20 October 2014
SCOTCH TOO SWEET? ADD VODKA
As the current whisky sales boom continues, and in value (not volume) the USA sales of all whiskies appear to have surpassed vodka, there's one thing you can be assured of: To feed the growth, the enormous barrel stacks of ageing scotch in Scotland are being pillaged, so quality gradually drops as more compromises are made and we see many new brands suddenly appearing, sometimes at obscene prices. To cover the lower than ideal quality of many of these blends, it seems to me that the factories are adding caramel like never before. Caramel is permitted as a colourant. Handy, eh? - it makes a sweeter product for the bogan and costs a lot less than good oak. I've been adding a little neutral grain vodka, like Absolut, to the disappointing ones, in the hope it breaks that sweet additive down. It usually does, but if you try it, I reckon you'll find that sometimes the vodka makes the caramel seem even more obvious. Most scotch whisky, malted or not, and Irish whiskey is, after all, not much more than barrel-aged vodka. Have a play. On the other hand, within the UK, whisky sales are falling as vodka increases, perhaps influenced by this increase in simple caramel sweetness in blended whiskies, be they malted or not. Don't panic on behalf of the UK, however: The Guardian reports that scotch whisky exports are currently bringing the British economy £135 a second.