The Covid pandemic has had a colossal impact on the whisky industry, and on how we consume whisky. In the not so distant past, whisky lovers made pilgrimages to their favourite distilleries, shared drams in person and experienced whisky tasting at source. Within a few short months, the landscape has altered dramatically. So much so that whisky enthusiasts are completely acclimatised to trying drams from their favourite distilleries in their living room. There are clear downsides to this, notably the lack of human interaction, but it cannot be denied that whisky has become more accessible, and most enthusiasts are able to sample a far wider range.
Some were out of the traps quicker than others. Great Drams were quick to adapt, hosting some excellent tastings way back in April. Whisky clubs also thrived throughout the pandemic, with the ability to reach new people outside of their geographical area. The club of which I am a member, Sussex Whiskey Appreciation Club (SWAG!), was founded at the start of lockdown, and for months ran virtual tastings without any physical meetups. It was such a success that by May we were able to run two tastings a week with some incredible whisky, all down to the amazing organisational skills of our founder Wayne. Other clubs, such as the London Whisky Club, have gone on to phenomenal success, regularly hosting some of the best tastings online.
New distilleries began hosting their own online tastings, which received rave reviews. From the amazing tastings with the Isle of Raasey, to the Lindores Abbey tasting, to the few Bimber tastings that have popped up, there has been a hunger for new make spirit and young whisky. There have also been some excellent experimental tastings, from Mackmyra to Origin Spirits (and the incredible Currach Seaweed Whisky), which have pushed the boundaries of what a whisky tasting can offer.
It was therefore inevitable that larger events with established brands would begin to make a mark. The first true whisky festival was hosted by Summerton, and it was very well received in its content, value and quality. Following its success, the true giants of the industry have got involved. The Whisky Show has gone virtual, with some truly breathtaking tastings lined up, Master of Malt hosted their Scotch and Sofa Festival, and Cadenhead’s will be hosting their own exciting Virtual Whisky Week.
Amongst these giant events lie some hidden gems. Merchants like The Wee Dram, The Really Good Whisky Company, The Little Whisky Shop and The Celtic Whisky Shop have been hosting some of the best tastings online, and local whisky societies like Black Country Whisky Society and Waterford Whiskey Society have gone from strength to strength.
Nothing can replace a whisky club meeting or a trip to a distillery, but with the new Covid measures in place for the foreseeable future, online whisky tastings are here to stay. Luckily for us, there has never been more variety in the amount of whisky we can try at affordable prices from the safety of our own homes.