It’s a surreal and honestly painful feeling, to within the space of an hour, announce that your distillery is to shutter its doors to all visitors, cancel your monthly whisky club and watch as all of the tastings, festivals and masterclasses that you were either presenting at, or simply attending abandon their plans for the foreseeable future. An entire part of life removed, or at the very least put on hold for what is likely to be some time.
Whilst it’s all too easy to suggest that “it’s just a drink” – and find others wondering why your urgencies have not yet moved to toilet rolls like the rest of world – to many, whisky is not just a drink - it’s a career, a livelihood, a way of life and for some an essential social escape. We’re all, to some degree at least, in the same boat. And indeed we need to start thinking in those terms. Last month whisky was continuing to ride the crest of the wave – now, certain quarters of it will be on life-support. It will take the strength, dedication and passion of us, the enthusiasts to help it weather the storm – and, most importantly to help *each other*.
Whisky certainly might seem to be ‘just a drink’ and largely inconsequential compared to the wider world health situation when it comes to whisky writing, blogging and vblogging. Thijs skilfully described this on Monday over at Words of Whisky. But, like him, I’m currently healthy and able to write – therefore The Dramble will continue to publish content (albeit returning to our ‘normal’ style of posting). I hope that our posts already provide a window into whisky - the researching and the writing of them have certainly helped me maintain my sense of perspective over the past years.
Whisky people are largely lovely. Inherently friendly – inherently curious. I like whisky people. Largely I’ve seen wonderful solidarity and support. But I have also already seen some bad actors – those who really do need to get a proper sense of perspective. Safety and well-being are tantamount - no, your tour isn’t essential. No, your requirement for access to new releases isn’t a current priority. And 100% no, now is not the time to be near begging for free bottles in return for “much needed Instagram exposure during this crisis”. Maintain your sense of perspective.
Whilst the world around us continues to clean out supermarkets of anything and everything, many of us are already guilty of stockpiling whisky. Whether FOMO or simply through, as Phil Storry puts it, ‘accidental accumulation’ there are many of us who already possess a Smaug’s lair of liquid. And there are equally many of us who don’t. I’d posit that now is the time for opening those rainy day bottles – and for finding ways to share them with people who have, through a variety of reasons (financial, mobility etc) less access to the whisky market. In particular those folks for whom attending a whisky tasting/festival is a much needed lifeline to social interaction. Now is not the time to be hoarding more. If your determination to support the whisky industry through bottle purchases (admirable in isolation) runs so deep, why don’t you consider doing this for someone else less fortunate than you?
The whisky and wider hospitality sector will need your support. But that isn’t buying up everything week one. Interest and passion in whisky doesn’t develop overnight – it takes time and effort to nurture, and it’ll take time and effort to continue to nurture it through these times and beyond.
At the same time, we all should be mindful of the potential pitfalls of consumption. Adam over at Malt more than adeptly outlined these in his seminal post last year. Many memes have already been created about the impending baby boom – I’d hate to see similar ones noting the social aftermaths of excessive home drinking. Similarly here - maintain a sense of perspective.
Already I’m seeing good humour, and plentiful interaction through social channels. These are a godsend. The Internet allows us to keep talking, keep sharing and keep educating. And to my mind, it’s the use of these channels which will both maintain the daily ebb and flow of attention and awareness, as well as provide much needed outlets for both enthusiasts and brands. Already, I am exploring options for virtual tasting and ‘vPub’ (not to steal Roy’s thunder) type events. And I strongly recommend to all brands – be they retailers or distilleries - that battening down the hatches physically does not, and should not, necessitate ending the conversations. These will be vital.
And I offer the same advice for enthusiasts – consider both hosting (there’s a range of free solutions available) and supporting other virtual events. Keep the conversation going.
It’s not just a drink – and it requires all of us to show support, solidarity and above all…a sense of perspective.