My how we chuckled, a few years ago now, when the revelations about British politicians’ expenses hit the airwaves.
You will recall our elected representatives claiming for: a duck island, moat cleaning, an ice cube tray, horse manure at 70p a bag, a toilet seat and, my personal favourite, hedge trimming around one MP’s helipad. Come on! Have you a heart of stone? Which one of us hasn’t had to trim the hedge around our helipad at one time or another?
The interesting question is why did otherwise sensible, sober and, for the most part, well intentioned people make such outlandish claims? The simple answer is because they could, they thought they were operating in the shadows, it never occurred to them that they would one day be squirming under the spotlight of public scrutiny.
What has this got to do with us? Well, pull in a little closer because we might just surprise you.
Here at Bruichladdich we believe in Transparency. It is one of our watch words.
We place ourselves under the spotlight of public scrutiny in the belief that openness is the best way to gain your trust.
We believe in sharing as much information as we can with you, rather than as little. After all we live in the Digital rather than the Dark Ages, we have the Freedom of Information Act and the World Wide Web. In short, this is the era of information and you, our knowledgeable clientele, are naturally curious about what, exactly, you are buying.
Some claim we are not allowed to tell you the batch recipes of our bottlings, including the ages of individual casks, but that is not quite true.
Let me explain. The vast majority of our whiskies clearly say how old they are on the bottle. However, three of our ‘core’ expressions do not – we call these ‘multi-vintage cuvees’, which is our brand of gobbledegook for ‘N.A.S.’ or No Age Statement.
We are very proud of these whiskies and their complex cask recipes, but under current regulations we are unable to tell you what the ‘ingredients’ are without challenging the, conventional, interpretation of the law. So we tell you, but only if you have the time and the inclination to examine your bottle closely and do a bit of leg work on our website. We can’t proffer this information up front, we have to ask that you play ‘hunt the thimble’.
So while food manufacturers are obliged to register every gram of every ingredient on their labels, at Bruichladdich we could potentially be prosecuted for doing the same. It doesn’t make much sense…
Or does it? What if you wanted to hide what was in the bottle? Might you then find it convenient to hide behind the regulations?
Now we are not saying that other distillers abuse the system. We are simply pointing out that the way the system operates is open to abuse and, as we have seen in Westminster, if a system can be exploited then sooner or later, somebody, somewhere, will do a bit of exploiting.
Knowledgeable geeks are already suspicious of N.A.S. whiskies, perhaps understandably so. An unscrupulous manufacturer could sell us expensively packaged young whisky under an N.A.S. label; the modern equivalent of a pig in a poke.
The obvious solution is Transparency – Bruichladdich style. We are not demanding a change in the regulations. We believe those regulations already allow us to tell you the cask recipe for each bottling, should you wish to know it. The information relating to the ages of casks that make up our ‘N.A.S.’ bottles is available, with a bit of work, on our website. This allows you to make your own judgement.
However, this does rather beg the question: if we can do this, why don’t all distilleries do the same?”
It seems, as the commissioners investigating those MP’s expenses found out, that some moats are murkier than others….