Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Who will be Michael Jackson’s successor?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

I’m back from a long weekend of R & R. (Sorry for the delay in posting.) I had time to think about a lot of things. One of them was Michael, his impact on the whisky and beer worlds, and the void he left behind.

For many years, Michael blazed a trail with his writing and public appearances. Even in his latter years, when he wrote less about the drink itself and more about his perspective on drinking, he was still very influential to all of us.

Now that he’s gone, who is out there to pick up where he left off? Let’s just focus on whisky for the time being. Obviously there will never be another Michael Jackson, but is there a clear, emerging leader who whisky enthusiasts can gravitate towards and respect?

By the way, it’s not going to be me. I don’t have the talent of a Michael Jackson to accomplish what he did, and I am not willing to make the personal sacrifice that must be made to be a leader in this field. [Drinks writers are often divorced, have health issues, don’t have children, and have little free time to enjoy life outside of the drinks world.]

So, who do you see emerging as the industry leader? And why?

Whisky is still a business…

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

I try to keep Malt Advocate magazine focused on consumer information (new products, reviews, trends, etc.) Ditto WDJK. I enjoy telling you about these things rather than the business stuff.

But whisky is still a business. And the business decisions do have an impact on you, for better or worse. Here’s just one more example.

Okay, back to the fun aspects of whisky.

Brown-Forman and Bacardi merging?

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

The Daily Telegraph says that Brown-Forman has hired investment banking gurus to look into this possibility. Full story here.

Brown-Forman has, of course, Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, and Old Forester whiskeys in their portfolio. Bacardi has, among others, Dewar’s and Aberfeldy.

The article also notes that they are considering selling off individual brands. It also explains why a merger between the two makes sense.

It certainly is a dynamic time in the drinks industry.

Beer Hunter, Whisky Chaser: a new book dedicated to Michael Jackson

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

After we lost Michael Jackson, fellow writer and editor Ian Buxton approached me and other beer and whisky writers to see if we could collaborate on a new book of essays, with the proceeds going to Parkinson’s research (the disease that afflicted Michael). How could we say no to such a good cause in the name of someone who inspired us so much?

A dozen of the best writers (six whisky writers, six beer writers, including yours truly) each wrote a chapter, and now the book is being printed. It will debut later this month on March 27th, Michael’s birthday. I read through a draft of the book, and the essays are diverse and entertaining. My chapter is entitled “My friend, whisky” and I describe my relationship with whisky (both good and bad) from when I was a child through to today.

Here’s the list of contributors, in no particular order:

Whisky: F. Paul Pacult, Dave Broom, Ian Buxton, Charles MacLean, Hans Offringa, John Hansell

Beer: Steve Beaumont, Julie Johnson, Roger Protz, , Gavin Smith, Conrad Seidl, Lucy Saunders

There’s also a chapter by Carolyn Smagalski, Michael’s partner at the time of his passing.

We are having books shipped to us in time for WhiskyFest Chicago on April 1st, plus we will also be selling it on the Malt Advocate website beginning in April. Price: $18.99.

I have an image of the cover, which I will post up soon. (I’m currently having problems with my blog software uploading images.) It’s pretty cool looking.

History Channel “Whiskey” show rebroadcasts on St. Patrick’s Day

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

In case you missed it when it originally broadcasted on St. Patrick’s day last year, the History Channel’s Modern Marvel’s series “Whiskey” show will be rebroadcasted on March 17, 2009 at 10 AM and 4 PM. (That means you can learn about whiskey and then still go out later on and drink it!)

If you haven’t seen it yet, it is informative and entertaining. And yes, you’ll have to put up with several quotes from me throughout the show. I tagged some of the distilleries that they visit during the show.

If anyone wants to really see the difference between bourbon and Tennessee whiskey, this is the show to watch. They show the sugar maple charcoal mellowing vats. In fact, they actually show the sugar maple being burned to make the charcoal. Cool stuff!

Where does bourbon come from?

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

While I was watching TV last night, and sipping my Red Stag on the rocks, one of the actors said something that almost made me spill my drink:

Something I never knew before–if it ain’t from Kentucky, you can’t call it bourbon.

I think it was while I was watching “24” and I don’t remember which character said it. (It wasn’t Jack Bauer.) I scribbled it down on my TV guide and forgot all about it until I noticed it at lunch today.

As most of you know (and for those of you who didn’t know, now you do), bourbon can be made anywhere in the U.S., not just Kentucky.

The New York Times finally gets it

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Eric Asimov, who does a wonderful job writing about beer, wine and spirits for The New York Times, has finally convinced this highly esteemed newspaper that Scotch whisky and Canadian whisky is not spelled with an “e”. You can read about it directly from Eric here in his blog, The Pour.

All this came to a head back in December when Eric wrote an article on Speyside single malts in his column for the NYT and they made him spell whisky with an “e” (i.e., whiskey), which he knew was inappropriate. You bet he got a lot of comments after that article was published, but he used it as ammo to convince the NYT of something that most of us already knew: that Scotch and Canadian whisky do not have the “e” while Irish and most major American whiskeys (including most bourbon and Tennessee whiskeys) do.

Great job Eric!

Hello LA Times: Jack Daniel’s isn’t a bourbon!

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Education is key to helping consumers select a whiskey they will enjoy. It’s going to be hard to teach the average whiskey drinker the difference between the various whiskey categories so they can make intelligent, informed decisions if we have major print publications getting it wrong. 

Saturday’s LA Times discusses how “liquor” sales are slumping, with the exception of whiskey. “Sales of bourbons such as Jack Daniels and Maker’s Mark are bucking a slump in demand for distilled spirits…” the article goes on to say. You can read the whole story here.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last. I’ve blogged about misleading articles several times over the past year. Some of the other ones were far worse, but I think that perhaps the biggest misconception in the whiskey industry is that Jack Daniel’s is a bourbon.

(For those of you lurking who don’t know the difference, Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee whiskey. So is George Dickel. They undergo on additional step beyond bourbon–the spirit is charcoal “mellowed” through vats of sugar maple charcoal before being put into barrels for aging. They taste different than bourbon.)

This shows that we still have a long way to go educating the mainstream press who have so much influence on the consumer because what they write is read by so many people.

Update on Michael Jackson’s “Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch”

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

If you’ve been following this blog over the past year, you will know that UK drinks writer Dave Broom and I were offered the job of continuing Michael Jackson’s “Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch” (Published as the “Malt Whisky Companion” in the UK). Dave and I were good friends of Michael, and we respected his work very much. We were honored to be asked to carry the torch after Michael’s passing.

The way we proposed it to the publisher is that I would review whiskies that came to the US, while Dave would review the whiskies that didn’t come to the US. We would split up the whiskies that went everywhere.

But we had a differing opinion with the publisher regarding the content of the revision. The publisher only wanted a minor “patchwork” rewrite, while Dave and I both felt that a major revision would be needed because so many of the whiskies in the book were obsolete and there were hundreds of new whiskies that needed to be included. I wrote about our reasons here.

All I can say now is that I know there are three writers involved with the revision. Two of them are from the UK and write regularly for Malt Advocate (Gavin Smith, Dominic Roskrow). The third individual, a whisky enthusiast, writer, and lawyer who specializes in criminal and traffic law, is from the US (Bill Meyers).

I don’t know the book’s scope, nor do I know exactly when the book will come out. When I was in negotiations with the publisher, it was going to be the end of 2009 or shortly thereafter.

I wish the guys luck with the project, and I hope they can keep Michael’s legacy going strong.

The Wall Street Journal, Whisky Feature, This Friday

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

You might want to pick up a copy of The Wall Street Journal this Friday, November 21st. No, I don’t want you to read about how your years of hard work and savings have been cut in half by investing in the stock market. Rather, it’s something much more pleasant: a feature on whisky.

I wrote a 3,000 word article for The WSJ on “Understanding Whiskey,” and it will be published this Friday in a “Special Advertising Section.” Basically, what this means is that they hire someone like me who supposedly is an expert and highly regarded in a given field to write about that subject. (Yes, I fooled them. It’ll be our little secret.) They then use this “angle” to go and try to get ads. The section isn’t written until there are advertising commitments. No ads, no special advertising section.

Special advertising sections are nothing new to print media. However, it is pretty cool that The Wall Street Journal has chosen whisky as a theme for one of their special sections. They were able to get a few companies to advertise (not an easy task, given the current economic environment), and the whole thing will be in this Friday’s edition.

I think this is great–and not just because I am the author. Any time we can get accurate, basic whisky information to the main stream population, everyone wins. And that’s exactly what this section is all about. I cover the fundamentals: The definition of whisky, how it’s made, the difference between the major categories of whisky (Scotch, Irish, Canadian, Bourbon, etc.), appreciating whisky (nosing, tasting, etc.), conducting a whisky tasting, and reading a whisky label.

I certainly can’t help anyone out with their 401(k) plan, because my stock mutual funds have tanked just like everyone else’s, but I can hopefully turn some new people on to whisky and explain to them, once and for all, that Jack Daniel’s really isn’t bourbon.