Whisky Advocate

Yet another misleading Scotch (and American) whisky article by a major publication

January 26th, 2010

This time it’s Forbes. You can read the full story here.

As I was reading through the article, I kept saying “That’s misleading. That’s not really true. That’s not fair.”

Read the article. Do you see anything misleading? If so, which statement is it? I’m in meetings most of the day, but will chime in later.

41 Responses to “Yet another misleading Scotch (and American) whisky article by a major publication”

  1. Alex says:

    That was awful, I stopped reading after this part, “American whisky’s growth can be attributed in part to the fact that that it tends to taste smoother, be easier-drinking and more useful in cocktails.” since obviously the writer has never tasted any of the things he is talking about.

  2. Brian says:

    What a frustrating article. Not only did the author do little to no research about the subject, he also took the story nowhere. “How Expensive Scotch Is Changing” ??? How is it changing what? I get the impression that the article was written solely to be used as filler, it provides no insightful information, no resolution, and no value.

    Brian

  3. ellie says:

    Can we start a petition to have Forbes fire this guy for not knowing what the hell he is talking about? “American distillers have flexibility with the ingredients they use (as long as their products contain 51% corn), and use new oak casks that impart more flavor.” This guy doesn’t know the definition of American Whisky versus Bourbon! In addition, all this conjecture and opinion does not represent good reporting. Maybe he should look for a job with Fox News.

  4. Guillermo Llaguno says:

    What the hell is this article talking about? I mean, does Eric Arnold (the article author) knows by his experience, what is he talking about?
    I know the american whiskey is top quality and has a lot of great features, but talking about scotch “…only malted barley, which has a rougher edge”. Wow! I think Eric is trying to give the impression that the scotch whisky is a hard, rough drinking spirit, but at the same time he “Tastes” the Macallan, one of the smoothest whiskies available. Isn’t that a contradiction?
    I just hate misinforming press…

  5. Louis says:

    This must have been the same guy pushing sub-prime mortgage backed securities about two years ago ;-(

  6. Steffen Bräuner says:

    Almost whenever I read a newspaper article about a subject I just happen to know about, it’s very bad. The journalist gets facts wrong or make some bad assumption displaying his/her own unknowing about the subject

    What scares me are all those articles, which is the majority, about things I don’t that much about.

    Macdeffe

  7. Mark says:

    I suppose they paid him for that.

    It’s puzzling to me where he got some of the information, and rather sad for Forbes and its readers that he put it together so poorly. The paragraphs on wood seem not only false but also incoherent. It’s too bad Macallan has to use that sherry wood that takes so long to get to Scotland, and so have such little influence on the product; luckily, Glenmorangie gets their wood from old wine barrels more efficiently, and so can have a more flavorful (sweeter?) product. No doubt Macallan is pleased that part of what sets 1824 apart is that some of the scotch tastes more like bourbon. (“Hey, let’s invite this guy back real soon!”)

    There’s also the copy editor work: “…attributed in part to the fact that that it tends…” and “The distillery name can only be used as a brand if all the bottle’s contents were made in that very distillery, for example, and single-malts must be bottled in Scotland.”

    The article should not have made it into print that way, in terms either of content or form.

  8. Robert van Hal says:

    I agree with almost nothing in this article. This article is simply ignorent and full of false information! What a complete waste of time. Why write about something he obviously knows almost nothing about? This makes me wonder who his sources are and what their agenda is?

  9. Neil Fusillo says:

    Wha? It’s like reading a book report by someone who only read the Cliff’s Notes.

    “Only the super-premium segment of the Scotch market–those priced about $40 retail and up–has improved.” That’s pretty much the ENTIRE Scotch market these days. So basically, the whole Scotch market has improved in sales, but sales are still flat?

    We then jump to the paragraph about American whiskeys and the differences between Scotch and American whiskey, and it makes me want to scream. It’s like the guy half-overheard a couple of people discussing whisky once and filled in the blanks with nonsense. Scotch producers mainly use Sherry casks which have diminished flavour producing capability? Ouch.

    The whole thing is just really BAD reporting.

  10. Alex says:

    I agree with ellie – also love the generalisation that Scotch is more bourbon like if matured in ex bourbon casks, regardless of how it was produced. Lazy reporting.

  11. Red_Arremer says:

    Man, what a stupid article– exactly the type of thing that anyone likes to drink good whisky straight or with a little water can’t stand to see.

    “If nothing else, Scotch makers get an A for effort in trying to gain some attention and shed the image that scotch is just for people well past their prime. Removing a model’s clothes for a photo shoot may be a bit too literal a start, but ist’s a start nonetheless.”

  12. David G says:

    How awful. I lost him at “Scotland’s whisky producers, who are facing slipping sales. ….” and just about stopping reading shortly after that. Under $40? Huh?

    My question is – what are (ahem) we/you going to do about it?

  13. John, I read this article when you first put it in your queue on “Whisky News File” pieces. “What a lazy, ignorant piece of tripe,” I thought. I’m happy to see you bringing it to the fore.

    Your readers and followers here know enough about the topic to refute most of what Eric says. But what do we think when we read a Forbes article on a subject about which we aren’t that familiar? Eric reinforces my belief that I should view every published piece with great scepticism (except in MA, that is). Eric and his cohorts are journalists; they are NOT experts on any subject. They seem to believe the first source they find when they’re researching any assignment, and they don’t have a clue–when they stop searching for subject matter experts–that they haven’t found any.

    I can only hope there’s a whisky connoiseur among the Forbes elite who knows how poorly this reflects on their credibility.

  14. Regan says:

    To make a long story short, Macallan owns the sherry distillery that they get their barrels from. They wait many years to get these barrels. Aging Macallan in sherry casts is what makes it “Macallan”. The Macallan that is aged in oak is called FINE OAK. Just to point out a couple of misgivings.

    • MrTH says:

      Well…sherry is made in a bodega, not a distillery. Sherry casks are made of oak. And if I’m not mistaken, the Fine Oak line does have some sherry-matured whisky in it.

      Maybe you could write an article for Forbes….; )

  15. scotchpro1 says:

    All you commentators have made good points about this ridiculous article, but why don’t you leave a comment on the Forbes site? Then at least his editors will know what a hack job this writer did on the article.

  16. Bernhard Schäfer says:

    I am so glad that not only here in Germany there are morons with no knowledge of the subject, that get paid for writing nonsenes in big publications….;-)

  17. bgulien says:

    It’s like the author read some marketing fodder together with a children’s how-to book.
    I find American whisk[e]y just as complex as the Scotch or Japanese cousins.
    This is not an advance to better knowledge!!

  18. cat says:

    A classic Forbes article. This is also the publication that brings you Best 10 Cities to (fill in the blank) with questionable scoring metrics.

  19. bgulien says:

    Good point ScotchPro1. I left a comment on the Forbes site. Hope the next item he is asked to write about are Lego bricks.

  20. jbart says:

    I am a journalist who happens to love scotch. Don’t blame all of us! Clearly this writer did not do all the required research and seemed intent on an angle before he started writing. It happens.

    No matter. Few people will read this and no one will drink or eschew scotch because of it.

  21. sam k says:

    Yikes! What’s wrong with the article? Almost everything, and I agree about the proofing errors. He really is ass-backwards with his assessment of the American/Scotch flexibility issue, too.

    “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

  22. Paul M says:

    “That’s misleading. That’s not really true. That’s not fair.” Where to begin.

    I just want to know where I can get paid to do something that I know nothing about!

  23. Someone should really mail the guy a copy of a properly written book on whisky. Jordan’s perhaps? Totally ignoring the poor taste and theme of the piece, the number of factual errors is astounding.

  24. andrew hutto says:

    even a novice, with minimal knowledge of whiskies, can tell that this article is pretty weak! the author lost me about halfway through. being a proud kentuckian, i have to push our native spirit. i also know that there wouldn’t be the high end bourbon’s, single barrel batches ,12, 17 , 18, 20 year old bourbon’s, etc. if it had not been for the rise of the single malt scotches, aged 12 to 18 years. there are still major players in the kentucky bourbon industry that believe “no bourbon should be in a barrel longer than 8 years”.
    we love that the bourbon industry is taking off, and kentucky is promoting it and taking advantage of it. the distiller’s are stepping up the quality of their tours and there is now an “urban / bourbon trail”. go to justaddbourbon.com for more info.

  25. TCSTeve says:

    Misleading parts notwithstanding, the article suffered from some severe random nothingness. Was this a submission to Forbes by a non-writer, or does this person regularly get published? There was no connection between his assertions and their significance, it was very stilted, and it tried to address a specific topic by taking a very broad swipe. Really, it has no place in Forbes; at best, it should be relegated to the author’s personal blog, hopefully to be viewed only out of obligation by family and a few friends.

  26. Gary says:

    He spells American whiskey wrong as well. So obviously he doesn’t know the difference.

  27. John Hansell says:

    Interestingly, I tried posting a comment and it wouldn’t let me. A coincidence?

  28. andrew hutto says:

    probably because you are in to the new maker’s sample and he isn’t??? guess i am going to have to get my own personal sample… i’ll be on the phone to bill tomorrow!!!

  29. David D says:

    The best line for me was, “And Scotch makers, though they’re not mandated to use old casks, tend to do so because they’re cheaper than new ones.” Yes, Scottish whisky producers are cheap bastards who cut costs by reusing their barrels instead of paying for quality new wood like Americans.

  30. nicolas vaughn says:

    I don’t know where they get these people to write this garbage, but obviously they are in bourbon’s pants

  31. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    I liked the begining actually.

    “An unusual thing happened not long ago at The Macallan distillery in Speyside, Scotland. A DHL driver making his daily delivery walked into the office, dropped off the packages and, before leaving, stopped in his tracks.

    “Did I just see a naked woman outside?” he asked.

    He had. The distillery hired fashion photographer Rankin to shoot a series of Polaroids for a special bottling of Macallan’s 30-Year Fine Oak. Only 1,000 bottles would bear the Rankin photos and would sell for $1,700 each. Most of the collection sold almost immediately, says the distillery.

    While a project might be of questionable taste (even if what’s inside the bottle isn’t), risks like this are necessary for Scotland’s whisky producers, who are facing slipping sales.”

    After Macallan winning a very little covetted prize at thescotchblog some time ago and Ken Grier making such a fuss about it I actually laughed out loud reading these lines.
    Especially the last sentence in the quote above is hilarious.

    Visiting the Forbes site it seems there have been attempts to make corrections on the content of the article.

    Probably Mr Theid should start writing for Forbes, though. I am all for it.

  32. [...] Hansell encounters a truly horrendous article on whisk(e)y from Forbes [...]

  33. Monique at the Dell says:

    David D, that was my favorite line too. I am embarassed for the author and for Forbes magazine, and like Two Bit said, it really makes you want to re-examine everything that you read. Thank god no one reads Forbes for whisk(e)y advice! But sadly, sooooo misleading for a wannabe whisky drinker!
    The Forbes site wouldn’t allow me to post a comment either, does that mean a new Maker’s sample is headed my way?

    Maybe Forbes should start taking factual submissions when they need to fill in some space.

  34. FYI, I was able to post a comment on the Forbes website (I posted two actually, since I hadn’t realized that I ran up against space limitaitions and the last bit of my first post got cut). The article wasn’t worth too much of my time, obviously, but I’ll copy and paste here what I posted there:

    Huh, well, I guess Mr. Arnold was at least trying to say something positive… So, there is that. His basic point being, I guess, that the new Macallan nudie photo campaign can be explained and appreciated as part of a larger attempt to increase sales, which are less robust in general because Scotch whisky is not American Whiskey, which American’s seem to prefer, and because Scotch is generally preferred by folks “well past their prime.”

    Clearly though, Arnold has a poor grasp of this subject. The tone is simply off, so the facts, such as they are, are written slightly askew to reality. For example, to note that “Single-malt Scotch producers” must “use only malted barley” is true enough, in that “malt whisky” is defined in part by the use of “malted barley,” but contrasting that fact as some sort of disadvantage to American whiskey producers is silly. Ditto for commenting that malted barley “has a rougher edge.” It would be like saying Sauterne producers are at a disadvantage to red Bordeaux producers because of the limited grape varietals they have to work with, and because they have to make sweeter wine. I can go on and on. Equally off-kilter, for example, is his statement that the casks used to age Scotch “have diminished flavor-enhancing and palate-smoothing abilities.” While it is true to say that a used Bourbon or Sherry cask is less volatile than a virgin cask, it is wildly imprecise bordering on just plain wrong to say that its “flavor-enhancing” or “palate-smoothing” abilities are “diminished.” This is simply not how a person who understands the process of making Scotch whisky, or American whiskey for that matter, would talk in the context of a general audience article for a publication like Forbes. The overall effect of the word choice and the slightly off tone suggests an author out of his depth, or, possibly, even that the author harbors a previously undeclared value judgment against Scotch.

    Don’t take my word for any of this, check out the unanimously and uniformly negative responses to Eric Arnold’s article by the readers of (The Malt Advocate editor and publisher) John Hansell’s blog: http://www.whatdoesjohnknow.com/2010/01/26/yet-another-misleading-scotch-whisky-article-by-a-major-publication/#comments

  35. 2 words: poor.
    (Editor’s note: this post was edited by the editors of Forbes magazine)

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