Of recent weeks we have seen two very opposing transparency campaigns with regards to whisky and the amount of information available to the consumer. The first which tackles the legality behind disclosing certain information about a whisky. Then the other which separates itself by practically telling you nothing about the whisky. From this, what should the direction of whisky be? Is it a future of Full disclosure or do we maintain some mystery in the whisky?
It was the team at Compass Box that launched an online campaign to try to change a current Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) Law, that pertains that only the age of the youngest spirit used in the whisky can be disclosed on the bottle and within it’s marketing material. This came about after a couple of their expressions were flagged by the SWA. To better understand, Compass box was NOT about to release a 5-year-old whisky with a teaspoon of 40-year-old whisky and sell it as a 40yo. The exact reason why the SWA created this law in the first instance. On the contrary Compass Box were hoping to release all the details of each component whisky in the blend. Such as the percentage used in the final blend, the age of each whisky and the cask type of each whisky. And under the current law, by stating any age of a whisky that is not the youngest, is deemed as illegal.
Now on the other end of the spectrum, the release of the new ‘The Glenlivet Cipher‘ is a whisky that only reveals the name of the whisky, the distillery and the alcohol percentage. To further complement the secretive nature of the whisky, the bottle is matte black, to hide the liquid. The intention behind this release is that The Glenlivet wants consumers to engage their senses, try to break the cipher, and experience a whisky without any preconceptions. In addition, this will hopefully create discussion amongst it’s drinkers, and allow consumers to be more open to flavour lead whiskies (a.k.a. No Age Statement).
Now with an article such as this, readers will be expecting me to give my firm opinion. But unfortunately I’m a fence sitter on this one. I do think and want companies like Compass Box to be allowed to disclose the details pertaining to their whisky. And just as Compass Box, I don’t want it to become the new law that every whisky is required to provide full disclosure. Yet, from the time we’ve had to enjoy The Glenlivet Cipher there has been a sense of fun in the tasting of the unknown and it has got us all guessing as to it’s cask type and age.
Whisky is a mystery. The chemistry and alchemy behind its production has people in awe, so I would hate to see this disappear. In the same vein, consumer’s eagerness to learn more and understand what they are drinking invites distilleries to be more transparent. So, whilst I fully support the Compass Box campaign to change the SWA law. I would not want the law to go too far and start insisting on too many irrelevant details, that could put some people off rather than entice. Everyone still needs a little mystery and we think there is no better place than a glass of whisky.