During my research, I quickly discovered that all single malts and blends are glorious. None were bad, poor, weak, etc. They were all just a great ray of sunshine. How can that be? Well, it can't be. I can appreciate that I might dislike intensely a whisky that you like a great deal. I have no problem with that. We all have our respective likes and dislikes. What I have a problem with are reviewers or sites with whisky reviews that praise all whiskies, finding no fault in any. That, I say is impossible. So, how do I explain this peculiar phenomenon?
Here's my theory.
A lot of the whisky bloggers are posting reviews of the latest releases from distilleries. Some of these whisky releases are very expensive. How do they do it? Simple, they don't. I mean they do not purchase the whisky. They are supplied free samples by the distiller or more properly by the multinational company that owns them, and asked to do a review. That's like Pablo Escobar handing a kilo of cocaine to Keith Richards and asking him for his thoughts!
In my view, the trouble with free whisky samples is that it will taint the ability of the reviewer to provide an impartial opinion. You can't be a little bit pregnant. If I take a free bottle or whatever, there is a pressure on me to write a positive review or at least take a bad whisky and put a positive spin on it as much as possible or downplay what I dislike. If a reviewer writes too many negative reviews, he or she jeopardizes access to freebies in the future, as well as invites to exclusive tastings, etc.
So, I asked a couple of these reviewers what their thoughts were and they said I was wrong. They said that they could give unbiased reviews. Hmmm. I don't buy it. When I posted comments on this subject on other blogs, the bloggers often deleted my comments. If I posted a comment that I didn't agree with their review of a whisky, my comment got deleted. There were some exceptions but not many. All of this makes me wonder if some apparently amateur whisky blogs are not actually owned or heavily subsidized by industry players. I wonder. I also find it very interesting where one blogger seems to have multiple websites and presence on Youtube with respect to his/her reviews. Why so many sites. How about just one? Are you in this for the money or for the whisky?
Whisky is big business. A multi-billion dollar business. Marketing is extremely important to maintaining and/or expanding market share. These multinational drinks companies have no problem supplying free samples to reviewers, inviting them to dinner, maybe paying their expenses to travel to a tasting or even be a consultant for one of their distilleries (it has happened to one reviewer). It is perfectly legal for these companies to do that. There is nothing wrong with marketing by whatever means. I think they are trying to encourage "organic" marketing on the internet, create a "buzz" that causes people to buy their product. Hey, that's fair for them. I am a capitalist too. Go for it!
The trouble for you and I though is that we don't get the straight goods on the merits and flaws of a whisky if the reviews we read are by reviewers who lack impartiality. So, when reading another blog or website, how can we tell the reviews or idiotic ramblings (especially true in the case of myself) are of a total outsider of the industry or a person who is very much a part of the industry or essentially "in bed" with the whisky industry?
Here are some tell-tale signs:
- Reviews of very expensive scotch or other whiskies that are beyond the wallet of the average consumer. One blog reviewer was reviewing a bottle that cost nearly $1,000.00.;
- The reviewer is travelling all over the world to whisky tastings in the trendiest places and have the professional photos to back it up.
- The reviewer seems to review a different whisky for each day of the week. Something the average joe cannot afford.
- The website is so slick that you think you are in the embrace of a used car salesman.
- There are no negative whisky reviews!!!!!!!!!!!!
Do I make money off this blog? Ahh no. To date, nearly a year online, Google owes me a grand total of $9.42. I am not in this for the money. Money is generated when a visitor clicks on the advertising. For example, Amazon has an ad for whisky books on this blog. If you click on that ad, I will earn around one cent. Yup, you read that correctly.
Anyway, that is my rant for this evening. I hope I do not sound to holier-than-thou or sanctimonious because that is not the intent.
Readers, if you read any review on this blog that you do not agree with, fill your boots and give me an earful. I will not delete your comment. The only exception is for libelous or profane comments.
Ok that is the rant for tonight. Comments? Please, I welcome them.
Now, I need a drink!
P.S. I guess the bottom line is that you have to consider the perspective of the person writing the review. What is their association with the whisky industry?
Copyright © Jason Debly, 2010. All rights reserved.