Whisky populism is on the march. From Viktor Obán in Hungary to Jair Bowmore-sonaro in Brazil, single distillery fundamentalists are winning votes and seizing power – and doing it bigly.
The postwar era of the Great Liberal Blending – a time when malt and grain were considered equal and co-existed quite happily – is over. Now there is a growing movement of those who would split them apart again.
The so-called ‘malt-right’.
Poster boy for the movement is Dalmore Trump. Landlord of The White Horse whisky bar in Washington DC, he is a man with a strong belief in the purity and power of the wash and spirit stills. In Making Aberlour Great Again (#MAGA).
‘If God had wanted whisky to be distilled three times,’ Trump told a malt-right rally at last year’s Islay Festival, ‘then surely He would have put in a third still at Ardbeg?
‘You know what we’re gonna do? We’re gonna build a wall between Islay and Ireland. It’s gonna be a beautiful wall – a beautiful, beautiful wall. Nobody builds walls better than me. And we’re gonna make Bushmills and Jameson pay for it.’
With The Peatles
Malt-right rallies can be a terrifying spectacle for the uninitiated or fashion-sensitive, with thousands of Trump’s devoted ‘Dramtroopers’ clutching Glencairn tasting glasses to their chests and waving tasting books in the air.
‘The malt-right has cultivated a distinctive look all of its own,’ explains Professor Philip McGlass, head of the faculty of Whisky Politics at Wolfburn College, University of Cameronbridge. ‘Jeans that hang just a little too low at the back, and novelty T-shirts with dog-whistle slogans such as “The Peatles” or “Malt Whiskey” in the Disney typeface.’
According to Prof McGlass, the malt-right belief system is centred on three core tenets:
- Attitudes to women as unreconstructed as a Swiss Toni tasting note
- Suspicion of minorities – especially followers of the Black Label Matters movement
- Disdain for pro-choice ‘snowflakes’ who think that blends are really quite a nice drink, actually
Whisky liberal Johnnie Ballantine-Grant is a member of the AntiFe (Anti-Fettercairn) protest movement. He had the misfortune to stumble across a roving crowd of malt-right fundamentalists at a recent tasting in Amsterdam.
‘It was terrifying,’ he told Fake Booze. ‘All I said was that I sometimes found single cask malts a bit unbalanced and one-dimensional and they just pounced on me.’
Ballantine-Grant was threatened by the mob with a series of 57% abv whiskies and forced to drink an Edradour Port-cask finish.
‘These guys keep going on about the right to bear drams,’ he said. ‘But they’re nothing but cask-strength thugs.
‘Sooner or later these drinks are going to kill someone.’