In February of 2010 John Hansell, Malt Advocate Magazine, named whisky bloggers his Whisky Pioneers of the Year. At that time we were witnessing a gradual rise in the number of whisky bloggers online but since then there has been an explosion. Now there are questions surrounding the motives of whisky bloggers (“they’ll say anything for the free whisky and free trips”) and questions surrounding whether or not bloggers are even a worthwhile source for whisky information anymore (“how can I trust these guys when everything they taste is the best thing ever” and “will they tell the truth about a poor quality whisky if it means they might lose their connection to free whisky”). What role do you see whisky bloggers playing over the next couple of years and how much of the scene is really a whisky grab? Is the whisky blogosphere still a meritocracy where the best get better or is it a race to the bottom where simply tasting a lot makes one seem more important than one really is?
As a related aside, I started The Casks in February of 2010, blissfully unaware of most of the whisky blogs out there and certainly unaware of the possibility of being a “pioneer” (I was also unaware that I’d be considered the scum of the earth). I started the blog for fun, just for myself, with no real aspirations to any wider recognition or free stuff. That other people have enjoyed it, welcomed me into this community, and thought enough of my opinion (or possible free advertising potential) to send me samples is fairly satisfying and flattering, but it’s also made me aware of the pitfalls and responsibilities I now have to keep myself and the blog honest. When samples did actually darken (brighten) my door, it was only after I let those giving them to me know what I intended to do with them. No one’s given me a sample without knowing that my only responsibility to them is to review it as fairly and as objectively as I can. That settles it in my own mind, but I know that many people (always people who don’t know me, oddly) automatically assume anyone getting free stuff has a worthless, corrupted view. Not to get all serious about something that really isn’t all that serious, but that demeans the time I’ve put into it, and the enjoyment I’ve had learning about it all. I’m not writing a blog to get free samples or to take down someone in the industry in one fell post, I’m doing it to enjoy and learn more about whisky. Like I’ve said before, I’m not for sale, and do my best to be honest, forthright, accurate, and entertaining about all this stuff.