Now THIS is Marketing

Attendees of the Glasgow Whisky Live will have the chance to participate in one of the best the best whisky marketing stunt in a long time.

What is a "Whisky Amnesty"?

The same idea behind a gun amnesty – something that is unfortunately a common occurrence here in America, whereby you turn in your illegal firearm and all is forgiven.

But this one is different and much better – it’s like turning in a hand gun and getting a bazooka in return.

Got a bottle of some horrible Vodka? Crappy Blend left to you by a dead relative? Nasty Rum you picked up in Belize? Something unidentifiable you picked up in Bulgaria and are afraid to drink?

Turn it in and Highland Park will give you a bottle of their 18 year old in exchange.*

Jason Craig, Highland Park’s Global Brand
, tells me:

To be able to host a Whisky Amnesty in Scotland is both exciting and an honour, as never before has an event ever been run like this within the whisky industry.

Highland Park 18 years old is a multi award winning single malt which we have wanted to showcase as much as possible and what better way to do this than to give whisky lovers the chance to enjoy it for themselves. Over 140 people have already registered to take part so we know it is going to be very popular on the day.

The amnesty will begin at 3pm on
Friday 2nd November at Highland Park’s stand within Whisky Live, held
at the SECC, Glasgow.


* Rules? There are always rules.

  • Bottles brought to the amnesty must be full sealed 70 cl bottles of any spirit.
  • The replacement bottle will be a 70cl bottle of Highland Park 18 year old
  • One exchange per person
  • There will be 200 bottles distributed on a first come first served basis
  • All bottles handed in will be recycled and their contents disposed of in accordance with WRAP and Scottish Water Guidelines

Independent Bottler, Eh?

I recently had a chance to chat with Barry Bernstein of Premium Bottlers- Canada’s first and only Independent bottler.

The company was formed by two enthusiasts who were frustrated with the limited quantity of Single Malt Scotch available on the Canadian market.

The IB and Canadian Liquor Law

You are likely familiar with the concept of an Independent Bottler (or IB) who sources casks of whisky (usually, but not always, fully matured) from brokers or directly from distilleries. They then bottle, label and market the products – usually to specialty shops, you seldom find them in your corner liquor shop.

PblabelThese casks are often – but not always, hand selected by the IB and usually, but not always, bottled as “Single Cask”

Canada’s “interesting” liquor laws create special problems for a company like Premium Bottlers – the interesting law I am talking about dictates that a spirit marketed by Canadians must contain at least 1% of spirit (not necessarily whisky) which has been produced in Canada.

Continue Reading >>

Your Dad was not a fag. But apparently you are.

Canadian_club_your_mom Canadian Club, a product of Beam Global Spirits* is about to roll out a new ad campaign.

The concept of the campaign? Your Dad was much cooler than you are.

Yep that’s right – they are saying it’s cool to drink whisky BECAUSE your dad drank it, not despite it.

They are also saying that your Dad was probably more of a man than you are.

According to the press release:

The thought-provoking campaign challenges consumers to embrace their dads classic masculinity, most visibly expressed through their choice to drink Canadian Club whisky cocktails. In launching Damn Right, CC invited Beam Global employees to search through their photo albums to submit images that epitomize the campaign.

Eh. I’m not buying it.

The message I get from the attached ad? Your Mom likely wasn’t your Dad’s last either. <click on the picture to read the ad>

Some of the headlines created for the ads (seriously):

"Damn Right Your Dad Drank It"
"Your Dad Was Not a Metrosexual"
“Your Mom Wasn’t Your Dad’s First”
"Your Dad Never Got a Pedicure."

I always try to be helpful, so I thought I’d offer up some more "Dad was awesome" ideas for future ads:

For the "Dad was tougher than you" ad placement

  • Damn right your Dad never wore a seat-belt.
  • Your Dad was twice the man you’ll ever be.
  • When your Dad was your age a DUI was expected.

For the "Dad was a sex machine" ad placement

  • Your Dad didn’t use condoms when he was in Saigon.
  • Before Paternity Tests.
  • Damn right your Dad was getting more than you – DESPITE the leisure suit and side burns.
  • Ah, the days when STDs could be cured with penicillin.

For the "Things were just plain better back then" ad placement

  • When men were men and cars got 3 miles per gallon.
  • You Dad never picked up maxi-pads on his way back from picking the kids up from Soccer*
    • *And your Dad never picked the kids up from Soccer
  • Your Dad never had to cuddle.

For the "Misogynist" ad placement

  • Daddy only hit Mommy because he loved her.
  • Dad didn’t call it "Date Rape" it was just a "Date".

Ad sites like Adrants are loving the campaign:

Are we seeing a full-on return to the glory days of the hard liquor
cocktail when beer was for factory workers and wine was for sissies?
Can we now go back to the three martini lunch, pinch asses in the
afternoon and have three more martinis at night while watching Mad Men?  We might not get any work done but it sure sounds like fun.

Adrants also reports that the campaign was created by BBDO and ads will appear in Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, with additional placements in Playboy, Men’s Journal, Esquire, Outside and Men’s Fitness in December and into 2008.

Well it IS a different approach.

* Disclosure: I am a shareholder in Fortune Brands, parent company of Beam Global

Excerpt from "The Business of Spirits" – America’s Confusing Three-Tier System

For the longest time, I’ve been meaning to do a story on the
"3-Tier system" which affects the distribution of alcoholic beverages in
the United States – and is the very reason that some tadty beverages are not
available in your state – while they are available right across the
state boundary.

Luckily enough, I was just sent a review copy of a new book by Noah Rothbaum called The Business of Spirits.  The book is a great introduction to the byzantine world of Spirits and how they are marketed in the U.S.

In the book, Noah talks to a number of notable folks in the industry and includes backgrounds on many of the personalities and iconic products.

In the first chapter, Noah has an excellent overview of the origin
of our 3-tier system. This chapter immediately drew me in to the book. I thought: "Why not just get Noah to do an excerpt of the book for us?"

Below is the except from that first chapter of his book.

America’s Confusing Three-Tier System and the Legacy of Prohibition.

An excerpt from the new book The Business of Spirits by Noah Rothbaum

To get to the storeroom of New
York’s legendary ‘21’ Club, cross the dining room with its
constellation of corporate and sports memorabilia,  slip through the
bustling kitchen, and head down a flight of steep  stairs. There, in an
unremarkable brick-lined hallway, is a  pencil-sized hole. Insert an
18-inch piece of wire into it, and like  something out of an Indiana
Jones movie, a two-and-a-half-ton hidden  door swings open, revealing a
fine spirits and wine collection. This  hidden storeroom was built
during Prohibition and is actually below the  adjoining townhouse (19
West 52nd Street). It was constructed so the  owners could truthfully
say that there wasn’t any alcohol on the  premises if the restaurant
was raided.


But this quaint relic of Prohibition isn’t the only legacy of that
era,  which still haunts the United States. Almost 75 years after
Congress  overwhelmingly passed the 21st Amendment ending the 13-year
period of  Prohibition, the U.S. is still trying to figure out how to
regulate the  sale of alcohol. This is particularly troublesome given
the fact that  the spirits industry is now booming and sales are
increasing every year.


The problem stems from the fact that the 21st Amendment only repealed
the 18th Amendment; it didn’t spell out exactly how alcohol sales
would  be controlled. Congress left those decisions up to the
individual  states. As a result, the United States has an almost
incomprehensible  patchwork of alcohol-related laws that vary greatly
from state to state  and sometimes county to county. No two states have
exactly the same  laws regarding alcohol.

Continue Reading >>

For your Scotch Geek wish list

Things show up in my mailbox with increasing frequency; most of them are liquid – but more and more of it is printed material.

Like the 2008 "Malts of Scotland" Scotch Calendar.

Think of the calendar as a 12 month tasting notebook, as each month features a large shot of the featured bottle along with tasting notes, some information on the distillery, maps of the distillery and factoids. The pictures are large, clear and attractive. The layout is great and best of all it’s informative.

The calendar should make the whisky geek in your life (uh, I mean you) quite happy.Scotch_interior 

One thing you may notice – the products of one large whisky producer are conspicuously missing.  Let me guess – they wanted to charge a fee for the use of their products likenesses?


Another short sighted move from my favorite whipping boy. Rather than having a bottle of one or more of their tasty malts displayed for a month at a time all over the world, they’d rather make a quick buck. I wonder if they’ll start applying that same tactic for whisky guides?


Suggested retail is USD $12.99 (CDN $17.99; GBP £10.99) – though of course it’s available cheaper through Amazon: 2008 Scotch Calendar

Oh hold on a second, they sent 2 copies.

One of you lucky bastards gets one for free. What do you have to do? keeping with the calendar theme, be the first one to email me with MY (not your) birthday. Then you pay for shipping.

Let the googling begin.

UPDATE: PLEASE stop emailing my my birth date!

This calendar (like all TSB give-a-ways) was snatched up very soon after the story went live.

I don’t always get a chance to let you know that the give-a-ways are gone. But you can pretty much rest assured that withing 1-2 hours after a story goes live, you don’t have a chance!

The calendar went to Zachary V.

Ratings revisited and the horror of "Edvertising"

I hate ratings.

We’ll get to whisky in a bit, but first, take a walk with me into the strange and unbelievable world of wine critique.

The triumvirate of wine publications.

Wine Enthusiast, Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator. These magazines aren’t sold for their editorial content. They are sold on the numerous, abridged reviews they do each month, to people who are apparently incapable of making wine purchasing decisions on their own.

Taste, review; taste, review. They churn through wines (apparently by the case load) for each monthly issue – slapping each wine with a breviloquent single paragraph review and a rating . . . allegedly on a scale from 0 – 100.

Yes, the scale is 0 – 100, but apparently it’s ass water if it scores below 80, and "Wines receiving a rating below 80 are not reviewed".

I wonder – "why not?" Aren’t readers of these magazines just as interested in what NOT to buy as what to buy? I’d wager the answer to that question is "Yes".

So why wouldn’t a magazine that prides itself on being the final word in wine critique actually do some critiquing???

Could the impact of (potential) lost advertising sales be a factor in not mentioning the unmentionables? Of course it could.

Continue Reading >>

Keeping it in the family

After 40 years with the company and 14 years in the position, Ian Urquhart is stepping down as Managing Director of Gordon & MacPhail.

Ian will retain a part-time, Non-Executive Director role, with the company; and G&M will remain firmly in the capable hands of the Urquhart family with Ian’s brothers Michael & David Urquhart assuming joint Managing Director responsibilities.

The fourth generation of the family is also well-represented in the management structure with nephews Stephen Rankin and Neil Urquhart assuming additional responsibilities as Associate Directors within the
company. But It’s not all family at the helm – Associate Directors Ewen Mackintosh and
Derek Hancock will also take on more work. Ian Chapman steps up to Marketing Manager.

Commenting on the reorganization, Michael Urquhart, says:

We thank Ian for his hard work, commitment and service to Gordon & MacPhail over the last 40 years and we wish him all the very best in his retirement.

We started the preparations for this reorganisation over eighteen months ago by appointing four Associate Directors and investing in a comprehensive management training programme.  We have a strong team in place at Gordon & MacPhail as we look to the future and the challenges this will bring.  We remain committed to providing consumers around the world with the highest quality products and excellent customer service.

Exciting times for one of Scotland’s most respected independents. Gordon and MacPhail has over 110 years experience in maturing and
bottling single malt whiskies.

Since their founding in
1895, Elgin-based Gordon and MacPhail have purchased ‘new make’ whisky which they mature and
bottled themselves – as such G&M are able to offer the most extensive selection of single malts in the world. In addition G&M owns the Benromach Distillery in Forres. 

For more info on Benromach, read this past story.

Malt Whisky Yearbook 2008 arrives

Mwyb2008The Malt Whisky Yearbook arrived today. As attractive as ever and even more indispensable.


They also had some nice things to say about The Scotch Blog:

This is, in our opinion, the best whisky blog at the moment.

More and more people apparently agree with us as discussions begun here often continue in other Internet fora.

The Scotch Blog features on-line news and commentaries about the Scotch whisky Industry.

The author is New Yorker* Kevin Erskine, one of the more outspoken
whisky personalities. He does not shun challenging myths and holy cows
within the industry and many of his postings leave plenty of food for

Geez, guys. I’m blushing.

Other sites run by contributors to TSB that get the thumbs up are Nonjatta and Dr. Whisky as well as perennial fan favorites like WhiskyCast, Malt Madness and Serge’s Whisky Fun.

Also still waiting to hear from you Americans to gauge interest about carrying the 2008 MWYB, like I did last year. They sold out quickly.

*Technically I am NOT a New Yorker – while I did grow up (birth – 21) in the city-so-nice-they-named-it-twice, I now reside elsewhere. But once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker.

Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey

This past March at Binny’s Whiskies of the World expo (Chicago), I had the opportunity to meet Jess Graber, the man behind Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey and sample his wares.

I also had the opportunity to chat briefly with him the next night at the Chicago Whisky Fest. But it wasn’t until very recently that I had a chance to sit down with Jess without people jamming a glass in his face.

There’s a growing number of non-bourbon, non-rye American whiskies hitting the shelves. Yep. Single malt American is becoming a category – but Jess disdains the term "Single Malt Whisky" (even though that is exactly what his product is) and instead prefers the simple moniker of Colorado Whisky.

Stranahan’s exudes an elegant ruggedness (or a rugged elegance, if you prefer), much like the state in which it is produced. If you’ve spent any time in Colorado, this statement will make sense. The people of Colorado revel in the fact that they are surrounded by some of the most incredible natural beauty in the world. Yet Colorado also provides some of the most genteel and sophisticated amenities you’ll find anywhere.

The Package

That elegance starts with the packaging. According to Jess, "The bottle says ‘Colorado’", and you can see what he means. The labeling is minimalist, allowing the whiskey to speak for itself; the bottle ia tall and slender while the neck and mouth are crowned by a tall metal cap. That cap is more than mere decoration – it’s meant to replicate the look of a frontier closure – but it also serves a more mundane, and useful purpose – it conveniently doubles as a 3 ounce tasting cup. Coloradans spend a lot of time outdoors and by providing the tasting cup, Jess effectively turns the bottle into a flask.

Continue Reading >>

Pittsburgh Whiskey Festival

The growth in popularity of "Brown Spirits" can be best evidenced in the growing number of "festivals" to celebrate their consumption.

Like this new one for the fine people of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Please note that this event is NOT associated with the Malt Advocate "Whisky Fest" events)

Pittsburgh Whiskey Festival

Inaugural Festival Offers World-Renowned Whiskies and Premium Spirits

The spirit of the American Whiskey Trail
continues with the 2007 Pittsburgh Whiskey Festival, Pittsburgh¹s first
large-scale whiskey and premium spirits
tasting event, to take place Friday evening, November 2, 2007 from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. in the West Club Lounge at Heinz Field.

The 2007 Pittsburgh Whiskey Festival will attract and engage both "whiskey" and "whisky" enthusiasts alike.  The fest will feature more than 60 premier distilled spirits producers and will present a wide variety of the finest Scottish, American, Canadian and Irish whiskies, including single malts and bourbons.  Premium tequila, rum, gin, vodka and cognac will also be presented for tasting. The fest, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, will include a buffet and a silent auction.

Continue Reading >>