gavin smith

 home    about    forum    tasted    features    whisky A-Z    directory    books    links    sign-up    beer    wine

    stories news


Whisky News, January 2011

by Gavin D Smith

Brown Down

bottles A recent report by market information provider Key Note confirms what most Scotch whisky distillers already knew only too well - the UK's love affair with vodka has become more intense during the last few years, at the expense of Scotland's national drink. Key Note's research reveals that between 2005 and 2009 the Scotch whisky sector fell by 23.3 per cent, now accounting for just 24.3 per cent of the market, as opposed to 31 per cent in 2005. Conversely, vodka sales increased by 16.8 per cent over the same period, and currently account for 32.4 per cent of the overall UK spirits and liqueurs sector. According to the report, "The last decade has seen demographics in the UK dictate the market, with divisions in the spirits and liqueurs market having formed corresponding to consumer age. Growth in sales of white spirits and particularly of vodka has been maintained by younger consumers, who have enjoyed the versatility of the spirit. "In contrast, the dark spirit industry has reported a gradual decrease in the past few years. The Scotch industry, especially, has experienced a steady decline for some time, although, since the recession was announced in the UK in 2008, conditions have worsened." However, Key Note considers that there is significant potential in the 'own-brand' spirits division, which has seen some growth in recent years. The report adds that "If the economic instability continues, further growth could be seen as price-conscious consumers will tend to opt for cheaper own-brand spirits over the higher end branded products."

Jameson Jumps

Jameson Meanwhile, the world's best-selling Irish whiskey ended the old year on a high note, with the announcement that Jameson's had recorded annual sales to the end of October totaling three million nine-litre cases. A third of that total came courtesy of the USA, which saw remarkable growth of 24 per cent. Overall, Pernod Ricard-owned Jameson volumes grew by nine per cent over the period, with value increasing by 12 per cent. Important markets such as Russia, South Africa and France all saw significant growth. Alex Ricard, CEO, Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard, says that "We are delighted with the progress of Jameson globally. Almost 230 years since the Jameson distillery was founded, this is a huge achievement for the brand, one I am sure John Jameson would have been proud of. As well as our increasingly valuable consumer connection, it is the passion of the people behind the Jameson brand that is one of the greatest reasons for our success. Combine this with the global reach of Pernod Ricard and you have a recipe for global success."

Skye High

horses Isle of Skye 8 Years Old Blended Scotch Whisky is the official whisky sponsor of Scottish Racing, the promotional body for the 'sport of kings' at the five racecourses north of the Border. Isle of Skye is also the sponsor of Scotland's leading National Hunt racehorse trainer, Lucinda Russell and her team at Arlary House Stables, situated between Edinburgh and Perth. Now, brand owner Ian Macleod Distillers Ltd has launched a competition offering the winner a VIP experience at Musselburgh Race Course on 16th February, including a three course lunch in The Bistro, with an overnight stay at the four-star Apex Hotel in Edinburgh's city centre. The winner will also receive a limited edition, hand numbered, porcelain decanter of 21 Year Old Isle of Skye Blended Scotch Whisky, worth over 200. Closing date for the competition is Monday 17 January, and details can be found at Iain Weir, Marketing Director for Ian Macleod Distillers, declares that "Isle of Skye's Scottish Racing sponsorship was a fantastic success in 2010. Our high profile at events such as September's William Hill Ayr Gold Cup, has really helped raise awareness of the brand to a key market. Feedback from our sampling and promotion teams over recent months has been extremely positive, reaffirming why Isle of Skye and Scottish Racing share a natural affinity and customer base. I look forward to continuing the partnership in 2011."

Macallan Masters

master package Still on the subject of whisky-related competitions, the first Macallan Masterclass photography competition has been launched, inspired by the release of the Macallan Masters of Photography Albert Watson Edition. The competition invites the public to upload their finest photographs celebrating the theme of 'great journeys.' According to a spokesperson for the Speyside single malt brand, "It could be from travels or a special moment showing a passage of time from one stage to another." The top ten photographs, as voted for by the public, will then be judged by Albert Watson, winner of the prestigious Royal Photographic Society's 2010 Centenary Medal, who will choose a first, second, third and a highly commended entry. Prizes include the 'ultimate trip' of Scotland, Nikon digital camera equipment and a 12 month subscription to Digital Camera magazine. Entry to the competition and voting at, and the closing date is 29th April. Edinburgh-born photographer Albert Watson unveiled his latest works of art undertaken in partnership with The Macallan towards the end of 1010. Interpreting the story of The Macallan's oak casks, Watson visually documented his journey which began in the forests of Spain and ended at The Macallan distillery. The company spokesperson explains that "To create his black and white photographic series, Watson embarked upon a journey of 12 days, covering 600 miles, and encountered some of the most breathtaking scenery. From the entrancing forests of Northern Spain, where the mighty Spanish oaks grow, to the traditional cooperage in Jerez, Watson began a journey of discovery, culminating in the alchemy and passion of The Macallan distillery in Scotland. The photographic odyssey took place in three parts, the romantic tale of a couple's road trip, a series of images expanding on this particular journey and, finally, the creation of fine art platinum prints. "The outcome is a stunning anthology which captures the genuine emotional connection between the photographer and his subjects: the striking landscapes, beautiful settings and the spectacular weather patterns. Watson's photographic prints exude an air of drama and romance, trailing a stylish couple taking a voyage to unearth the key secret behind The Macallan. These are coupled with intimate shots of the time-served master craftsmen of the cooperage and dramatic stills of the surrounding wilderness." The Macallan Masters of Photography Albert Watson Edition is a limited collection of 1,000 unique 20-year-old Macallan Sherry Oak bottles, each with a specially commissioned label by Watson and a set of 10 portfolio prints unique to this edition. They retail for 700 per bottle. A further 36 individually customised bottles of The Macallan 1946 whisky, the date Watson first met his wife Elizabeth, with a signed, one-off collectible platinum print can also be purchased, once they have completed their world exhibition tour, with a reserve price of 10,000. See for further details.

Slow Whisky

christmas cask Glengoyne has announced the launch of what it terms its slowest ever bottling. A spokesperson for the Stirlingshire distillery declares that "Taking over four years to complete, this is a world's first small batch release from a single cask, creating a live experiment which whisky enthusiasts can take part in." The Glengoyne Christmas Cask will be released each Christmas until 2014, with just 100 bottles being made available at a time, exclusively available to buy in person from the distillery shop. "This highly innovative, first of a kind bottling will allow single cask lovers to trace the flavour evolution in this remarkable, yet typical, Glengoyne cask over its next four years of maturation," says the Glengoyne spokesperson. The bottlings come from cask 790, a first-fill Oloroso Sherry butt filled in 2002, and the new venture is part of Glengoyne's emphasis on its claim to have the slowest distillation process of any Scotch whisky. Every year a number of optimum casks are chosen to create single cask releases of Glengoyne, described by the distillery as "...a snapshot in time." Stuart Hendry, Glengoyne Brand Heritage Manager adds that "One day, after a particularly productive tasting session, we got to thinking - what if there is something more? We at the distillery are able to taste casks as they mature, witnessing their highs and lows, their flavour peak and troughs as they wind their way towards maturity. What if we were able to share that with our anorak-wearing whisky chums?" 'Headspace' - the area within the cask unoccupied by liquid - is normally created through evaporation at the rate of approximately one and a half per cent per annum. However, in the case of the Christmas Cask, 70 litres of spirit will be removed from the cask each year, leading to much increased headspace, giving the potential for higher rates of evaporation and interactive maturation. "We don't know for sure what will happen, but we're looking forward to finding out," says Stuart Hendry. Each bottle will be numbered and signed by the Glengoyne Tasting Panel, but will be presented without packaging in order to keep the cost down. The release date for the first 100 bottles, priced at 100, was 28th December 2010 and they are not available online or via telesales, but only to personal customers at the distillery. This gives keen collectors and Glengoyne aficionados a good excuse to visit this picturesque and very well presented distillery, just 15 miles from Glasgow.

Chivas Cask

glenugie Chivas Brothers has just added two new single malts to its Cask Strength Edition series, and whilst the existing six whiskies in the range are all from operational distilleries, the latest brace are from long-silent plants. The whiskies in question are a 32-year-old Glenugie, produced in the north-east fishing port of Peterhead until the distillery closed in 1983 and a 36-year-old Inverleven, made in pot stills formerly located within the now demolished Dumbarton distillery, near Glasgow. The Inverleven stills were decommissioned in 1991 and subsequently acquired by the team at Bruichladdich, which plans to install them in its new Port Charlotte distillery at some future date. The Cask Strength Edition Glenugie and Inverleven expressions come with the additional title 'Deoch an Doras,' which is a traditional Gaelic expression for a farewell drink. Douglas Callander, Heritage Director for Chivas Brothers says that "With both distilleries no longer in existence, these exceptionally rare malts are expected to attract attention from collectors and connoisseurs globally. Given Chivas Brothers' long tradition and expertise in laying down significant quantities of Scotch whisky, specifically for extended, long-term maturation, we are confident that these two gems will be very well received." Just 500 bottles of each is available, with the Glenugie having a 250 price tag, while the Inverleven sells for 275. The Cask Strength Edition range is exclusively available at Chivas' distillery visitor centres and online at

And Finally...

ballantine's Pernod Ricard has recently issued a book of whisky cocktail recipes and associated information, titled the Ballantine's 12 Collection. It is the latest part of the Scotch whisky brand's ambitious 'Leave an Impression' campaign, aimed at reinforcing the point that Ballantine's 12 Year Old acts as what the distiller calls "...the bridge within the range, providing consumers with a premium trade up from Ballantine's Finest. In many markets it is the all important entry point into the extensive aged Ballantine's range." Cocktail recipes are provided by Tony Conigliaro and Fredrik Olsson, and we thought we would leave you this month with a recommended 'winter warmer' from the Ballantine's 12 Collection. Enjoy!

Ballantine's 12 Year Old Gingerbread Martini
Pour 50ml of Ballantine's 12 Year Old into a Boston shaker glass. Add 5ml of coffee liqueur, 25ml of espresso coffee, 5ml of gingerbread cordial, 5ml of sugar syrup, 25ml of half milk/half cream and ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass and decorate with cinnamon powder.

 home    about    forum    tasted    features    whisky A-Z    directory    books    links    sign-up    beer    wine