(or why Whisky Bloggers are annoying a lot of people right now)
So who was the first whisky blogger? Was it before or after WordPress made this caper so easy? Well, it was before. A long time before. Back in 1887, in fact. For that is when an ambitious chap by the name of Alfred Barnard first approached a distillery and cheekily asked for a free sample so he could write about it. Two hundred and thirty years later, and it turns out several thousand wannabes are following suit.
Yes, I’m aware of the irony. And I can hear the heavy breathing of the elephant in the room. But bear with me…
It’s the bicentenary year for Laphroaig – no mean feat for a little distillery on the coast of Islay to churn out the world’s most “richly flavoured” whisky for 200 years! And that means some special events and ambassadorial work for the distillery team as they mark the occasion.
It was a treat for all Australians then, when the good folks at Beam Suntory elected to send John Campbell, Laphroaig’s Manager, to our shores for a promotional tour. On a two week trip that saw him involved with endless tastings, appearances, interviews and events – including the epic “The Great Whisky Rumble” (read all about that one here), John spent his last night of the trip in Sydney to conduct an intimate Laphroaig tasting at Grain, one of the city’s newest whisky bars. It was a ticketed event, and yours truly wasted no time in shelling out $85.79 to book a seat.
Back in 2003, I hosted and presented my first “Whiskies of the World” tasting. It was an educational affair; an introduction into the different whiskies being made around the world; and an opportunity to taste the different styles and flavours on offer. More importantly, it was an opportunity for punters to learn how and why, for example, bourbon tasted different to Irish whiskey, and why Scotch and Japanese whiskies were reasonably similar. And I threw in a Canadian whisky and a Tennessee whiskey for good measure. (Don’t ask “What about an Australian whisky?” Lark’s whiskies were scarce, and Bakery Hill had only just launched its first ever release that same year).
The format and lifespan of that particular tasting event didn’t last long – I wrapped my up last Whiskies of the World event about two years later in 2005. Truth be told, there wasn’t much interest or a market for it. Can you believe that? Everyone was super keen on Scotch, and the other categories (or countries) failed to get anyone excited. That probably seems hard to comprehend in today’s environment, but – as I continually preach to people – we’re presently in a heightened time of whisk(e)y enlightenment, and it hasn’t always been like this. Back in 2003–2005, the choices and products available to Australian whisk(e)y enthusiasts were pretty thin, and brand campaigns or tastings for non-Scotch whiskies were non-existent.