Whisky News, June 2010
by Gavin D Smith
ScotlandWhisky, the national whisky tourism organisation, recently announced that distillery visitor numbers had risen again during 2009, going up by 2.6 per cent. No fewer than 1,268,553 people spent time in a Scotch whisky distillery during the year, and on-site consumer spending rose by almost 13 per cent, contributing £28.4 million to local economies across Scotland.
ScotlandWhisky's Chris Conway observes that "These latest figures clearly show the continued attraction of Scotland's national drink to tourists. Visitors have a real desire to find out more about Scotch whisky, and visiting a distillery remains a 'must-do' activity. In fact, approximately eight per cent of visitors to Scotland tour a distillery. Moreover, with many of Scotland's best known distilleries situated in the Highlands and Islands the increase in spend gives a particular boost to rural economies."
"The on-going growth of visitor numbers to distilleries is a testament to the investment and innovation distillers continue to make. More distilleries are investing in improved visitor facilities with a real emphasis on education and entertainment. Many distilleries now offer additional connoisseur tours, master-classes and opportunities to bottle or even blend your own whisky - as well as participating in whisky festivals."
Chris Conway has contributed a foreword to one of the latest whisky books to hit the shelves ahead of the main holiday season. Discovering Scotland's Distilleries
(GW Publishing, £9.99) is written by Gavin D Smith, and, in the words of Conway, "For those planning a tour of Scotland and its distilleries Discovering Scotland's Distilleries
provides an excellent place to start. Built on Gavin's encyclopaedic knowledge of the whisky industry, his long-standing personal contacts and, as ever, thorough research,
Gavin has produced the first true whisky tourist's companion. Discovering Scotland's Distilleries is full of practical advice and thoughtful suggestions. It has
interwoven fascinating distillery profiles with recommended routes and suggested places of interest. It is an excellent reference guide for those wanting to add a
whisky element to their tour of Scotland or those wishing to 'bag' the lot. Written by one of the leading whisky writers, someone with so much passion for the industry,
I hope it inspires you to come and see for yourself."
Still on the subject of visiting distilleries, The Macallan has recently completed a £1 million investment programme in its visitor facilities, opening the 'Masters of Spirit Experience.'
The Experience begins in an atrium constructed as part of the refurbished and reopened 'second' stillhouse, silent from the 1970s until last year. It features stunning electron micrographs, revealed through a series of revolving images, and these provide the backdrop to a series of plinths, highlighting the role played by raw materials such as copper, granite, wood and water as well as barley, yeast and enzymes - all of which influence the character of The Macallan.
From the atrium, the experience continues to the tun room, housing six new Oregon pine washbacks, and then to the stillhouse, where the influence of The Macallan's small stills and what the distillers term 'The Finest Cut,' is demonstrated by two individualistic displays. The 'new make' Macallan spirit is celebrated with a remarkable liquid cascade on glass, giving the visitor an opportunity to nose the rich, fruity, oily spirit at the heart of The Macallan.
The 'Masters of Spirit' complements the existing 'Masters of Wood Experience,' where visitors learn about the interaction of spirit and wood, which contributes so much to the style of The Macallan.
More details from www.themacallan.com or by phoning +44 (0) 1340 872 280.
Grant's go Irish
William Grant & Sons has never been shy to make acquisitions that move its business away from reliance on core Scotch whisky brands, and most recently the Glenfiddich distiller has
announced a Euros 300 million deal to acquire the spirits and liqueur business of Dublin-based C&C Group. The brands in question include Carolans, Frangelico and Irish Mist,
but most significant is the jewel in the C&C crown, Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey.
Stella David, Chief Executive Officer of William Grant & Sons notes that "William Grant & Sons has a rich history in Scotch whisky dating back to 1886, and we have been looking to further develop our non-Scotch portfolio. Irish whiskey is a natural fit and C&C's spirits business provides a unique opportunity to acquire a number of significant brands and enter the highly desirable and dynamic Irish whiskey category.
"We shall make significant investment in Ireland and invest in the long-term value growth of the brands, including Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey which, at 600,000 cases, and given its potential, will become a core global brand in our business."
The Company also confirmed its commitment to maintaining and developing current operations across C&C's Irish sites, including the existing manufacturing base in Clonmel, County Tipperary. At present Tullamore Dew is produced by Irish Distillers in its Midleton distillery in County Cork, but there are strong hints that the independently-minded Grant organisation will not be content in the longer term to be reliant on third-party supplies, and may well seek to create a new Irish distillery, probably at Clonmel.
Planning permission has been granted by Dumfries and Galloway Council for the restoration of Annandale distillery to go ahead. Annandale, in south-west Scotland, ceased production in 1919, and the £4 million project includes creating the distillery itself, plus a visitor centre, with retail and cafe facilities. It is hoped that, when complete, the venture will attract around 25,000 people per year. The Scotch Whisky Association welcomed news of the scheme's approval, with a spokesperson noting that with only five distilleries currently operating in the Lowland region, Annandale would be "...a very welcome addition."
Unlike a number of proposed boutique distillery ventures the length and breadth of Scotland, Annandale seems certain to proceed in a tangible way, as the project,
headed by David Thomson and Teresa Church, does not rely on raising funds from potential investors. For more information visit www.annandaledistillery.co.uk
Glen Rossie blended whisky has a heritage stretching back almost 200 years, and is about to get not only a new bottle and label as part of a 'rebrand,' but Status Quo lead singer and guitarist Francis Rossi as a new chairman.
David Birchall, Chief Executive Officer of Glen Rossie's owner The Brand Cellar, explains that "We signed a deal with Francis this year in Melbourne where he was touring and as chairman - and as 'front man' for the Glen Rossie brand - we believe he can help us reinvigorate sales not just in the UK but, as someone who has sold 118 million records worldwide, overseas too."
Dating back to 1814, the brand, which has been owned by Allied Domecq and Pernod Ricard in the past, is being re-launched with a plectrum-inspired label and logo in homage to its new chairman. Francis Rossi also features heavily on the website, www.glenrossiewhisky.com, where 30 limited edition, signed Glen Rossie bottles are being given away.
The band does have some form when it comes to alcohol, not to mention substances never discussed within the polite confines of 'whisky-pages'. As 'Quo-heads' will know only too well, the
band recorded an album in 1994 titled Thirsty Work, followed, in 1999, by Under the Influence, the sleeve of which featured Rossi and Rick Parfitt on a mocked up pub sign...