gavin smith

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Whisky News, May 2011

by Gavin D Smith

Distilling destinations

distillery scene Recent figures from Diageo show that whatever the ongoing woes of the global economy, distillery visits have become more popular than ever. Indeed, 'footfall' numbers at the 12 Diageo distilleries which boast visitor centres increased from 176,471 in 2008 to 194,505 in 2009 and to 210,432 in 2010, representing a 19 per cent increase over the two year period. Last year, 43 different nationalities were recorded amongst the visitors to Diageo's distilleries, with UK tourists leading the way and accounting for 87,417 of the visits. The other top countries, in terms of visitor numbers, reflected the traditional leading markets for Scotch whisky, with Germany, France, USA and Spain making up the top five. The increasing popularity of Scotch in emerging markets around the world was also reflected with visitors from countries such as Brazil, China, India, Russian and Brazil. The visitor centre at the Isle of Skye distillery of Talisker was Diageo's busiest last year, with 50,550 people passing through its doors, compared to 41,271 in 2008 and 47,115 in 2009. Steve Blake, General Manager of Diageo's Visitor Centres, considers that the growing popularity of Scotch whisky combined with the high quality of visitor experience offered at the distilleries were the key factors in their increasing success. "Scotch whisky is this country's fastest growing export," he notes, "and the great thing about whisky is that it is also a fantastic advert for Scotland. It's a high quality product which promotes Scotland as a quality tourist destination to people all round the world. "Just as we focus on the superb quality of the whisky we produce, over recent years we have put increasing effort into ensuring that is matched by the visitor experience we offer at our distilleries. We very much hope that as the popularity of Scotch continues to expand around the world we will be able to play a key role in attracting increasing numbers of visitors to Scotland. It is equally encouraging that we have seen such a healthy growth in UK visitors. It is clear that people love the magic, the mystery and the history of our Scotch whisky industry."

Pot of Gold

logo Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard has announced plans to enhance the heritage of Irish whiskey with the launch of a new initiative - Single Pot Still Whiskeys of Midleton. The launch heralds an increase in investment in Irish Distillers' existing portfolio, ahead of a planned roll out of innovative extensions later in the year. Additionally, the campaign marks the adoption by the industry of new terminology for this unique style of whiskey - moving from 'Pure Pot Still' to 'Single Pot Still'. Single Pot Still whiskey is unique to Ireland, and in particular Midleton distillery, in County Cork. Made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley, Single Pot Still whiskey is triple-distilled in traditional copper pot stills. Both of the existing pot still whiskeys produced at Midleton, namely Redbreast and Green Spot, are also benefitting from improved packaging, brought in last month. The 'Single Pot Still Whiskeys of Midleton' quality mark has been introduced on the back label of each expression to "...communicate the provenance message to consumers globally," as Irish Distillers puts it. Global Category Development Director for Irish whiskey at Irish Distillers, Brendan Buckley, says that "Single Pot Still whiskey was once the world's most popular style of whiskey. Today, although used as a key component in many of our well known Irish blends, Redbreast and Green Spot are the only remaining single pot still whiskey brands available on a global commercial basis. Our aim is to nurture these brands and to help safeguard the history and heritage of single pot still whiskey on behalf of the Irish whiskey industry. "This initiative symbolises a new chapter for pot still Irish whiskey, and signals renewed energy in the category. In partnership with our global distributors, we will be investing behind these brands with the clear intention of restoring our unique whiskey style to its former glory. We are confident that through this initiative, the Irish whiskey category will benefit, as more and more consumers continue to discover this exceptional style of whiskey". An Irish Distillers spokesperson adds that "The enhanced Redbreast range retains its distinctive shaped bottle, label and logo, with additional elements such as a wood cut illustration of a pot still, printed on copper foil and, by way of explaining the origin of the name of Redbreast, a robin motif. A strong point of reference for consumers, the descriptor 'single pot still Irish whiskey' is given a clear presence on the front label. A colour code has also been introduced, with burgundy distinguishing Redbreast 12 Year Old from the green Redbreast 15 Year Old. "Irish Distillers' lesser known single pot still whiskey brand, Green Spot, has received a transformational makeover. Originally produced exclusively for the Mitchell family in Dublin in the 1800s, Green Spot's traditional green bottle is replaced with a stylish clear glass bottle with higher shoulders, a shorter neck and an enlarged base, offering the perfect backdrop for the striking new label."

Maybe Maysville

bottle If all goes to plan, small-scale Bourbon distillation is set to return to Maysville in Mason County, Kentucky, courtesy of the Old Pogue distillery, which will be located at the historic Pogue family home on West Second Street. The property currently serves as corporate headquarters for the Old Pogue Distillery LLC, and the new distillery will be located in an existing garage on the site. Provided official permission is granted, a 125-gallon copper pot still will be installed, turning out 50 gallons of spirit per week. The original Pogue distillery was established in Maysville during 1876, and survived until the 1950s, by which time it was owned by the Hiram Walker company. At present, Old Pogue Master's Select Kentucky Bourbon is a nine-year-old whiskey which is distilled for the Pogue family under contract. Maysville stakes a claim as the 'birthplace of Bourbon,' with several distilleries operating there prior to Prohibition, and a tourist-related element is to be part of the new venture, with the distillery expected to become part of the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Rothes Renewables

processing artist impression The 60.5 million biomass processing plant destined to be built in the Speyside distilling village of Rothes moved a step closer recently, with the announcement that developer Helius Energy plc has awarded key contracts worth more than 44 million. Work on the new plant is due to commence within the next three months and some 100 jobs are expected to be created during construction, with around 20 full-time roles upon completion and commission during the first half of 2013. Together Helius and The Combination of Rothes Distillers Ltd, a joint venture of seven distillery companies, which currently processes local distillery waste from 16 sites, have invested 8.8 million in the project. The new facility will take draff, the wet barley by-product from whisky making, and burn it in a boiler with timber to raise steam which will drive a turbine, producing electricity for up to 9,000 homes. Additionally, steam will be utilised to evaporate the liquid residue, or 'pot ale,' into syrup, which is subsequently processed for cattle feed. At present, the 'Combi' plant, as it is known locally, burns gas to evaporate pot ale, and the new initiative will eliminate the production of some 46,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year.

And Finally...

Nail bar poster Good news for our more fastidious readers, who like to look after themselves, and enjoy a relaxing manicure while sipping their pre-lunch Red Stag and colas (see this month's Recent Releases, if this puzzles you). Drambuie will be taking to the road again this summer with its Charlie's Drambuie Nail Bar visiting a number of events and festivals such as Lovebox, Rockness, The Big Chill, Global Gathering and Bestival. But hold on a moment. We seem to have miss-read the press release. Charlie's Nail Bar actually serves Drambuie Nail Cocktails. Those cuticles will just have to wait for another day. Last summer Charlie's Nail Bar attended events across the country with a total consumer audience of 166,000, handing out over 24,000 samples and selling 18,000 of their Nail serves at a variety of festivals and at Silverstone during the F1 Grand Prix. Will Birkin, Drambuie Senior Brand Manager, explains that "The sampling tour was a huge success last year, with over 32,000 new consumers trying Drambuie for the first time. This year we want to surpass the 100k mark. Long serves will again be the focus this summer, as we are looking to recruit a new generation of Drambuie drinkers to enjoy the spirit in new and different ways, moving the brand forward from being see as a Christmas liqueur to a year round mixable spirit." I don't suppose they do pedicures either.

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