Whisky Advocate

We DO have a voice!

September 24th, 2010

Yes, we are being heard!

Back in June, I reviewed a Chieftain’s 25 year old Port Ellen whisky. You can see here that I gave it a good review, but not a great review.

In the review, I wrote “I think bottling this at 46% without chill-filtering, or perhaps even cask-strength, would have helped the flavors “zing” (and elevated my rating).”

Well, two days ago I received this note from Chieftain’s importer to the U.S.:

“Based on your previous Chieftain’s reviews, we decided to take your advice and bottle all future expressions at 46% or cask strength.  We have a few scheduled to be bottled in mid October.  I will keep you posted and send the samples for your review.”

This is great news! Well done, Chieftain’s!

30 Responses to “We DO have a voice!”

  1. Wow! Now that’s good news indeed. Let’s hope this will set an example for others.

  2. Great news :-) and also a cadeau to Chieftains for listening

    /Macdeffe

  3. Joshua says:

    Bravo! Getting the wallet, glass, nose and taste buds at the ready!!

  4. Barry Jay says:

    Could you suggest a little drop hopping during the bottling..it would certainly save me from buying the 6 packs of IPAs…

    Ok, so maybe not a good idea…

  5. Mark says:

    Nicely done, John. I realize not everyone shares my policy or exact numbers, but can you now get the message out that at least some of us, without further consideration or remorse, simply refuse to buy any bottle > $40 that is not > 40% abv or > $50 that is not NCF?!

    Here in Ohio prices are fixed by the state. For example, Cragganmore 12 is $60 or so, %40 and chill filtered. Ardbeg 10 is $50, 46% and NCF. which would you go for?

    I haven’t drank Cragganmore since I moved here 2 years ago and it is almost entirely due to this principle and I do believe we can affect this kind of change. Dalwhinnie 15 is another casualty, although I believe it is %43 but here in Ohio, $60 and chill filtered so they lose out on a piece of my annual several hundred dollar whisky budget.

    And don’t get me started about states like this with their arbitrary pricing and price fixing! I try to focus on the occasional steal like the new Laphroaig 18 48% NCF at $72! That’s a $130 bottle in Chicago.

    • Mark says:

      Oh yeah, and in case we get a discussion going on the merits vs drawbacks on states like OH, VA, PA, where the state is running the show… really the most offensive and obnoxious part of it is the fixing of *what* is on the shelf, not just the price fixing.

      What’s the matter with an enterprising small business liquor store owner going out on a limb and catering to a specialty crowd, getting interesting bottles, etc…? *None* of that in OH as the state runs the stores and sets the list of products. Can you also tell the OH government that they too are losing big chunks of my whisky budget as I order and ship in from out of state quite a bit?

      Ah, whatever, I know no one cares. Cheers

    • Barry Jay says:

      Mark, it’s so amazing that politicians have so much free time on their hands to worry about these complex rules and regulations on spirits and beer. For years I had to package beers up for my brother in law in Atlanta and mark the box “olive oil”. There was the point where you couldn’t go over 6%….now I think it’s up to 14%. How amazing is that….you could buy all sorts of spirits that wll make someone see gin goblins…but you couldn’t buy a Imperial Ale…

      Heck with the Tea Party…we all should all start a whiskey party….
      (Would that mean we would all have to dress up like John and toss cases into the Ohio River????)

  6. Jason Pyle says:

    That’s awesome. Inspiring to know the distillers listen. As the tasters of these products it makes sense, but still great to see.

    Of course, your voice is a good bit larger than most of ours.

    • Henry H. says:

      John’s voice is a good bit larger than ours for some very good reasons, don’t you think? At the same time, the industry well understands that he’s no voice crying in the wilderness, as he represents quite a number of us serious malt-hounds with his insistence on craft presentation. Color me inspired to see distillers and merchant bottlers moving in the right direction. Which of course is the point of John’s post.

    • John Hansell says:

      We are all in this together. I am a sounding board to what everyone else is thinking and feeling.

  7. Henry H. says:

    This relative newbie hasn’t purchased that many IBs; single malts from Signatory, G & M, Duncan Taylor and Whisky Galore happened to be my first ones. But with this excellent news, you can bet I’ll be seeking out a Chieftain’s bottling or two ASAP. (Also, let me be sure to say thanks to Ian Mcleod for their excellent Glengoyne 17 yo.)

    As for finding something from the Chieftain’s Range in control-state Washington, FORGET IT! (A comradely shout out to fellow sufferer Mark from Ohio.) Guess I’ll have to do my customary scouring of the websites at K&L, D&M, Binny’s, Spec’s and so on. Yet all that could change soon: there are TWO initiatives on the November ballot here that would privatize liquor sales. I won’t go into the fascinating and infuriating details here, but in case anyone’s interested, there’s a decent overview in today’s Seattle Times at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2012960050_liquor22.html

  8. Jon W says:

    Great to see the free market at work!! I’m not a big fan on 43% abv in general, but a 43% Port Ellen is a travesty. Even 46% Port Ellen is a travesty, but less so (5% less so to be precise, I think). Not to suck out any of your (well deserved) thunder but I wonder how much of their decision was due to your review, and how much was due to sales results?

    Was this the inspiration for your “things that piss me off” theme for next week? Hoping you can right a few more wrongs? Bring it on!!!

    • John Hansell says:

      Jon, it had nothing (directly) to do with my reason for next week, but I would like to see most, if not all, whiskies, at 46% and not chill-filtered–or higher.

      • Aye, especially chillfiltering is the worst. Addidng too much water next and caramel colour third

        As I mentioned before I really think the handful of distilleries that came out with new 46% versions lalely has improved enormously.

        I do think that whisky should be available in casks strength in generel, but it would be hard to attract new whisky fans if 40/43% weren’t available on supermakerket shelfs ?

        I have no problem with the big supermaket brands being watered down, as long as special and older bottlings are bottled properly. And as long as these companies also offers high ABV alternatives

        Single casks or small batches bottled at 40% is a mistaker..

        /Macdeffe

      • sam k says:

        John, I’m curious. Why 46%? Though I’ve had few good whiskeys at 40%, I’ve found some at 43% that have been excellent, and many more at 45%. Like many on this blog, I prefer them bigger (50+). What draws you to that particular number?

  9. As much as I am happy about this move from Cheftain’s, as much do I hope that it will be rewarded by better sales. Market pressure is the best argument for convincing the industry.

  10. Mark C says:

    Yes, they are starting to listen as more and more voices join the chorus both online and at festivals and tastings and other events. This can be seen in Burn Stewart going down the 46%, ncf, nc route with all their malts and others are also going this way. Keep shouting, people!

  11. Chris S. says:

    Well done John, we have won a battle but not the war yet! Carry on.

  12. Willie says:

    Yet another battle won in the war against chill-filtration. Great work John.

  13. MARS says:

    Are you sure this bottling was chill filtered?
    Almost all of the bottling from chieftain’s/dun bheagan are non chillfiltered(in europe).

    Still, I have to say that’s not because the whisky is chill filtered that is he is going to be less good than a whisky non chillfiltered. It depend from one case to another. And it is the same with the ABV.

    Still, cask strenght whisky who are not whillfiltered are almost always better!

  14. John Hansell says:

    I was informed that the move to 46% also means that the whiskies will not be chill-filtered.

  15. B.J. Reed says:

    This is indeed good news – I have several bottles of Chieftains and this will be consider adding a few more.

  16. Ed Kohl says:

    Wow!! I have to say it’s great to have positive comments like this when a decision is made. And I have to especially thank John for the educated audience he provides. And Mars, you are correct, all Chieftain’s is unchillfiltered. This first launch though was bottled at 43%. The next bottlings (being finished October 13th) will be at 46%.
    Sam K, the 43% vs. 46% is a matter of preferance for the bottler and the number of casks being run. To some degree, it also has to do with pricing. As to Chieftain’s, they are all single casks. We can do whatever we want. Obviously by the comments, we made the right choice at 46% unchillfiltered with NEVER caramel color.

    • sam k says:

      Thanks Ed, I appreciate the clarification…and thanks for listening. I’ll be sure to give the next Chieftan’s bottling a shot.

  17. Andre Girard says:

    Well, you seriously need to talk to DIAGEO for their lifetime achievements…

  18. Andre Girard says:

    John, did you ever think to be a politician ???

    Btw, i still prefer the cask strength bottling because, if i find the strength too high for me, i CAN add water. It’s my choice… There’s seems to be a tendency these days for many companies to low the strength of their whisky… (Bowmore, HP for exemple)

  19. [...] calls for unchillfiltered and colouring-free whisky are growing louder, and whisky producers are starting to listen. Gripes about the never-ending limited editions and cask finishes are also becoming more [...]

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