Friday, May 17, 2013

The honesty about honesty, honestly...

LASSIE:  Ever stop and watch serendipity place things right in your lap?  Maybe you might not notice right away but then something clicks and you say:  Hey, what a minute and suddenly you piece everything together.  No?  Well, it happens to me quite often.  Case in point:  Honesty.

Honesty situation #1: What did she just say??  It began last week while I was in Toronto.  We were fortunate enough to tour two whisky distilleries.  One fairly established in the Canadian Industry and the other brand new.  While I was at the  newest distillery I sampled several things:  Single Malt new make, 2 different cask strengths and a 46% ABV.  The new make was, well "new make'ish" for a lack of a better term:  Hot, very young and white.  However, something a bit odd trickled into my head. It reminded me of gin.  Yup, gin.  Did I want to tell Barry & Barry that I felt like I was smelling a gin when I should have been using whisky words!?  Well I could have as that would have been the most honest of answers but I stopped myself from blurting that out and tried to deconstruct what exactly made me think of gin. 

Botanicals often used in Gin
Distilled Gin: Re-distillation of 96% ethyl alcohol, juniper berries and botanicals (I'm keeping that definition really simple).  Breaking it down on the nose it was really green (chlorophyll) and herbal.  The word herbaceous popped into my head and that really seemed to fit, so I said it:  "This new make smells herbaceous".  We were 6 people standing around and everyone sort of looked at me. I don't remember who spoke up but they repeated the word I had used as a descriptor, then a few jokes were made and we moved on.  The point I'd like to make is no whisky maker wants to hear their product smells like gin (well at least I don't think they would, I could be wrong?) so I was hoping in my own way to state what I thought was different about the new make.  I have never smelled a new make like it before so I'm hoping it's proof they are making something quite unique and that's reflected once it goes to sleep for a few years.  I think I handled that in a good and honest way.

Honesty situation #2:  Some people just can't handle the "truth".  Two weeks ago we had a team building exercise (groan...) and at the end of the session we all agreed that we could speak to each other in a very honest way without repercussions or taking the information personally.  Well, that lasted exactly 8 business days.  I despise ineffective and wasteful meetings.  Tuesday of this week, a 30 min conference call had drug over 2+ hours.   A rambler...  The kind that likes to share every detail right down to what time they stopped to talk to someone in the hallway at 8:22 had the table.  After trying to remain patient for almost 15 minutes, I interrupted and asked if "we" still needed to be on the call.  It wasn't so much what I said that hurt that person immensely, it was how I said it.  The whole thing turned into a shit show.  Some people left crying and my boss was dumbfounded. Fuuuudddddggggeeeeee.  My delivery sucks, I've known this for years.  I come across as very abrasive, direct, aggressive, etc..   Great for project management, not so good in a "team environment".  My boss called me later on in the day and advised I had probably burned a few bridges, hurt some people's feelings quite badly and I should probably learn to keep my mouth shut (didn't exactly say it that way, but I got the just of it).  So, in situation #2, I realized even though people agree you can be honest, you can't be sometimes or at least you have to be really careful how you say it.  So, with that coworker, I know I need to be more "gentle" in a rounder way as to not "punch them in the face" with my brutal honesty.   Lesson learned.

Honesty situation #3:  Twitter tastings, are you being honest, honestly? This one, really has me perplexed as I play devil's advocate on the subject in my own head, often.  

Balblair TT I recently participated in - DELISH!
I've been on twitter for one year now.  I've been lucky enough to have been invited/chosen for a few whisky twitter tastings, but on average I'm just a little league player compared to some who seem to be on the panels regularly. Here's where I struggle so I'm trying to write this as honestly as I can:  I follow about 75% of the twitter tastings that go on.  I also pay attention to details.  Some of the regulars who tend to get on most of the panels (very small number) have a tendency to LOOOOOVE every single nose/palate from every sample bottle they receive and are tweeting about (Spoken like Captain Kirk, emphasis on every.. single... word... as its own sentence, of course...)  Hmmmm, doesn't that make you wonder about the validity of some of these whiskies?

Where is the integrity?  Where is the honesty in that? Why would someone play up every single dram they are tweeting about like it's the nectar of the whisky Gods?!  How does the help the people making the whisky or any of us that might want to buy it?  Ok, yes.. nobody should say #fail!?  This is utter crap...  etc..   But surely to those of us who are quite serious and are truly passionate, isn't it our responsibility when we are chosen for these types of panels to be honest?  If there's something unbalanced about the whisky, why not say so?  If it's hot/young, wouldn't we all expect to see that in a tweet somewhere? How about it's a great whisky but I don't think the common person would afford to pay $350 for it?  No, you don't see those types of comments - really rare.  Are some people scared to say honestly what they think for fear the organizers won't pick them again?
Ok, so what's the purpose of the twitter tasting to begin with?  Well obviously (I think anyway) to get the whiskies read about, some global attention, publicity, sales...  So it only makes sense that the organizers as well as the whisky companies want great remarks, amazing reviews!  Right??   Would I invite people to try whiskies and then have them say "these are terrible"?  Of course not.   But do I or you want a bunch of hyped up and in some cases (not all) untrue comments about what's being nosed/tasted?  I would certainly hope not.  Don't the whisky makers want comments that are truthful especially if there is room for improvement on a whisky they are making?

In my opinion as a self professed whisky geek I think there needs to be more honesty when it comes to these twitter tastings and blogs that follow and here's why:  Because the rest of the world following along on will eventually (if not already) realize that all the rosy, rainbow and thesaurus
descriptors are not necessarily the truth and the credibility of these types of tastings will go down the tubes...   Now that is my opinion, doesn't mean it's right or wrong it's what I've noticed seems to happen more and more during tastings (and yes, I take notes).  I know which bloggers are being consistently honest and which few I feel are either scared to be honest (out of fear of retaliation) or worse (I hope it's not the case) might be in it for the free whisky.   

I recently helped organize two twitter tastings and I'd like to think we picked people we knew would be objective, honest and could provide constructive criticism. I've gone back to look at the #TT thread and saw that most spoke up if they didn't like something but in a respectful and constructive way. I think every tasting, virtual or otherwise should be done by the participants in that manner anyway?

AND honestly:  If we want twitter tastings and bloggers to be taken seriously as part of the whisky world then we should be ensuring we have people who demonstrate constructive criticism with integrity on the panels, shouldn't we?  Oh and as a side bar it's refreshing to see different people from time to time too, not the same 20 twitterers. Diversity is a great tool than can be used to reach new audiences. 

And if you pay close attention, like I do... you'll quickly notice those who LOVE, LOOOVE, LOOOOVE the whiskies while they tweet or in their blog reviews but behind the scenes or after the tweet panel is done they will easily state:  "That was shite and I would never buy it".  Sad and like I stated earlier really doesn't help anyone, including them.

Will this blog burn a bridge, maybe?  Is my honesty too much, maybe? Do you agree or disagree - I would be interested in hearing your opinion as I'm keen on seeing how I did with situation #3. 

Lassie, doing what the sign says... 

Until next time, if I haven't offended you :)

No comments:

Post a Comment