http://www.maltmadness.com/matrix.html
Not tasting notes as such, but rather an innovative take on the traditional approach to reviewing whiskies. The Malt Maniacs Matrix allows you to instantly view up to 12 different scores on a particular whisky, each marked out of 100 by the ‘malt maniacs’ who have tasted it. The matrix now covers over 1000 malts.Best News WebsitesFor the very latest whisky news sourced from a variety of publications around the world, the home page of recommended website http://www.peatfreak.com is as good a place as any. Peatfreak take their news feed from RSS, so in theory you can actually set up your own personalised news – see http://www.peatfreak.com/rss.php for further details.