Scotch as Investment

Today’s story comes from a today’s – The Toronto Globe & Mail.

They were doing a story on the new Glenfiddich 50 year old, currently selling for $16,000 a bottle, apparently William Grant is taking a different approach and not marketing this to the whisky drinker or even the whisky collector – but instead to the investor.

I was asked my opinion for attribution I told him that I feel now the same way that I did back in December of 2005 “World’s Most Expensive Scotch” when I said:

While I understand that positive exposure and free press are a great thing, in this context, and in my estimation, it simply reinforces the widely held misconception that Scotch is for silly old rich men, Dot Com millionaires or Traders with expense accounts.

I wonder if there is a correlation between the release of the “most expensive” stories and a noticeable increase in sales? I also wonder if such stories have the effect of solidifying any “for the old & stodgy” perception that Scotch may have amongst the general public.

All in all, I would really like to know if these stories are a net positive or a net negative. Both for the companies mentioned as well as the sector as a whole.

I’m guessing that the short term bump in brand recognition is not worth the long term effect. But I’ve certainly been wrong before. So lucky for me (and for you) I have access to people in the industry who can and will share their viewpoint with us…

I finished up that story with the opinions of a view industry friends and they are still interesting reading.

From the Globe & Mail story:

An acquired taste, smooth returns
Makers of Glenfiddich release 50-year-old single malt that will sell for $16,000 a bottle – though it could be worth more in a few years on the ‘whisky market’

From the story:

“Like any investment, it’s only worth something if someone else wants to buy it at a later time,” said Kevin Erskine, a Virginia-based author who runs The Scotch Blog and has written a book about single malt Scotch. “And whisky drinkers aren’t usually investors. They’d buy it to drink it. So it goes back to these generally being publicity stunts. And you’ll see the distilleries argue over who has the most expensive bottle, like it’s some point of honour.”

I was immediately proven correct by this Twitter and Blog Post from Whyte & Mackay’s Richard Paterson (@the_nose):

“You call that an expensive whisky? I’ll give you an expensive whisky… http://bit.ly/ivfCO

Read the Full Globe & Mail story here

It’s got to stop

The always outspoken Mark Reynier turns his ire towards the plethora of Spirits awards…

These events, masquerading as consumer advice, are an out and out revenue earner for the associated magazine behind the event. With each entry being between £100 and £250, the bigger companies flood the entries with a pallet loads of samples to ensure winning something.

And Mark doesn’t stop there.

Competitions and festivals are sprouting up everywhere – they are big money – and sums that are eagerly paid by a crazed industry addicted to squandering vast amounts for more worthless medals than an African despot.

Funny. And becoming sadly true.

I think the most prestigious awards have got to be the ones handed out by the Malt Maniacs – though the Maniacs do gravitate toward more esoteric tastes – or our own Drammies…which have become the “People’s Choice awards” for the Whisky world – yet neither awards get played up as much when a single “expert” declares his favourite – usually, I think, directly associated with advertising dollars.

Eh. It is what it is.

Read the rest of Mark’s rant at the Bruichladdich Blog.

New Whisky Event in London

The Whisky Exchange is launching a new Whisky Tasting Event this Fall. Best of all? No vouchers.

“Focusing on premium bottlings above each brand’s standard expression (longer-aged whisky and/or special bottlings), The Whisky Show will offer a fantastic opportunity to both the knowledgeable connoisseur and the passionate whisky fan wanting to learn more. With only limited spaces available for each day, tickets for this boutique event are sure to be in high demand.”

Standard tickets for The Whisky Show are priced at £100.

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Macallan 1824 Collection for GTR

Four Distinct Macallan Experiences Distilled Into Singular Collection Crafted Exclusively for World Travelers

The Macallan® announces the launch of The 1824 Collection, a new family of single malts developed exclusively for the Global Travel Retail market. The Macallan 1824 Collection includes four distinct expressions; each one, created by the Master Whisky Makers, illustrates a story central to the distillery’s long and distinguished history and showcases the spectrum of flavours and aromas associated with The Macallan—the world’s most precious whisky.

The four expressions of the The Macallan 1824 Collection – Select Oak, Whisky Maker’s Edition, Estate Reserve and 1824 Limited Release were created by John Ramsay, Master Blender Emeritus for parent company The Edrington Group, and Bob Dalgarno, The Macallan’s Whisky Maker; who between them have over 50 years of experience of making whisky. In order to achieve the fullest and most complex whisky for each expression, The Whisky Makers select the best casks at the peak of their maturity for inclusion into the collection. Named for the year in which the distillery was founded, The Macallan 1824 Collection offers global travelers a new way to experience The Macallan.

Already, Whisky experts have given the collection a warm reception to the collection awarding each of the four expressions high marks and praise. Whisky Expert and author of “The Whisky Bible,” Jim Murray scored Select Oak 94.5% and the 1824 Limited Release Decanter 97.5%, describing it as “a lifetime great whisky.” Whisky expert F. Paul Pacult similarly praised the 1824 Limited Release Decanter, describing it as a, “A perfect malt whisky and a benign force of nature.” John Hansell, Publisher & Editor of Malt Advocate Magazine, also rated the whiskies highly, awarding the 1824 Limited Release Decanter a 94 and the Estate Reserve a 95, calling it “My pick of the lot.”

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Great Malt Whisky Race

WHAT: An open forum examining the history of the globalisation of malt Scotch whisky and other world whiskies/whiskeys, and a debate around the future flavours of Scotland’s finest.

WHY: This year is the 100th anniversary since Scotch whisky was first defined in UK law and much has changed since 1963, when William Grant’s descendents took the brave decision to repackage Glenfiddich and market it around the world – a step recognised as having started the worldwide popularity of single malt Scotch whisky.

Today, malt distilleries are now found all across the globe as entrepreneurs capitalise on discerning drinkers’ demands for the ultimate ‘water of life’.

To complement its support of the Scottish Diaspora Forum at the Scottish Parliament (www.scottishdiasporaforum.org), Glenfiddich is hosting an open forum examining the history of single malt Scotch whisky’s popularity abroad and how new malt whisky producing nations have been inspired by one of Scotland’s greatest gifts to the world.

While the Scotch whisky industry is governed by strict laws to ensure the integrity of Scotland’s national drink remains intact, many other malt whisky producing nations don’t have the same heritage to protect and so more relaxed legislation allows them innovate further.

As such, the evening’s talks will look at the benefits the single malt Scotch whisky industry enjoys from its protection, the innovations taking place beyond Scotland and debate what we can learn from them for the future development of our own industry’s flavours. The evening is for whisky novices as well as enthusiasts.

WHO: Panel members include: Whisky Magazine Japan editor, Dave Broom; SWA’s Campbell Evans; Glenfiddich’s Ian Millar and is chaired by Whisky Shop’s Ian Bankier.

WHERE: The Raeburn Room, Old College
University of Edinburgh
South Bridge
Edinburgh
EH8 9YL

WHEN: Friday 24th July
5.00pm Registration
7.15pm Ends

HOW: Free, although places are limited. Reservations in advance through www.glenfiddich.co.uk


Picture: Pioneers of world malt whisky – Glenfiddich; its founder, William Grant; forefather of Japanese whisky, Masataka Taketsuru; ‘godfather’ of Australian whisky, Bill Lark – illuminate Edinburgh’s Salisbury Crag.

Kilchoman to Release Whisky in September

Back in January 2007 I wrote a story about my visit to Kilchoman (the visit had actually happened in September of 2006).

At that time I wrote:

When can I buy it?
While you cannot yet purchase Kilchoman whisky (and won’t be able to until 2009 when approximately 3,000 bottles will be offered) you can purchase (in the gift shop) miniature bottles of Kilchoman new make spirit.

I tried the undiluted 50 ppm new make (around 68% abv) and found it to be quite good – very clean and crisp, sweet but with very strong peat and smoke.

Like so many other new distilleries, Kilchoman plans to do releases
every year starting with the three-year old in 2009 and continuing with yearly releases until the whisky reaches 10 years. They also plan to hold back stock for very limited older bottlings.

Well, guess what? It’s 2009 and Kilchoman is finally ready to release their whisky… But they are waiting until the (possibly significant) 9th of September (09-09-09, get it?)

Back when I tried the new make spirit, I found it to be one of the most pleasant NMS I had ever tried. I have no doubt the final product will be a great addition to the tradition of interesting and varied Islay whiskies.

Kilchoman Distillery, the first built on Islay for nearly 100 years, will release its eagerly anticipated inaugural single malt whisky on the 9th September 2009. Initially bottles will be allocated to 14 key malt markets worldwide as well being available from the distillery shop and via the on-line shop.

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Famous Grouse Master Blender retires after 40 years.

The Famous Grouse recipe to be passed on to the next generation

John Ramsay, Master Blender for The Edrington Group has announced that he will be retiring from his position on 31 July 2009. Following a two and half year handover, Gordon Motion, will take over as the company’s new Master Blender.

The position of Master Blender is unquestionably one of the most important and complex roles held in the whisky industry, highlighted by the fact that only six such positions exist across all of the major Scottish distillers.

Master blenders are most well-known for their unique skill in the fine art of nosing whisky. In any one day John can nose up to 600 samples to check their quality and consistency. This requires a very acute sense of smell, and means that the Master Blender has to make some personal sacrifices – namely not wearing aftershave or eating garlic as they impair the senses and taking every measure possible not to get a cold!

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Glenglassaugh Octave Cask Offer

Glenglassaugh Distillery started producing spirit again on the 4th December 2008 after a silent period which lasted for 22 years, a change of owners and major refurbishment of the buildings and equipment.

We have now started selling aged exclusive whiskies which we have bottled from the remaining stock, which was purchased at the same time as the distillery and we are bottling 2 new Spirit Drink products.

We have also started selling octave casks filled with our new make spirit which will be stored in our warehouse for a minimum of three years after which time the spirit can be called single malt scotch whisky and can be bottled.

These octaves will yield around 60 bottles in 5 years time.
We would chose your cask and inscribe it with your company name or anything else that you wished, you could come and visit it during its maturation and also bring guests. We will provide you with samples from your cask on an annual basis so that you can monitor it’s maturation. We will help you to chose the right time to empty your cask and to bottle the whisky, which we can do at the distillery. We will also help you to design the label which will be unique to you and personalised as you wish.

The cost to purchase one of our octave casks is £500.00, which excludes the duty and bottling both of which will be due after the bottling has been finished and you are ready take your bottles away. If you wish any more information on this opportunity then please contact me by email (casks@glenglassaugh.com) or at the distillery.

Jura Taste Challenge

Another marketing stunt. But a fun one:


Two of the world’s greatest drinks experts are set to meet face to face in a showdown designed to answer the age-old question: how should you take your whisky?

The issue of whether you should drink quality Scots whisky on its own, on the rocks or with a splash of water has divided drinkers the world over for generations.

A question that has sparked countless debates, split friends and divided families, this centuries-old conundrum is finally set to be answered in a showdown organised by the makers of Jura single malt whisky
In an attempt to settle the issue once and for all, Jura is to host an exclusive online video debate between Richard Paterson – master blender at the Isle of Jura distillery and widely recognised as the world’s best whisky blender – and Colin Field, who as head barman at the Ritz Paris is arguably the best cocktail mixer in the world.

Representing polar opposites in the argument over how good Scots malt should be enjoyed, the two men are primed and ready for what looks set to become an historic battle.

“This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. For years I’ve been forced to stand by and watch as barroom dandies sully the world’s greatest drink with a range of inappropriate mixers and sacrilegious frills, but enough is enough. Whisky is something that should be appreciated in the pure, God-given form that its distillers intended, and now I’m going to prove that once and for all,” said Paterson who believes you should not even mix the golden liquid with ice.

Field on the other hand thinks anything goes as long as it’s a quality experience. “Single malt is a drink for anybody, anywhere, anyhow. The purists can complain about it as much as they like, but with the right mixers and a splash of imagination, it can be conjured into a world-beating taste experience that will knock the spots off anything the whisky snobs might offer,” said The Ritz barman.

“Their time is over, and I’m going to show the world how a new generation of drinkers takes theirs.”

Scheduled to be broadcast online at 7pm (ed: I am assuming GMT) on Thursday, July 16th, the showdown will see Paterson and Field go head to head in a fierce struggle already being billed as the whisky world’s answer to Ali V Foreman. Set against the backdrop of Jura’s spectacular island scenery, each will be forced to summon every last drop of their considerable expertise if they hope to carry the day.

To see what promises to be a feisty broadcast please visit the Jura website on www.isleofjura.com on Thursday this week.

Watch the YouTube trailer.

Production over 25 years has been flat

According to a letter published today in The Herald the production of LPA (litres pure alcohol) of Scotch Whisky has not changed much over the past 25 years.

a total growth of 1.14% over the 25-year span, equivalent to an annual growth in physical volumes of 0.145%.

At least that’s what Donald Blair contends in a report published in September last year entitled The Global Scotch Whisky Industry: Hit or Myth – a 25-year study

I used independent research commissioned and published by the Scotch Whisky Association to estimate that, had the Scotch whisky industry matched general global economic growth during the 25-year period studied (conservatively estimated at around 1.5% a year in real terms by some researchers), there would have been around 16,700 new jobs necessarily created in Scotland to meet the increased global demand for Scotch. The jobs foregone through the industry’s minuscule growth in the past 25 years thus put Diageo’s potential 900 job losses in the shade.