The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Stuff to read on the plane

Just a quick post of articles I want to load up on my Surface at O'Hare:

Off to take Parker to boarding. Thence the Land of UK.

No, that is not Scotch

Diageo, the international beverage behemoth that owns about a quarter of Scotland's distilleries (including Caol Ila and Talisker) is investigating how to produce horrible shite that isn't at all Scotch under its existing brands:

First, Diageo is considering creating “scotch whisky infusions,” low-alcohol and/or flavored alcoholic beverages sold under the same name as existing single malt or blended whisky brands. Secondly, Diageo has sought permission from the [Scotch Whisky Association trade group] to finish some of its single malts in Don Julio tequila barrels, a move that the association did not approve.

“Scotch infusions” as described in the article would fail to meet two criteria for Scotch whisky. First, scotch must be bottled at a minimum of 40% ABV—so anything lower than that would disqualify it as whisky. Secondly, nothing can be added to scotch other than water and caramel coloring.

But there’s another issue at stake here: the use of existing Scotch whisky brand names on non-scotch products. An infusion made with scotch as a base and then bottled under a new name likely would not be an issue, but using the name of an existing single malt or blended scotch brand could lead to confusion among drinkers who think that what they’re buying legally qualifies as whisky. In the U.S., bourbon, straight rye, and other straight whiskeys can’t have anything added either. Yet brands like Jim Beam offer flavored whiskeys under the same brand name as their straight products, using language like “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Infused With Natural Flavors” (Jim Beam Red Stag).

That move doesn’t fly in Scotland, where the regulations seem to prohibit producers from using their existing brands on drinks that don’t legally qualify as scotch. Section 6 (2) reads: “A person must not label, package, sell, advertise or promote any drink in any other way that creates a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public as to whether the drink is Scotch Whisky.”

The second issue at stake with Diageo’s plans—whether or not scotch can be finished in Don Julio tequila barrels—is a less clear-cut example of violating the rules.

One clue is that Diageo requested to use Don Julio tequila barrels specifically. Diageo owns Don Julio, and if the company wanted to use the Don Julio brand name on its whisky labels, then it’s no surprise the request was turned down. The SWA is notably more wary of listing a distillery than a wine region on a label....

Diageo is a big company, and it wants to make a lot of money for its owners. But it's also a cautionary tale about how scaling up craft products doesn't work for consumers. Sure, people will probably buy "Johnnie Walker Don Julio-finished Honey Chipotle Scotch Infusion" and claim to like it (especially if they put a lot of sugar in it), but that won't be Scotch.

I just hope they continue leaving Talisker alone. That's from the island of my forebears, Skye. In fact it's about the only thing produced on Skye that anyone's heard of (other than loads of wool).

Resurrecting a great distillery

The Islay-based Port Ellen distillery closed in 1983, leaving only a few hundred barrels scattered throughout Scotland's blenders, and a few thousand bottles which now sell for upwards of £1,000.

Diageo, which bought the Port Ellen Maltings in 1987 and all of the original Port Ellen whisky stocks, announced yesterday that it will re-open the brand in 2020 with a £35m investment:

Multinational drinks company Diageo—which owns 28 malt distilleries and one grain distillery in the country—announced that it will invest £35 million (about $46.1 million) to reopen Port Ellen Distillery on Islay and Brora Distillery on the east coast of the northern Highlands. The two single malt distilleries closed in 1983, during a period of decline for the scotch industry. The process of reopening—which includes planning, design, and construction work for both distilleries—will take up to three years. Distilling is slated to begin no later than 2020.

According to Dr. Nick Morgan, Diageo’s head of whisky outreach, discussions about reopening the distilleries have happened periodically for the last 20 years. “We take a very long-term view of the scotch whisky market—you have to for planning and inventory and investment purposes,” he says. “We invested a billion pounds about five or six years ago in upgrading our production facilities, particularly to meet long-term demand that we forecasted for blended scotch whisky. Building on the back of that, we feel that the situation for scotch now is very bright…We felt this was the time to do something like this, with more of a single malt scotch whisky focus.”

While on Islay, I had the opportunity to sample an original Port Ellen dram. I'm looking forward to having another one...in 2030.

(Yikes. I'll be 70 before their whisky is ready...)

Lagavulin

More Scotland photos. On the 10th, we visited the Lagavulin Distillery. But we got our first look at it from the ferry two days earlier:

Up close, from the ruins of Dunyvaig Castle, it looks like this:

And for comparison between the LG G6 and the Canon 7D mark II, here's the camera-phone photo I took at about the same time:

Scotland (first 7D photos)

I promised to post photos from Scotland once I had a chance to go through all 800 or so from my 7D, and today, I had a (short) chance.

First: the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, where we had breakfast on August 8th:

Second, Glenmachrie House, where we stayed:

(This is the reverse of the image I posted earlier, about an hour later, and with a real camera and HDR software.)

More tomorrow.

Byeslay

Despite (or because of, unclear) normal Scottish weather, we killed an hour at the Laphroaig Distillery before heading out on the ferry back to the mainland. I claimed my rent on my one square foot of land* and my dram of the 10 year old. Then we got a couple more drams (in takeaway containers), a book, some lip balm, and rained upon. But I did manage this photo through the window:

And then we headed to the ferry and said goodbye to Islay (for now):

Now, as was common in days of yore, we're taking a few days to get back home. We stopped for lunch at the Drovers Inn outside Loch Lomond, and now we're in Glasgow.

* The coordinates on my certificate are the coordinates showing on the map there, but there are differences between what GPS says and what maps say all the time. I'm not sure if this is a mismatched datum or that Laphroaig's GIS don't agree with Google's. There are tons of reasons why this would be. But it's fun anyway.

Islay's well

Safely ensconced on Islay for a couple of days. Lots of photos that will have to wait until I get back to the U.S. Many sentences without subjects.

This is where we're staying:

Somehow we'll cope.