Those Crazy Swedes

A Swedish couple have reportedly won the right after a
court battle to name their daughter Edradour, after a Scottish whisky brand.

Initially the tax office, which in Sweden registers the names for newborns,
refused the name, saying it was too closely linked to an alcoholic drink.

But the girl’s parents, Magnus and Maria Ekloef, persisted, taking the case
to court in their home town of Soederhamn, on the east coast of Sweden.

The Ekloefs argued that Edradour is also a beautiful town in Scotland, and
said they had been charmed by the place as well as the local tipple.

"I’m interested in whisky, but this is more about the place," Magnus Ekloef
told the Haelsinge-Kurir daily.

The Edradour distillery claims to be the smallest in Scotland, producing a
Highland single malt whisky with the efforts of just three men.

Business Week does its part

A friend alerted me to this article from Business Week, which I believe was
posted on September 20th.

The article is called "Scotch
Whisky For The Rest of Us
."

I won’t jump all over this one like I did with the recent New York Times
article (even though the fact checking wasn’t completely up to snuff), instead
I’d like to point to the comments added by "fans." (If
you go to read the article, you’ll see that I’ve also left my comments)

By the way, one off-hand comment regarding a unique "Vanilla
taste" in a particular whisky was blown way out of proportion by the
readers.

Nickname: a94buff
Review: I expect this from Smirnoff and the like but
I’m really disappointed to see the scotch makers doing this. What ever happened
to trying to create a market for what you make rather than making what will
without a doubt only be ‘hip’ for a short time?

Nickname: NotSoWeeLad

Review: Aye, ’tis not for us. Give me Laphroaig,
Lagavulin, or a 40-year-old Talisker rather than this sissy crap.

Nickname: Iain from Scotland

Review: Ugh !!!

 

Nickname: Lagavulinsipper

Review: I agree with SPARK–since when do we want to
dumb down scotch?

Nickname: Spark

Review: I’m shuddering at the thought of
vanilla-flavored scotch. What ever happened to acquiring a taste or waiting for
your palate to mature I’m going now to have a few fingers of Lagavulin and
pretend that I never read this.

And my favorite misogynistic, he-man, tough-guy comment:

Nickname: ScotchDrinker

Review: Well well well. Leave the flavours and the
fruity tastes for the ladies drinks. Market is in scotch for men.

Whatever…

Now there were some other very pertinent posts and also posts from those who
took issue with the mistakes in the article – so all comments weren’t from the
close-minded and "protectionist."

For example, a poster who goes by "Whiskers" obviously gets it:

Nickname: whiskers

Review: I have been in retail spirits sales a long
time. I could not disagree more with the other posters. As the article says: It
is an introduction to scotch for people who may never have had it. And if they
like it their tastes for scotch will change over time and they will explore and
learn to like the Cambletown and the Ilays. Cheers

(Aside from the misspelling) we
need more open-minded people like "Whiskers" and less like
"ScotchDrinker."

Keep checking the article, I’m sure the list of comments
both good and bad, pertinent and sad, will continue to grow.

Once again:

Exposure for Scotch whisky = Good
Misinformation = Bad

Ignoring the few flaws, [One particular egregious mistake I
need to point out is referring to the Easy Drinking Whisky company’s
"Smooth Sweeter One" as a Scotch whisky, when in fact, the
addition of Irish whisky excludes the use of the term Scotch in their labeling]
I’ll put this article in the "good" category…

Next time, write about Vodka. Please.

I love scotch.

And just as much as I love drinking it, I love promoting it.
I also love reading stories that promote it.

But I hate stories that get it wrong. One such story recently appeared in the September 18, 2005 Sunday New York Times Magazine entitled "Malt Shop."

The article starts out:

Nothing
gives a man instant swagger like Scotch. One whiff, and a weakling on
wall-to-wall carpet becomes Burt Reynolds (or Tom Ford) on a bearskin
rug.

Huh?
I don’t even know what that means. But it doesn’t sound like a transformation I’m interested in.

You’ll be at a disadvantage understanding my comments without having
read the article. You may want to take this opportunity to read the
brief, yet wholly uninformative article now, before proceeding. Download maltshop.pdf. I’ll wait.

Back with me? Good!

The number of issues I have with this story are myriad. Here are but a few:

1. Its imperative that we reduce confusion regarding Single Malt Scotch and the article did not accomplish this at all.

"Scotch" should not be used as a generic term. Single malt refers to
a whisky made using barley (and no other grain) and produced at a
single distillery. Single malt Scotch is a protected term that refers
to a single malt whisky produced and aged in Scotland.
However, the article refers to single malt Scotch in the first
paragraph, and then go on to name whiskies produced in Japan in the
second. Bad form – and quite confusing for the uninitiated.

2. They have the production
method all wrong. Whisky is never heated over peat. The malting barley
is dried using the heat from a fire, which is OFTEN, but not always,
fueled using dried peat. This happens LONG before the barley is even
close to taking on a liquid (much less "liquor") form.

3. In all my time involved in Scotch I have NEVER
heard the Lowland region referred to as "The Lowland Ladies." This may
be some archaic term of "affection" for the region, but I’ve never
heard it used. Yet the writer states that this is the official name for
the region. Where in the world did THAT come from?         

4. Although Dalmore is a fine
Scotch whisky, I would hardly point to it as the "typical" Highland
Malt. That is a personal comment.

5. I’m sorry, but if you show
up at your local spirit shop with $25 in hand, you will be disappointed
by the limited selection. This stuff ain’t cheap. You’ll likely walk
away with a blended Scotch.

6. The "years’ in mouth" rule the author mentions is just hog-wash.

7. The last paragraph
regarding The Macallan is disjointed, un-informative and unrelated to
the core theme of the story. Obviously they needed 200 more words to
fill in the page.

Ok. Take a breath. Now, repeat after me slowly:

Exposure for Scotch whisky = Good
Misinformation = Bad

Is a well-researched article from the New York Times too much to expect?

Apparently.

Pssst…Wanna buy Glen Grant?

Whyte & Mackay pulls out

You may recall that when approval was given to Pernod-Ricard to complete the
purchase of Allied Domecq, it was based on the condition that they divest themselves of Glen
Grant.

Glen Grant, while not a major brand here in the States, is the number one
Scotch in Italy and the number two best selling malt whisky in the world (by
volume). FYI, Italy tends to hover just under the top
ten Scotch markets
based on consumption.

Pernod already has a rock-star single malt in their line-up with The Glenlivet, one of the world’s best known Scotch brands. The Glenlivet is the number three best selling malt whisky in the world (by volume) and number one malt whisky in the US market (by sales).

Whyte & Mackay, which was ready to take Glen Grant off of Pernod’s hands, has had a change of mind. The bottom line is that Whyte thinks the asking price for Glen Grant, at £75
million, is simply too high.

According to Whyte & Mackay Managing Director, Bob Brannan:

Glen Grant is not for us. The multiples being paid are very high and
we have good brands of our own. It would strengthen us in  Italy, but it is not a priority market for us.

Despite the breakdown in the Glen Grant acquisition, Whyte is continuing to
negotiate with Pernod on the acquisition of other brands – though neither side
is specifying what those brands are, OR if they are even talking about Scotch
whisky brands. Says Brannan:

There are certain brands likely to fall out of the Allied deal. They
are on the disposals roster and we have conversations going on. We will look at
brands that might not have been developed as much as they might have been or
operate in certain key markets.

Potential Targets

If Pernod’s Scotch brands are on the block, there are a few potential targets.

Pernod owned single malts: Aberlour, Benriach, GlenDronach, Glen Grant, Glen
Keith, The Glenlivet, Longmorn, Scapa, Strathisla, and Tormore.

Pernod owned blends: Ballantine’s (Worldwide) Chivas Regal (Worldwide), Clan Campbell (France, Spain, Italy),
Passport (Spain, Brazil, South Korea, and the US),Royal Salute (UK), Something Special (South America, South Korea), and 100 Pipers
(Spain, Thailand).

As far as Pernod’s structure is concerned, at this point, it appears that the
Allied Domecq name will continue, if only as an operating unit, but how the
brands themselves are divvied up in the Pernod portfolio has not been clarified
as of yet.

The Glenlivet, Chivas Regal, and Ballantine’s are likely not for sale as Pernod
identifies these three among its 14 key brands.

Laphroaig finds a new home

I was surprised that Pernod let Laphroaig go, as this still  leaves them without ownership of an
Islay-based distillery, while competitor Diageo has two (Lagavulin & Caol
Ila).

Laphroaig was instead acquired by US based Fortune Brands as part of the
Allied buyout. (Teacher’s, a well-known blended Scotch, was also acquired by Fortune.)

Laphroaig, despite its phenomenal growth and hardcore fan base, was something
of a step-child under Allied. Now that it’s moved to Fortune, I’ve been told that they view Laphroaig as a
“tremendous brand.” We’ll see if they will take steps to elevate the Islay distillery to its rightful place of honor as one of the "key brands."

The Whyte & Mackay line

Whyte & Mackay currently owns Isle of Jura, Dalmore, Tamnavulin, and
Fettercairn single malts, as well as a number of regional blended  Scotch whiskies (most of whose names will not ring a
bell to the US consumer).

They’ve been doing a great job trying to get mind-share amongst Scotch
drinkers with Isle of Jura and The Dalmore (with such innovations as The
Dalmore Cigar Malt and Jura Superstition), but the brands certainly are not top
of mind to most consumers. Fortune Brands, which currently has US distribution rights to The Dalmore, seems to be doing an admirable job pushing the
Dalmore line here in the US.

What now?

I think Whyte made the right choice by passing on Glen Grant. In my humble
opinion, they’d be better off using the money to grab an A-list single malt or
continuing to market their existing line. 

But this begs the question – Glen Grant has to go – who will step up to the
plate with that big, big check?

Diageo is always waiting in the wings to pick up some bargains and grow
their list of brands, but fair competition rules in UK and EU may limit the
chances that Diageo would be able to acquire (or be interested in) Glen Grant.
And there’s always the question of Is
Diageo Too Big?

Stay tuned, it is likely to get interesting.

Funky Monkey: Part Deux

My (new) friends at the PR firm representing Grant & Sons were nice enough to send me a promo package which included a sample of Monkey Shoulder, currently available only in the UK.
Read more about Monkey Shoulder in my previous post: That Funky Monkey.

1362_loHaving the bottle in my hand I can reaffirm that they’ve done a fantastic job with the promotional materials, branding, and packaging (including the shape of the bottle).

But who cares about the bottle? Right? You all want to know about the stuff inside.

It smells faintly of citrus and vanilla. Not unpleasant at all – very bourbon-ish.

On the taste side, well let’s just say that this is NOT a whisky to be tasted naked – it just doesn’t have the depth that a single malt fan is looking for and adding water caused it to fall apart. But then again it was not designed to be tasted straight, was it?

MonkeycokeGrant is straightforwardly marketing Monkey Shoulder as the base for mixed drinks – even going so far to promote a Monkey & Coke. Since the required ingredients were close at hand, I decided to give this mixture a shot.

You know what? It was great.

As a base for mixed drinks, I think Monkey Shoulder would be exactly what I would prescribe to any whisky averse person (in a mixed drink) were we out at a bar.

I don’t have enough Monkey Shoulder to try to make any other mixed-drink recipes, but based on what the stuff did for a simple glass of Coke, I’m guessing that as a replacement for just about any blended Scotch, Irish whisky, or bourbon recipe, Monkey Shoulder is a great blended malt alternative.

I still don’t like the term ‘Triple Malt’ (and I believe the new SWA rules, once implemented, will put an end to its use).

But at this point  that’s all I don’t like.

If the ‘triple malt’ designation is pulled, will that affect the cheeky "Ask Me for a Threesome" double entendre that Monkey Shoulder is using as a tease? Maybe.

When asked about a US release, I was told:

There are no plans to launch in the US at present.  However, we are constantly reviewing things, so if there is a change in the roll-out plan, we’ll be sure to let you know.

When they let me know, I’ll let you know.

Shameless Self-Promotion

I’m really pleased to announce that my new book is now available.

The Instant Expert’s Guide to Single Malt Scotch is aimed at the novice drinker – It could be the perfect gift for someone in your life who has not yet discovered the joys of the finest adult beverage in the world! (And who knows, even the savvy Scotch drinker may learn something.)

You can purchase it from Barnes & Noble.com and Amazon.com.

And, while I doubt it is sitting on the shelf of your local book store, they can certainly order a copy for you.

If you order directly through Doceon Press the shipping is free and I’ll include a copy of "The Instant Expert’s Scotch Tasting Notebook." What a deal!

Thanks. Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

-Kevin