That 40% thing.

I’ve been drinking whisky for a long time, I’m in my forties and I’ve been drinking whisky for a quarter of a century which sounds far grander than twenty five years so I’ll keep rolling with it.

When I first started drinking whisky it was fucking awful and I could only take it with loads of ice and lemonade but I was seventeen so I’m sure you’ll forgive me. I think back to the whiskies I first took and like most people it was blends, Johnnie Walker and Famous Grouse but recently I was talking with my uncle about my Granddad who had a small but decent selection of single malts and we both remember his fondness for Glenfiddich and Macallan and my own father’s love of Famous Grouse, Bell’s (yes Bell’s) and Lagavulin.
So those are my memories of my first whiskies, skip forward a few years and probably about fourteen years ago which is when I first starting taking whiskies seriously as something to savour and I think about Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Glenmorangie as well as better quality blends. Remember I’m talking about 2002-2003 here, internet whisky shops were not around, if they were they certainly weren’t on my radar and social media was Myspace, I sometimes don’t think people realise how lucky they are to have social media around to help them with their whisky buys.
Have a look back over those brands and they have one thing in common and that is that their core range, if not pretty much all their range, is bottled at 40%, most blends are bottled at 40% and you’d struggle to find any whisky put out by a supermarket that isn’t 40% but why?
Well you argue it’s the law and that’s that and there probably is some truth in that with the big selling blends but you do get some very decent whisky put out at 40%, yes you do, but I think it’s something else, consistency.

I was at a swanky party once and this swanky chap I was speaking too worked for Moet, remember and pronounce that T people, and he said, in his sexy French accent, that part of his job was ensuring that every bottle of the Non Vintage Moet tasted exactly the same, every bottle, every time, every year. This can’t be easy and it must be the same with whisky.

The final reason? Well it’s keeping the price down isn’t it? Which is why expensive bottles at 40% do seem a little bit silly, single malts especially at the higher end of Supermarket and local booze shop price bracket should have a bit more happening strength wise for sixty to a ninety quid, no? Yes.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been sampling old blends from past decades and they are, in the main, very different and a lot better than they are now but that’s not what I’m writing about here, 40% must be the right level of alcohol to both bring balance and flavour to a whisky and to make every bottle taste the same which is what the vast majority of whisky drinkers want, no matter what you might think when you look at your selection of cask strength independent bottles most people just want consistency but personally but that said I think producers are in real danger of letting standards slip in quality and people will stop buying a product if eventually they click that although the product is consistent it’s also shite.

So come on, let’s be honest with ourselves, 40% is fine for somethings but it’s just naked profiteering in others, the hard part is figuring out who’s doing what.

The Captain.