Let’s Get Personal

As we move deeper into the new year, I’d like to take a break and talk about The Scotch Blog, as well as set some misconceptons straight.

One of the biggest assumptions is that I am “in the industry.”

If by that you mean involved in the production and/or distribution of Scotch, then no, I am not “in the industry”. Nor am I “in the industry” if you mean I get paid (by a magazine or publisher) to write about Scotch (like a Dave Broom or a Jim Murray).

No, I do this on my own.

Why? Good question. Not sure I fully know – but a big part is that I noticed what I see as a gaping hole in the information available online regarding the business of whisky.

Now, don’t get me wrong, you can get a lot of good (often great) information from Malt Advocate or Whisky Magazine – but for the most part, the information you can get on the Internet is either personal tasting notes or simply a regurgitation of Press Releases – with no analytical thought.

Maybe because I’m a business guy [I have an MBA in Management and a Masters of Science in Marketing, and I spent a number of years as a management consultant], I tend to view things from a very business-oriented perspective.

And the Scotch whisky industry is absolutely fascinating to me. The partnerships; distribution agreements; multinationals; “Mom & Pop” set-ups; misunderstood business connections; convoluted ownership and marketing arrangements. Yet, for all the diversity, it is a very close-knit community. Fascinating.

Some people in the industry may look at me as an annoying fly; some look at me an opportunity to promote their stuff; some look at me and say “I wish we could say that”; some look at me and say “He says what we say”; some probably don’t even know that I exist. Sie La Vie.

But at the core, The Scotch Blog exists simply to promote Scotch; to hopefully demystify
the Scotch Whisky industry, and perhaps, more importantly, to demystify Scotch itself – take
the bluster out of it – and promote it to a new generation of drinker.

And yes, you may see more stories about some companies than others, but that is mostly due to those companies keeping me in the loop – making themselves accessible to me, (and, in turn, to you). These companies appear to share my core goals. But I continue to invite any and all companies involved in the production and distribution of Scotch to view The Scotch Blog as a way to reach out directly to Scoth drinkers like you and me. Some take me up on that, and some don’t. I don’t take it personally.

As you may know, I don’t rate whisky – and only rarely do I present tasting notes – and I don’t (at least in this forum) talk about a whisky that I do not like. Instead, I talk about what’s going on in the industry, and I talk about whiskies that I personally like – and no, those two are not always mutually exclusive.

The way I look at it, there are innumerable sites, and multiple books, where you can get opinions on taste – I just personally don’t believe that a numeric scale (or any other scale for that matter) can truly represent what a whisky has to offer. On the flip side, when I try something new, I do refer to MJ & JM to see what they think. I am after all, like you, a fan of whisky.

And like you, I like things that others don’t – and others like things that I don’t – so I never want the discussion to degrade into an argument based on disagreements in preferences. To be illustrative – I abhor orange vegetables – so carrots would rate pretty low were this The Veggie Blog – if you, on the other hand are a lover of Yams, you would think I was an unsophisticated lout who doesn’t understand the nuances of this wonderful tuber. To each his own.

I make no money doing this – just the opposite – I spend a lot. Traveling to shows (which are always in expensive places like New York, Chicago & San Francisco) costs a lot.

Postage costs a lot. For example, last month I sent out 10 sets of Whisky & Scotland Magazines; yes, Paragraph was kind enough to provide those magazines – and sent them to me on their dime – but it cost me $40 to send them out to the lucky winners. That’s $40 that could have been spent on a nice bottle for myself.

I also want to point out that I can and do separate the companies from the products. I may not like some of the tactics that Diageo practices, but Talisker, Oban and Lagavulin are among my favorites -  and I’m happy to discuss those products based solely on their merits – all the while bashing Diageo for inane marketing tactics. I’m happy to talk about what new thing Dalmore is releasing (because the ambassador might keep me in the loop), while Whyte and Mackay steadfastly refuses my requests for info. That’s the nature of this thing. Not everyone likes what I write.

Like many other industries, there are craftspeople who strive to make the best possible product and promote it; and there are bean-counters who want to meet the quarterly expectations and shave costs. I want to expose you to both sides of this equation.

The Scotch Blog exists as a forum to present educational information
about the production, history and future of Scotch as well as my special brand of “provocative business
commentary” – and to elicit your thoughts.

I hope you enjoy The Scotch Blog, and I hope you continue to enjoy it. Thanks for reading!

One last thing
I wish I had chosen a different name for this little endeavor – “Blog” has such silly connotations now – of people who rant and rave about what underwear they plan to wear; what they’ve had for breakfast, and about the random sexual encouters they have. But the bottom line is that the technology is well-suited to to how I write – and the T-shirts have been printed. So for now, it will continue to be The Scotch Blog.

Glendronach plans for the future.

GLENDRONACH DISTILLERY DEFIES DOWNTURN WITH £250,000 DEVELOPMENT

Work starts today (Monday December 29, 2008) on a £250,000 development of the GlenDronach malt whisky brand.

The Aberdeenshire distillery, one of Scotland’s oldest, was bought earlier this year by the Larbert-based BenRiach Distillery Company.

BenRiach Managing Director Billy Walker:

“This is the beginning of our strategy to re-package and re-launch GlenDronach in markets worldwide. We will take Glendronach back to how it was originally, promoting it as one of Scotland’s original sherried whiskies.”

Mr Walker and his colleagues purchased GlenDronach from Chivas Brothers, the Scotch whisky business of Pernod Ricard.

Regional Sales Director James Cowan:

“GlenDronach is a bit of a sleeping giant and was not part of Chivas’s expansion plans, But we have great plans for it in our markets in the UK, Germany, USA, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Italy, Switzerland, France, Canada, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and China, amongst others.

“We’re looking forward to breathing new life into it and giving it the attention and commitment it deserves.”

Industry veteran and Master Blender Mr Walker revealed that GlenDronach will release a new core range in March 2009 which will comprise twelve, fifteen and eighteen-year-old malts. It will also release a non-aged product, single cask bottlings and some incredibly rare vintage malts.

Marketing Executive Kerry White:

“Tradition will play a significant role in the new branding. The current packaging, design and logo have been retained but are being enhanced with a few changes. A new proprietary bottle will also be incorporated later in 2009.”

But a major part of the quarter million investment is the development of a new Visitor Centre at the distillery.

Alan McConnochie, GlenDronach’s Distillery Manager:

“We aim to create an educational and vibrant visitor attraction where both connoisseurs and those new to whisky can learn more about GlenDronach and engage more fully with the brand.

As part of the development, we will also be hosting corporate evenings at which guests can stay overnight at Glen House, the distillery’s country house. The package will include an evening’s stay, a special tour and master class tasting and fine dining.”

The investment also includes a brand-new website where customers worldwide can use it as a first port of call to find out more about GlenDronach and the maturation techniques that make it so special.

“GlenDronach” is Gaelic for “the valley of the brambles” and takes its name from the Dronach Burn which winds its way through the grounds of the distillery. Founded at Forgue, Aberdeenshire, in 1826 by James Allardice, one of the original whisky entrepreneurs, GlenDronach Distillery produces a series of single malt whiskies ranging in age from twelve to thirty-three years old and currently has the capacity to produce almost one and a half million litres of whisky a year.

File under: Believe it when you see it

According to a story in The Shetland Times “PLANS for a whisky distillery on Shetland are still on track, according to the woman behind the venture.”

Speaking yesterday from the mainland, Caroline Whitfield said that the old company Blackwood Distillers was being wound up after the investors had transferred their shares into a new business Catfirth Ltd.

Later in that story…

However the reorganisation means that the idea of a Shetland distillery is back on track, she said, while refusing to give any indication of when the first sod might be dug on site.

Anyone holding their breath?
Read the story here

Merry Christmas! Coming soon…The 3rd Annual Drammies.

Last minute surgery put a premature end to 2008′s 12 days of Scotchmas – As well as some other things in the works. But it allowed us some time to get geared up for the 2008 Drammies.

Thanks to all the well-wishers during my recovery.
And look out for the Drammie categories, and call for nominees soon.

12 Days of Scotchmas – Michael Collins Golf Set

Michael Collins ultra-premium Irish whiskey is offered this holiday season in a high-value golf gift set. The set includes a 750ml bottle of Michael Collins Blended Irish Whiskey, a gorgeous stainless steel Michael Collins flask, and a genuine leather flask holder that is perfect for golfers. The handsome leather holder includes four golf tees, two ball markers and a divot repair tool. Delicious Michael Collins cocktail recipes are printed on the back of the box.

Michael Collins Irish Whiskey is made at the award-winning, only independent Irish-owned distillery in Ireland. Michael Collins Blended Irish Whiskey has an aroma of honey, citrus, and malt notes, and a taste that is clean and sweet with a fresh oak finish. The whiskeys are aged for a minimum of four to over twelve years in small bourbon seasoned casks to ensure a rich, smooth taste.

Named for the legendary Irish hero, Michael Collins is affectionately known as “The Big Fellow”. Collins was the spearhead of Ireland’s struggle for independence and the architect of the Treaty of 1921, from which modern Ireland emerged. The elegant bottle for Michael Collins Whiskey is inspired by the crystal of Ireland. The signature on the neck of the bottle is a replica of Collins’ signature on the actual Treaty of 1921, which he signed with his Irish name.

Michael Collins Irish Whiskey and gift sets are available throughout the United States at local retailer stores. Suggested retail price is $27-$29.

12 Days of Scotchmas – Distillery eCards

Visitors to Diageo’s Single Malt Scotch Whisky website Malts.com have been given a chance to bring delight to Scots and whisky-lovers around the world – and save expensive postage – by emailing images of newly-commissioned distillery paintings by Scottish artists to their friends this Christmas and New Year.

As a seasonal gift to Friends of the Classic Malts™ (FoCM), Diageo commissioned a series of original paintings of 13 of their most famous Scotch Whisky distilleries. The paintings, each by a different contemporary Scottish artist, have been converted into festive eCards, all displayed on the website. Membership of FoCM is free but you don’t have to join to enjoy and send the eCards; and visitors can send as many as they like.

As a further bonus, the art can also be downloaded as a screensaver that offers a dynamic slideshow of all the art works, and a number of desktop wallpapers that can be used to brighten up any computer.
The intention was to select artists living and working throughout Scotland and who also feel genuine empathy with the countryside surrounding the distilleries and who would create art evocative of The Classic Malts™ and the landscapes in which the distilleries are set.

The distilleries featured are: Speyside – Cardhu, Cragganmore, Glen Elgin and Knockando; Highland – Clynelish, Dalwhinnie, Glen Ord and Royal Lochnagar; West Coast – Oban; Lowland – Glenkinchie; Islands – Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Talisker.

All 13 distillery pictures are available as wallpapers and screensavers, but only 6 as eCards. The 6 available as eCards are: Caol Ila, Dalwhinnie, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin, Oban and Talisker.

The 13 Scottish artists were chosen through the Scottish Art Circle. With their guidance, a long list of artists was drawn up, from which a shortlist was developed, based on the suitability of artists’ work for each of the thirteen Whiskies and Distilleries. Approaches were then made directly to the artists, with the blessing of the SAC. Artist support for the project was overwhelming and the company was quickly able to successfully pair artist and distillery.

The result is a remarkable variety of original pieces, each reflective of the character of the relevant Distillery and, in some cases, the flavour of the Whisky as well.

12 days of Scotchmas – Scotch Whisky Experience

GET PERSONAL AT THE SCOTCH WHISKY EXPERIENCE’S ONLINE SHOP
The Scotch Whisky Experience, the five-star visitor attraction located in the heart of Edinburgh, has launched a unique personal shopping service as part of its new online shop www.scotchwhiskyshop.co.uk. The complimentary service, which is the first of its kind in the industry, will enable whisky novices to select the perfect malt blend or liqueur through expert advice on an extensive range of Scotch whisky.

Julie Trevisan-Hunter, Marketing Manager of The Scotch Whisky Experience, said:

“We are extremely excited about this new facility, which we hope will broaden the appeal of Scotch whisky as a whole. Our shop contains over 300 varieties of whisky, which can make choosing one a daunting task. Through providing expert advice we can tailor products to individuals whether they are buying for themselves or for other people.”

The online shop, which already receives a high volume of orders from throughout the UK, features regional malts, rare blends, whisky liqueurs and miniature gift sets. Mirroring the popular visitor attraction, which gives a unique insight into Scotch whisky past and present, the shop includes an informative history on Scotland’s whisky industry and the production process, as well as whisky cocktail recipes and tasting notes on selected bottles to help purchasers.

The Scotch Whisky Experience is one of Scotland’s most popular visitor attractions. The tour includes an informative film introducing the making of Scotch Whisky followed by a whisky nosing and guided tasting as well as a barrel ride through 300 years of whisky history. Situated at the top of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile the attraction also has an award-winning fine dining restaurant, Amber, as well as corporate and meeting facilities.

12 days of Scotchmas – Emergency Dram

Looking for a stocking filler with a difference this Christmas?

Spencerfield Spirit has linked up with JamieOliver.com to create an emergency whisky gift box with its iconic Sheep Dip and Pig’s Nose whisky.

Whatever the emergency, these fine quality vatted malt and blended whiskies will provide welcome relief, and a fast solution to your Christmas shopping dilemma!

The emergency whisky gift box costs £15.00 and is available to buy online at jamieoliver.com.

Behind Bars

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I haven’t been too active here and apologize for it.

I’ve been spending much of my time working with liquor companies, helping them in the marketplace.
Have also been doing some print work – and getting Behind Bars, a more general topic site – also a companion to my print work – up and running.

I can’t promise that I will ever get back to the frequency of posts that I have historically made here on the Scotch Blog, but all I can do is give you your subscription fees back :).

Please bear with me; Check out behind Bars; and visit all the other excellent Whisk(e)y related sites out there.

Scotland's Tallest Still to be installed

Another in a line of random and infrequent posts…

Scotland’s tallest whisky still will be winched in to place at The Glenmorangie Company’s famous distillery in Tain, Ross-shire, tomorrow (Thursday 11 December).

The five-metre-tall, swan-necked copper still is the last of four new stills being installed at the Glenmorangie Distillery.

The Glenmorangie Company recently announced a new strategy to focus on building its highly successful, iconic premium single malt Scotch whisky brands – Glenmorangie and Ardbeg. This strategy is in response to rapidly growing demand for these brands. 

The strategy is part of a major £45m two-year investment programme that will see the Company relocate its headquarters to central Edinburgh, build a new bespoke bottling facility and expand capacity at Glenmorangie and Ardbeg Distilleries.