By Rob Allanson

The new order of things

As we start to emerge from lockdown, what has the world in store?
We face uncertain times,” “The future is going to be different,” or “Who knows where this is all going?” Are just some of the new, already worn phrases you hear in the media, both printed and social, and this got me thinking a little as the world slowly lifts its restrictions due to the coronavirus.

One thing I think is certain: the world has changed. Various industries have been decimated by the last few months, and that’s all it has taken…a few months. I saw a very glib, but accurate, comment the other day about how you can ask people not to travel because it is affecting the climate and they say no, but throw a virus in there and pretty much everyone decides to stay home and the airline industry collapses. Human nature is an interesting thing. But I don’t think, and I may be too pessimistic here, but I don’t think these last few months will change everyone. You just have to look at how many people decided to ignore warnings; it will not take long for things to get back to the old normal I am afraid.

Of course, there will be those who emerge from this time as heroes or villains, those who have helped their fellow humans and those who have profited. But I guess that is the way.

Closer to home, and by this I mean in our whisky world, I am proud that the industry and fellow drinkers have stepped up to the mark and supported where they can.

The speed with which a community developed and grew on-line has been impressive. New blogs, podcasts, virtual tastings and of course festivals have sprung up and given us our regular fixes of whisky nerd-dom, and allow us to interact with fellow fans.

But it was, and is, not just for themselves that our whisky brethren have come together; our community has had a much wider impact, from distilleries making alcohol for hand sanitiser by the barrel-load and companies holding auctions and raising money for the hospitality industry, to spirited individuals donating the proceeds of virtual tasting festivals and even selling parts of their collections to help the bar community. Coupled with pay cheque protection programmes, at least some security has been offered to many people faced with the unemployment line.

Of course, there will be those who emerge from this time as heroes or villains

While, as I write this, it looks like we might be able to meet our friends and family again and share a dram, albeit from a metre away, signs of the hospitality and entertainment industry coming back into full force look scant.

The other side of my life still remains a desert. I know from playing on the music scene out here in Cambridgeshire and beyond, that gigs, from pubs to big venues, are still nonexistent. They could remain that way for a while, but as I said earlier: “Who knows where this is all going?”

Meanwhile things have rumbled on in terms of the politics and preoccupations of the world. One can safely assume that the UK Brexit situation is going just fine, as we have not had any updates for a while now.

The transatlantic trade tariff war continues apace, with the effects being felt, and worries that more increases are on the way.

American Whiskey exports to the EU, the U.S. spirits industry’s largest export market, have tumbled by 33 percent and cost $300 million since the EU’s 25 percent retaliatory tariff went into effect on June 22, 2018, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States on the two-year anniversary. The EU levied the tariff in response to the U.S. tariffs on EU steel and aluminium.

The US distillers had been enjoying two years of impressive growth before the tariffs were introduced, and it has become clear that the wind has been take out of the sails of American whiskey exports. The losses are not just being felt at a large corporation level: many small craft distillers, who had made substantial investments to expand into international markets, have been particularly hit hard by the EU tariffs.

While being battered by ill winds from many sides, our industry is weathering the various storms the best it can, and reaching out a helping hand to those less fortunate. This, for me, is the spirit of the whisky industry.