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A Place to Gather

‘Community’ is a word endowed with many connotations, leading to its (mis)appropriation by politicians, sociologists, market researchers and Mark Zuckerberg. Whether that community is ‘fractured’, patri-local or online, in the 21st century we still value and are moved by an idea of our collectivity.

Whisky provides yet another excuse for grouping together. With a single distillery or style we can identitfy with one another, share experiences and profess our loyalty. We can demonstrate how fiercely we fight for flavour. Increasingly, Scotch whisky distilleries have sought to foster such communities. Though they are ostensibly confined by the internet, strongly implied is the suggestion that one’s true point of contact – irrespective of where one lives – is a postcode in Scotland. The personality of a distillery, mediated via its virtual presence, promises the possibility of a connection to bricks, mortar and copper once you have logged off and bought a Caledonia-bound plane ticket.

Courtesy of a few clicks on the internet, you can be a Diurach with Jura, an Ardbeg Committee member, a Friend of Laphroaig, or a Guardian of The Glenlivet. It wouldn’t surprise me if, in the next few months, The Macallan Order of the Garter realises its inauguration. Brands are encouraging us to pledge fealty to them on a fractionally more intimate footing. We have bought their whisky, but they want us to participate in their stories, too.

The Clach Biorach standing stone at Balblair.

My old friend, Balblair, has followed suit and underscored this notional encounter all the more powerfully and simply with ‘The Gathering Place’. In recognition of the distillery’s long-standing neighbour, the Clach Biorach Pictish stone around which Highland peoples would assemble millenia ago, and whose swirls and forms find echoes in the Balblair bottle design, there is a new way of connecting to the pair of stills in Edderton, Ross-shire. Balblair fans can sign up for free to receive exclusive web content, expert whisky tasting videos and, perhaps the principal boon of swearing allegiance to one’s lord, spirits for your taste buds only. Tiger over at Edinburgh Whisky Blog has reviewed the first soon-to-be-released vintage from 1990. He rather liked it.

And I rather like this new inclination to transform customers into a community. Whisky inspires deep passions in people, chief among which must be that our favourite drams continue to be of high quality, testaments to integrity and skill. Through these membership schemes, we have the opportunity to communicate with these distilleries and the individuals responsible for them, rather than merely pay our money and consume them. A related point is developed very well by Stuart Robson over at the Whisky Marketplace blog. Philosophy intermingles with financial imperatives and hopefully we customers can make a bolder, more sustainable statement, adding an extra and vocal dimension to those sales figures. Give us a gathering place and we will prove our loyalty. The Gathering Place at Balblair.

Posted in Comment, Whisky Societies | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

4 Responses to A Place to Gather

  1. It seems tough to build genuine community online, although I think that whisky is conducive to it – the highly individual nature of each dram appeals to unique individuals who can craft genuine relationships.

  2. saxon says:

    Hi Whisky Critic,
    Interesting thoughts, and I’m ony too aware of the ‘click a button’ apathy that swamps the internet masked as activism. But I do think that, as a gesture, these online collectives provide touching opportunities to appreciate a new dimension to distilleries beyond brand PR and sales targets. As I say in the piece, it is partially a join-the-dot exercise as we try and reconcile the money we spend to the emotions we feel and the places and processes primarily responsible for them. If an online community creates a starting point for more real-world encounters with people and whisky, so much the better.
    Thanks.

  3. Gregory says:

    Hello,

    Thank you for the mention of our article over at whiskymarketplace.co.uk/blog! We’ve enjoyed reading your blog. Would you consider adding a link to our site on your blogroll?

    Thanks,

    Gregory

  4. saxon says:

    Hi Gregory,

    Thanks for getting in touch, and I’m more than happy to add you to the Scotch Odyssey Blogroll. Can I request a cheeky link from the Whisky Marketplace in return?

    James

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