February Outturn 2024 Ambassador’s Address
Whisky, in my humble opinion, is incredibly versatile. Well, spirits in general are. We, as humans, have been using potable spirits in one way or another, regardless of season, for literally centuries.
As early as the fourth century there’s been poitín (pronounced “pot-cheen”) and other potable spirits, as noted in some of Aristotle’s writings. Ever since then, and earlier, gradual advances in distillation processes, technology, and maturation have changed spirits forever.
This process has not stagnated, however. Advances in whisky production have continued to evolve. I’m sure when Charles Saladin came up with his Saladin Box, or Aeneas Coffey with the Coffey still, or Philippe Meura with his mash filter, they were likely laughed at or possibly ridiculed for trying to change a process. I like to think of this sometimes as important to how we got to where we are, and where we might be going. Ask any data scientist worth their salt how we improve any process and the answer will be along the lines of trends and innovation through analysis.
Those very improvements and wills to change and evolve have enabled us to enjoy whisky more and more. We’re no longer sinking poitín and losing our teeth, but now have the ability to nitpick over which vintage of Glen Wonka was best from which *insert obscure European bottler here*. Inwardly facing, I do worry sometimes it’s a bit too easy to get TOO wrapped up in the minutia of nitpicking and comparing, and writing down 40 tasting notes.
That’s a bit of my job, but it’s in these summery, outdoorsy kinda months that I like to sometimes leave all that aside, grab a glass, pour a dram, and just enjoy it with a bit of broader historical context. On that first sip: “what would this taste like if we didn’t have the pioneers in spirit like Charles Saladin?”.
Raise a dram, give yourself some context, and enjoy the tail-end of summer with the SMWS!
This article is featured in February 2024 Outturn — bottles will be available to purchase on Friday the 5th of January at midday AEDT exclusively to members of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Not a member? Click here to learn more about the world’s most colourful whisky club.