Last week, as part of my Craft Whiskey Week series, I published a review of two new peated whiskeys from the Lost Spirits Distillery in Salinas, California. I thought the whiskeys showed promise, but overall, I thought they were too young, possessing some of the new makey characteristics that are common in underaged whiskeys.
Distillery owner Bryan Davis posted a lengthy response in the comments that I thought was worth publishing in its entirety, both to allow him to have his say and because I think it's somewhat emblematic of the way that certain distillers respond to anyone who doesn't think their product is the best thing ever to pass through a still:
This morning I woke up after reading your blog post and contemplated closing the distillery that Joanne and I spent the last 3 years of our blood sweat and tears to build. Then I poured myself a glass of Leviathan and the forthcoming Paradiso and said HELL NO I love this whiskey. It was at that moment that I decided to write a short rebuttal to your opinion of my work.
The criticism that a spirit is too young is insulting.
A spirit can be too hot for your taste. A spirit can be too sweet for your taste. A spirit can be to bitter for your taste. You can find notes in it that you don’t like or find awkward. That’s fine and you’re entitled to your opinion, but to say its too young is an undefined criticism.
You owe it to your readers to say why you don’t like it. Hell you owe it me, the person who slaved for years to make the whiskey you panned for no defined reason. Its like saying I am in my thirties and therefore too young to make whiskey. I, like the art I created, stand or fall on my own merits, not my age.
I further take issue with the statement “its too young” since it pretends to be an objective statement when we all know opinions about whiskeys are inherently subjective.
I would also point out that many trained palettes that have sampled my work see what I see in it and love it and support it. I am not saying you have to like it but I am saying the criticism “its to young” pretends to be objective when its not, and is really just a vindictive and mean way of saying I don’t care for it.
Why I did it:
A spirit derives its reason for being based upon what it does that is new, interesting, and unusual. If Leviathan tasted like Laphroag it would have no reason for being since Laphroaig already exists. I made bold changes to the production process, the wood, the peat, and the techniques used to age it. The ester profile and flavor density is off the charts. Is it conventional NO – it’s not supposed to be.
I think Leviathan has a lot to say, you don’t have to like what it says, but don’t tell people not to listen because it’s too young to speak – say why you don’t
like what it says.
Why “it’s too young” is a dangerous thing to say. Big distilleries are pushing the message that craft products are too young… why because they are trying to bankrupt them by discouraging people from trying the whiskeys at all. When you repeat their garbage you are being played like a pawn of the multinational corporations that don’t want to see a world with 10,000 distilleries in it. For them this is business. For me this is art, and the world will be richer place if we don’t let them push their corporate PR strategy down our throats.
For my part, I'm confident that my readers understand what I mean when I say something is "too young" and "new makey," and I think Mr. Davis does too since in this interview with K&L, he himself admits of these whiskeys, "We don't really want to tell you how long they've been in the barrel...obviously they're relatively young and it's not our strongest suit."
So what say you good readers? Is Sku nothing but a shill for corporate whiskey (something that I'm guessing Brown Forman, among others, would have a hard time believing)?