1. We admit it. We’re wrong. But we’re less wrong than others.
The vision of Drinkmonger is to offer a balanced and loving presentation of all fine alcohols, yet the space in a top bar of a website is restrictive, and the eyes of computer users are generally tired and weary. We see each type of booze like a member of the family, so how do you organise this space respectfully? When your family is this large how does one show you love all your children equally?
The strange thing is, booze has been categorised incorrectly by everyone online. This may seem like a very arrogant thing to say, but bear in mind that we are not saying ours is right. It’s just less wrong than the others out there.
We were determined not to consign such noble drinks as Grappa, Mezcal and Rum into a dreaded ‘Other Drinks’ category (the attic where other retailers banish their embarrassingly non-profitable drinks).
So we decided to reorganise the world of potable alcohol according to the following questions:
- What is it made from?
- How is it made?
- … And therefore roughly what is it likely to taste of?
We also tried to avoid the following:
- Where is it made? Wine got special dispensation… curse you France, Italy and your Old World ways!
- How famous is it? We’ve always liked the little guy
- How much money is it likely to make us? We’ll be ready when there is a boom in Mezcal, Pineau des Charentes and Sherry
The results are a little different to those you find on other websites.
2. We really believe the following…
How you make something and what you make it from is normally more important than where you make it. Ingredients, equipment, and people’s skills are the key reasons for taste, and flavour is what we care about. What you make is less important to us, so Yamazaki is next to Macallan in the Single Malts. Rye is in a different place to Bourbon.
You (the world) know a bit more than you used to, or are willing to learn. We are not that into fairy stories at Drinkmonger.com so we pledge not to tell them to you. We don’t want to over-complicate booze, and don’t think it is an esoteric and difficult-to-learn subject but equally we don’t want to waste your time by teaching a dumbed down system that then needs to be unlearnt further down the line.
Take single malt whisky, which we have spent decades working with at Royal Mile Whiskies. The official way of introducing people to single malt said that Islay whiskies are smoky (except two of them), Speyside whiskies are fruity and floral (except they are mostly really different from each other, they all used to be more like Islay, and some make ‘Islay’ whisky now), Lowland whisky, which is light and dry (well the closed ones are, the only operational one is triple distilled like in Ireland), Highland whisky like Speyside but more robust (except lots of them aren’t) and then there are Island malts which can be a little bit smoky (but don’t taste anything like each other at all).
Cachaca is a rum. Except it calls itself cachaca. In fact, it is close to Rhum Agricole, which is twice the price. Sorry Frenchies, we’re not getting at you; this is just the way it is.
3. We know the following things are ‘wrong’ with our system, so please don’t point them out. We’ve even saved smartypants the time and trouble of finding them out themselves.
- Yes, Grape Spirits could be a sub-section of Fruit Spirits because it is a fruit. We did that anyway. No, the French may not like Pisco rubbing shoulders with Armagnac and Cognac but we hope our respectful treatment of Peruvian brandy will make us heroes in Lima.
- A Mistelle is not technically a fruit spirit. It is a spirit made from fruit added to the juice of the same fruit, so that’s good enough for us, especially given the massive gain that Pineau des Charentes, Floc de Gascogne and Ratafia get a home of their own. If you have no idea what we are talking about then check these drinks out immediately. Many of our staff (who drink everything) think that Pineau is the best thing about Cognac. And they love Cognac too.
- Anise is a weird category, we grant you. We just felt that a group of liquids where the character was dominated by such a distinctive flavour group (aniseed, carroway, liquorice, fennel etc.) belonged together. They were very tricky to group anywhere else. Perhaps Aquavit distillers will take umbrage at being next to Sambuca but hopefully they’ll see it as a step up from being bunged in with Calvados and Tequila.
- Sotol is not made from Agave. It is made from the Desert Spoon plant. It pains us to lump it with its colonial neighbours Mezcal and Tequila (to which it is close in flavour), especially given its remarkable antiquity. We were consoled by the thought that most retailers don’t even bother to sell this, and if they do they shove it next to schnapps and schochu, which it has nothing to do with.
- Jamaican rum is a category. It does seem like we have broken our rule here, doesn’t it? We made an exception for this island, who produce and favour a deeply individual style of super-estery, punchy, pot still rum. When someone on that island of black, gold and green starts making a rum suitable to take home and meet your mother, then perhaps we’ll reorganise that.
- Some things just don’t fit. Damn them.