Cowardly Update: Since this post is still receiving angry comments a week in, I thought I’d go ahead and wrap it up. I was going to go with “Never apologize, never explain”, but there seems to be a slight misunderstanding about the situation. Jamie himself stated that most of the bottles he would be reviewing this holiday season were sent to him by PR firms (see the first quote), and I was irked that he seemed not to acknowledge this fact. But in his later comment he says that he was never sent any of these bottles of Scotch as PR samples, which I accept. As I’m not interested in picking fights on the internet, I’m going to leave it at that, but I’ll be leaving the comments open for anyone who has something else to add.
Ah, drink blogging. Most glamorous of pastimes. Avid readers know, of course, that sometimes those of us lucky enough to opine for free on the internet get sent things by publicity-hungry companies, asking us to exchange our ethics for a free bottle of the good stuff – an exchange we’re all pretty glad to make. Plus, assuming we’re upfront about where we got the liquor, and honest about our opinions, everyone wins. I’m capitalist enough (barely) to see that there’s a definite advantage to some good, old-fashioned, honest, quid-pro-quo.
Which brings me to today’s dilemma. Early this morning (late last night?), Jamie Boudreau, famed (and really more qualified than I am) bartender and proprietor of Spirits and Cocktails posted a gift list for scotch lovers, called “Xmas Scotch“. I’m a researcher, and so I know the big liquor companies. Every scotch on his list was from a distillery owned by Diageo – in fact, every scotch on the list was from Classic Malts, a company (also owned by Diageo) that distributes high-end scotches made by the same. This peeved me a little, because I hate consolidation, and, while all of the scotches he posted about are probably really good (I, for one, love me some Lagavulin, although I don’t have enough money to try the Port Ellen), he didn’t really give any description of them, just some stuff which, if I’m not mistaken, is straight marketing copy. You’ve got to provide more than that if you’re gonna sell me (or anyone, really) on whiskeys with a mean average price of over $150/bottle.
So I asked him, politely, “Are there any non-Diageo Scotches you’d recommend?“. Erik Ellestad was also curious about some more wallet-friendly options. I kind of got more than I’d bargained for as a response, though:
I don’t know, or care, who the latest owners of spirit companies or distilleries are: it has little to no bearing on the product for me. I was never one to attempt to keep up to date on the passing off of distilleries from one year to the next, and quite frankly am baffled when anyone attempts to attach meaning to such business transactions (unless, of course, it affects the liquid in the bottle). Diageo owns a lot: and I don’t have the time (or even care) to find out what they own (or don’t). You will be seeing a number of spirit reviews in the next month, and while the majority of the bottles were sent to me by various PR firms, I don’t have a clue who their umbrella companies are (or care, as it is irrelevant).
If $59 SRP is too rich (and SRP usually means that you can get it substantially cheaper online) then perhaps scotch is not the spirit you should be looking at.
Finally, a fourth party questioned Jamie about his allegiance to Classic Malts, making me feel less like a crazy troll (I swear I comment almost never because of that fear). I was going to post a quick follow-up about FTC rules regarding free product endorsements and just let the whole silly thing drop, but when I tried to post, I saw that Jamie had closed the thread.
Sure, that’s not an admission of guilt.
Remember, kids, getting a free product and then recommending it without acknowledging its provenance is unethical (duh) and potentially illegal, carrying a fine of more money than I make in six months. Anyway, I thought I’d post about it because I don’t like it when people are jerks to me, but I especially don’t like it when people are jerks to Erik Ellestad. Jamie could have recommended, for example, the Tamdhu 10-year or the Highland Park 12-year (neither of which I have ever been given a free bottle of). But he piled insult on injury (quite literally, in this case) by telling Erik to get out of the scotch game. Dick move, man. Dick move.