Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Enhancing whisky, good or bad? The debate rages on The Malt Advocate blog

Over at The Malt Advocate blog, John Hansell, Publisher and Editor of that fine publication that published my article on the George Washington Distillery, posed the following to his blog readership: "Is it acceptable to “enhance” a whisky to make it more appealing? Or is it improper to do something like this?"

His blog post was inspired by an exchange he had with Dr. Whisky on Dr. whisky's blog. Sam Simmons, a.k.a. “Dr Whisky,” a.k.a. Balvenie Brand Ambassador for William Grant & Sons USA, reviewed the Bernheim Wheat Whiskey on his blog, and noted that he thought it was “boring and inconsequential.”

Hansell suggested in the comments section that since it is a wheat whiskey, that he might consider "blend[ing] it with a little straight rye whiskey to give it more personality, depth and complexity."

Dr Whisky considered this presumptuous, adding:
Who am I to judge professional whisk(e)y makers with 45 years of nosing experience, 3 generations of blending in their families, 10 year apprenticeship training, etc.?

Do you bring a paintbrush to an art gallery in case you find Renoir missed a spot? Do you add salt, Tabasco sauce, and ketchup when dining at a friend’s house?

There were over 40 responses, all intelligent, and mostly all in agreement. Here was my two-cents:
I’m with you and the gang here on this one. You buy it, you enjoy it in any way you like. That’s how it works. As for Dr. Whisky’s take, I think he’s actually way out-of-line. Whisky is a beverage, first and foremost. YES, there is often real artistry involved, and YES, some whisky expressions even achieve true artistic greatness, but it is still a potable product sold for consumption.

Strictly speaking, whisky is a luxury product. Enjoyment is, in fact, what it is all about. If instead of painting Renoir’s medium was the food and beverage industry and his art was served in a restaurant or purchased at a retail outlet rather than viewed at a museum, Dr. Whisky’s analogy would be less off the mark. Besides, mixing or adulterating the purchased product does not necessitate negative judgments against the artistry of the producer, any more than mixing a martini is a judgment against the particular brand of chosen gin or vermouth.

Except for Dr. Whisky, a paid whisky promoter, albeit of a different product, does anyone really disagree?

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