Whisky blogs appear to have reached a level of saturation and are now omnipresent across the internet and social media.
Anyone can write a blog, and it appears that every whisky drinker and his dog write a whisky blog these days.
So, what will happen to all these whisky blogs and will this glut lead to bloggers thinking of new ways to stand out from the crowd? In order to fully address this issue, we need to shed some light on how we got to this point.
For those of you who do not know much about the history of whisky blogs, it is widely agreed that the first whisky website was created by Johannes van den Heuvel in 1995, the very early days of the internet. Back in 1995, there were only 23,000 published websites worldwide – it is probably safe to say that there are more than 23,000 whisky blogs on the internet today. In 1995, Johannes’ site would probably have been the only dedicated website to whisky. It soon evolved, with support from a collective of self-proclaimed ‘Certified Malt Maniacs’, and in 2002, a Malt Maniacs website was launched, alongside the infamous WhiskyFun.com blog, written by Serge Valentin.
Both WhiskyFun.com and MaltMadness.com have long been the ‘go-to’ online resource for wannabe whisky connoisseurs to brush up on their knowledge of washbacks and wormtubs, for various distilleries, as well as to read an almost never-ending list of tasting notes – 17,043 at the last count. These websites are at the hardcore end of the whisky geekery spectrum.
In around 2008/2009, a new breed of whisky blogger appeared on the scene. The age of the new bloggers was probably close to half the age of the Malt Maniacs. These blogs were less focused on the geeky side of whisky and seemed more interested in things such as new releases, new distilleries, and general goings on in the world of whisky. It was also around this time that Sam Simmons, who is the Global Brand Ambassador for The Balvenie, made the transition from blogger (blogging as Dr Whisky) to whisky industry representative. This probably inspired many, who believed that they too might be able to make the leap from blogger to Global Brand Ambassador.
By late 2009, this new era of whisky bloggers had fully emerged, with the likes of The Edinburgh Whisky Blog seriously gaining momentum. Interestingly, this website was founded by a pair of friends who shared an interest in whisky, not to necessarily become fully fledged ‘members’ of the whisky industry, but which is what has ended up happening.
They were the first to market, if you will, so when whisky marketing departments and PR agencies working for whisky distilleries caught on to them, these new whisky bloggers were quick to appear on media lists and press trips. Previously, these press trips would have only been for traditional print media journalists, but, eventually, the odd whisky blogger was getting to go on these jollies to Speyside, Islay and further afield. As well as this, the so-called ‘whisky fairy’ was delivering near infinite whisky samples to these bloggers, more than their livers could keep up with.
Soon enough everyone reading these blogs wanted to become a whisky blogger too. There was a time when you could almost guarantee that free whisky and all-expenses paid trips to distilleries would follow if you created a whisky blog.
And this is where things started to become a bit odd. Like most things, the best of the best will rise to the top. But that has not stopped the flood of self-proclaimed whisky experts, from all walks of life, to start to declare their expertise on Twitter, forums, Facebook groups (namely the Malt Maniacs Facebook group) and blogs, causing quite a furore within certain circles. Due to the nature of blogs, unlike newspapers or magazines, there are no editors or fact checking, which can lead to false information.
Around this time, circa 2011, the old guard of whisky bloggers wanted to rise above this new wave of whisky bloggers, so started the ‘whisky round table’ and such like. This was really a way of shutting out the new whisky bloggers, as well as increasing their traffic and inbound links.
If we fast forward to today, things have come to a crux, where there is a new whisky blogger or whisky Twitter account appearing almost every day.
It has to be said, the old school whisky bloggers – from the 2008/2009 wave – spent years building their reputations and knowledge. So, it is understandable they might be a bit peeved at new bloggers, who are aggressively making a name of themselves and forcing their way onto press trips and whisky fairy mailing lists. This has also led to a horrible one upmanship, which is already rife on social media. There is often a fallout on Twitter or tantrums from the bloggers who did not receive the latest samples from whichever distillery has just released a new bottling. It’s all pretty ridiculous when you think about it.
Like all hobbies, there will always be obsession and geekery. However, it is often hard to understand why one would want to read someone else’s tasting notes about a whisky, when you could just drink a whisky instead. Also, let’s not get started on the whole argument of scoring or rating whiskies vs not scoring whiskies.
As for the sea of whisky blogs, they will continue, while the rants on Twitter about the ever-rising price of whisky and the gradual move to no-age statement whiskies will go on. However, it will not be long before these bloggers, who were used to getting umpteen samples of whisky, will soon have to start buying whisky if they want to review it, just like they used to do and just like the rest of us.