gavin smith

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Whisky News, July 2009

by Gavin D Smith

The Age of Chivas

At a time when many distillers are seeing advantages in offering whiskies without age statements - greater stock flexibility and the chance to sell relatively young spirit at premium prices to name but two - Chivas Brothers is taking an altogether different tack. The distiller has just announced a major campaign called The Age Matters, in order "to advocate the importance and value of the age statements to consumers." According to new research commissioned by Chivas Brothers, 94 per cent of consumers believe the age   
statement serves as an indicator of quality, 93 per cent believe that older whiskies are of better quality, and 89 per cent actively look for an age statement when making a decision to purchase. The research also shows, however, a global lack of knowledge about what the age statement actually means, though the Scotch Whisky Regulations (2009) state it must refer to the youngest component whiskies in the bottle. Only 10 per cent of consumers understand that stipulation, while nearly half believe an age statement refers to the average age, and 35 per cent think it signifies the oldest whisky present. Chivas Brothers' The Age Matters campaign is intended to enable consumers to understand fully the age statement and to appreciate the value of the premium product they are purchasing, and it will apply to brands across the company's Scotch whisky portfolio, which includes The Glenlivet single malt and Ballantine's, Chivas Regal and Royal Salute blends. According to a Chivas' Brothers spokesperson, "One of the greatest influences on the flavour of whisky comes from maturation. Much of the complexity of Scotch whisky comes mainly from its time in oak casks in Scotland; with outstanding spirit and excellent wood management, it follows that the longer the maturation period, the more complex the whisky. "Consumers will now be encouraged to look for age statements on Scotch whisky, via point-of-sale materials, advertising and public relations. A logo using the language 'Guaranteed Age Whisky' has been created for usage in retail, and will be visible in the environment of Chivas Brothers brands that carry an age statement." Christian Porta, Chairman and CEO of Chivas Brothers Limited, says that "The revelation that so many existing whisky drinkers do not understand that the age statement refers to youngest age of the whisky, shows that there is an opportunity for us to inform them. In an age when consumers of luxury goods increasingly demand transparency and authenticity from brands, it is vital that we empower consumers with knowledge, so that they fully understand the value of what they are buying."

Growing Glen

Staying with Chivas Brothers, the Glenlivet distillery's £10 million extension was recently officially opened by HRH The Prince of Wales, or The Duke of Rothesay, as he is officially titled in Scotland. The expansion underpins Chivas' ambitions to become the world's leading single malt, and the company notes that "The distillery extension, which houses a new mash tun, eight traditional Oregon pine washbacks and six expertly crafted copper stills, represents a 75 per cent increase in production capacity allowing the brand to capitalise on buoyant international markets". Company CEO Christian Porta reiterated   
the importance of this investment to the future success of The Glenlivet during the opening ceremony. "Today's opening represents the latest milestone in a period of sustained investment and strong growth in The Glenlivet," he observed. "Since 2002, we have taken the brand from number three to number two globally, with investment in packaging, marketing and new product development. "The stunning new extension not only gives us the production potential to meet the buoyant demands of global markets and, one day take the number one spot, it is also a sympathetic and aesthetically enduring legacy for generations to come to admire. We are already leading from the front in the US, the world's most valuable Scotch whisky market and number one single malt market, and we are now well-positioned to replicate this success internationally." The expansion of The Glenlivet coincides with the recent appointment of new Master Distiller Alan Winchester, a lifelong resident of Speyside, with 34 years of Scotch whisky industry experience to his credit. "Scotch whisky is the beating heart of Speyside," he declares, "and The Glenlivet has been at the heart of the industry since 1824. This expansion programme leaves a profound legacy for tomorrow's distillers and future guardians of this Scotch whisky legend. It has been a privilege to be involved." To celebrate the opening, a specially created bottling, The Glenlivet Founder's Reserve, has been released in a limited quantity of 1824 bottles, reflecting the year of the distillery's foundation. This 21- year-old, non-chill-filtered expression is available exclusively from the The Glenlivet Visitor Centre while stocks last.

Drinks by the Dram

Online retailer Master of Malt has come up with a welcome development for lovers of specialist whisky bottlings. According to company sales director Ben Ellefsen, "There's one question we get asked all the time: 'do you do samples?' Well, we've come up with just the thing… We've taken bottles of whisky and divided them up into 3cl (30ml) samples and naturally these are just a fraction of the price of full sized bottles. We'll be continually expanding the range of samples (drams) and we aim to eventually offer you a dram of every whisky in production. Now you can enjoy a 3cl sample of whisky for a fraction of the price of a bottle "We've long held the belief that people should   
be able to 'try before they buy' on a large range of whiskies in order to expand their tasting repertoire, but have been frustrated by the relatively small number of whiskies available in miniature format, and somewhat amazed at the prices charged for interesting stuff by bars." The current list of 'Drinks by the Dram' ranges from Cabin Still Bourbon at £1.75 to Glenfarclas Family Cask 1952 at £77.95, with a great variety of several dozen whiskies between those two extremes. See

Smoke on the Water

Ian Macleod's popular Smokehead brand has enhanced its music credentials by being named official whisky sponsor of Classic Rock magazine. A new advertising campaign has been created to celebrate the link, and it will feature heavily in Classic Rock and its sister publication, Prog Rock, throughout the rest of the year. According to an Ian Macleod Distillers' spokesperson, "The campaign takes its lead from Smokehead's award-winning packaging, cocooning a skull, the time-honoured symbol of rock, with adjectives capturing the single malt's boisterous, outrageous, and deep peaty flavours.   
"As the 'Whisky of Choice' for Classic Rock magazine, Smokehead will command a high presence in the monthly music publication and its website, through an extensive advertising campaign and sponsorship elements such as the Readers' Letters page and regular promotions. Smokehead is also now an official VIP sponsor for one of this year's biggest rock events, London's High Voltage Festival (24-25 July) and the hugely popular Classic Rock Roll of Honour 2010 Awards in November, attended by, and celebrating, rocks greatest icons." 2010 will be the second year Smokehead has sponsored the Classic Rock Roll of Honour. Attended last year by the likes of Brian May, Slash, Billy Gibbons and Jeff Beck, Smokehead will once again be served to 'rock royalty,' with special bottle presentations of the award-winning 18 Years Old Smokehead Extra Black to the evening's winners. Iain Weir, Marketing Director for Ian Macleod Distillers, says that "Combining its adventurous and modern packaging, with a rich rollercoaster of challenging flavours, Smokehead defies conformity and what people would traditionally expect from an award-winning single malt whisky. Smokehead is powerful, intense and not for the faint hearted. The perfect match for a 'Classic Rock' lover."

And finally... Cam Dram

Whyte & Mackay Master Blender Richard Paterson (right) has created 'personalised' whiskies for such eminent figures as Barack Obama, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and even Homer Simpson, and now he has his sights set on our new Prime Minister. Paterson has been encouraged by the fact that David Cameron has nominated the Whyte & Mackay-owned Isle of Jura single malt as his favourite whisky, and the Cameron family often holidays on the Hebridean island, where Samantha Cameron's stepfather,   
Viscount Astor, owns the 20,000 acre Tarbert estate. So far, no formal approach has been made to David Cameron about developing a bespoke blend, but if such a dram is created, it is likely to be relatively conservative, with liberal amounts of Jura in the recipe. It will also, of course, be very smooth.

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