Whisky and the Net

The chances are that if you are reading this article you have embraced the new technology of the information revolution. Also you will have an interest in whisky. Putting the two together deserves investigation.

As a commercial product whisky is no different from most others and the marketing power of the internet has been fully exploited by most whisky companies. Beyond the retail and promotional aspects of the net the access to opinion and information is a wonderful opportunity to discover advice and facts that would have previously involved time, money and effort uncovering. However the amount of wisdom out there can be overwhelming and the skill of data searching is now a tool essential for proper navigation when sailing the cyber seas.

Looking first at the change brought to shopping with on-line facilities we can see the advantage of price and stock comparison from the comfort of our own home. Perhaps though the convenience of time saving makes the experience too remote. Fair enough if the bottle you are after is know to you and procurement is 100% of the exercise. However the pleasure involved with taking your time in a shop, admiring the bottles and holding, smelling and hopefully tasting your potential purchase seems so much more enjoyable. Most retailers now have a presence on the net and indeed many only deal on-line. Their success indicates the demand for the efficient yet impersonal nature of the convenience store.

Working in a whisky shop I am often struck by the impatience of some individuals who seem to find the matter of a few minutes’ wait an absurdity in the modern push button world. They would rather be served in an instant than take the time to consider their purchase options and take advice.

Some whiskies have taken decades to come to perfection, so is 5 to 10 minutes an unreasonable time to wait to be served properly? For these people the internet avoids the interactive element which is fine but for some of us the joy of shopping is a bit like travelling: it’s as much about the journey as the destination.

Online Auctions
Another option available to us now is online auctions. Previously we would have to attend a sale or enter our bids by fax/phone/post but now we have the chance to bid in real time or via a number of other options for getting that special bottle. Further, with the emergence of sites like e-bay we can now turn ourselves into quasi-retailers but be warned – there is a minefield of problems relating to the supply, shipping and sale of alcohol, never mind the issues of fakes and taxation of income.

Sticking with the providers, some distillers have excelled in their provision of on-line facilities. A good example of an integrated site is Bladnoch distillery. This independent company offers not just a route to the product but an interactive element through their forum where enthusiasts have created their own community hosted by the site. Others are content with purely broadcasting rather than receiving. These companies are usually the ones who don’t have to try too hard to make sales so are less likely to use thoughtful approaches to identifying with their customers.

Other players may be distanced from the actual supply of goods and more interested with the provision of information while generating income through advertising. Successful English speaking examples include whisky magazine, based in the UK, and Malt Advocate, in the USA. In particular these two high profile publications offer a full range of facilities on line but still acknowledge the value in old fashioned printing to get their message across.

Other non-commercial organisations contribute to the picture. The Scotch Whisky Association for example is a body set up to represent, protect and promote the Scotch whisky industry. Its website offers general information about Scotch whisky albeit in a rather sterile manner. Scotlandwhisky is another gathering point for providers to represent themselves while the essential and usual facts regarding history, production and places of interest are fairly well represented.

The Whisky Blog
Finally, the individual’s efforts are for some the most cherished. Not burdened with obligation to a wage payer these sites often represent an unbiased outlook with a personality behind the words. Blogging has become for some more than a hobby with their contribution sometimes being regarded more valuable than established commentators. The Scotch Blog, Ulf Buxrud and The Malt Maniacs are all highly regarded by consumers and providers alike and highly recommended for a visit.

All that remains is for me to wish you happy browsing and if you have been a regular visitor to this column I hope you have enjoyed the indulgence of a passion as much as I have. Due to my commitments beyond Lothian Life I have to pass the pen on but if you want to keep up with my own contribution to the wonderful world of whisky find me at: www.jollytopertastings.co.uk.


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