What possessed me? I shouldn’t have done it. We’ve all been warned about going online at night, specially after a drink. I know where it’ll lead and how grubby and ashamed I will feel afterwards.
Despite that, recently I went and joined an online whisky tasting. NEVER again.
This is how they work. A whisky company sends a selected group of bloggers four or five whisky samples. Then, on a given day at a given time and using a pre- agreed hashtag, each participant goes on Twitter, tastes the whisky, puts their thoughts online, and whisky enthusiasts can follow along, perhaps even tasting their own samples of the whisky at home.
So far, so good, eh?
Actually no. Because, frankly, these events are the whisky world’s anti-Christ. They defile and diminish everything malt whisky should be. They’re crude and smutty apologies for whisky tasting events. I hate them.
Why? Firstly, the people taking part want free whisky, so they will say whatever the whisky maker wants them to say to stay onside with them. So this is marketing passing itself off as objectivity.
After a couple of rounds, two things happen to the notes. They start to sound remarkably similar to the press releases the whisky company has already sent me. And as the evening progresses and whisky is consumed, the bloggers try to out-score each other by resorting to increasingly outlandish and ridiculous descriptors, strangling the English language in the process:
“Tastes like a florist’s.” (What? You eat flowers?)
“A bit like a dirty carpet in an old people’s home.” (Don’t even go there.)
Within minutes the comments are out of sync and mixed in with the random tweets of other people: “I’m getting fresh Oregon mountain pine, coated with Lindt 90% cocoa dark chocolate.”
“Woof! Kylie’s wearing a really tight dress.” “If you hold it in your mouth it starts to taste like plums.” “Breaking news: major cocaine bust.” “I get sherbet, melon and tingling on the nose.” And on we go. But what I hate about online tastings most of all is the fact that rather than befriending your malt whisky, getting to know it, falling in love with it, these events are like a quick grope in an alley, whisky’s answer to speed dating.
And if I’m honest I can’t keep up. I’m still nosing the whisky when the notes start appearing on my screen. I once even did the tasting in the afternoon so that all I had to do was type in my reviews. Still couldn’t do it.
But that last one finished me off. This is how it went. Whisky one Me: “This is young and I’m getting a sulphury note.” Blogger 1: “I’m not getting sulphur.”
Blogger 2: “Nor am I.” Me: “Well I am.” Blogger 1: “Who do you think you are? Jim Murray?” Blogger 2: “I’m getting a meaty, earthy note.” Me: “That’s sulphur.” Blogger 1: “There’s a sort of used match smell. Like burning.” Me: “THAT’S SULPHUR!!!” Blogger 3: Actually when the glass is empty it smells of sulphur.” Me: “HALLE – BLOODY – LUJAH!!”
And with that I tune down, switch off, drop out. And this time I WON’T be back.