Whisky News, December 2012
by Gavin D Smith
Gifts Yule love
Anyone searching for a whisky-related gift just now could do worse than visit thewhiskyechange.com and click on Christmas Gift Finder.' Answer questions such 'who is it for?' and 'what would they like?' with options of 'whisky,' 'spirits' Champagne' or 'something unusual' to guide you towards your goal.
Along the same lines is the Scotch Whisky Experience's 'personal shopper service' at scotch-whiskyshop.co.uk, where Christmas gift packs, containing a whisky miniature and a pair of tickets for various tour options at the Edinburgh-based attraction, are available. Also exclusive to the Scotch Whisky Experience is a range of pendants, earrings, bracelets and cufflinks produced by Orcadian jewellery designer Sheila Flett, featuring malt-coloured enamel centrepieces in sterling silver settings under the 'Whisky Drop' brand.
When it comes to the amber liquid itself, Buffalo Trace Bourbon has launched a limited edition Christmas gift box, exclusive to Harvey Nichols stores, retailing at £40. The gift pack contains a bottle of the
Bourbon, along with a stainless steel julep cup, ideal for serving a festive frosted mint julep cocktail, according to the distillers (right). The hand-made wooden gift box carries information on the whiskey's 220 year history and 'eight step crafting process.'
Back in Scotland, Ballantine's Christmas Reserve blend makes its third annual appearance, and this time around it is available in more markets than before, including France, Germany, Poland and China. We applaud Ballantine's initiative in producing a seasonal blended Scotch, just as so many craft brewers offer Christmas exclusive beers. Not only that, but the stuff tastes pretty good, too. Brand owners Chivas Brothers declare that "With its luxury seasonal aromas including cinnamon, orange, raisin, candy apple and pear, Ballantine's Christmas Reserve is ideal served on its own over ice or as the base for seasonal cocktails."
Finally, another way to source whisky gifts (or personal supplies) comes courtesy of MyClick Media Ltd, which has launched an upgraded version of its iLounge
app, which is free to download for Android and iOS users. The company explains that "Simply take a picture of the label or enter the name of the product (wine, whisky, and spirits), and the users can
easily find the local availability of the items, and compare prices from stores around the world. iLounge's exclusive database includes over five million products and 20,000 merchants across the world, and over
hundred thousands of whisky labels in our database." See itunes.com/apps/ilounge.
Jameson hits four million
Jameson, the world's best-selling Irish whiskey has recorded annual sales of over four million cases for the first time. This figure includes the sale of more than one million cases in the United States alone and comes on the back of 23 years of consecutive brand growth.
Jameson is available in more than 120 markets, and sales volumes have increased by 15 per cent, while value has grown by 18 per cent. Jameson's largest market, the US, is growing at 29 per cent, while other key territories such as Russia and South Africa, where Jameson is now the second biggest international premium whiskey brand, also enjoyed significant increases.
Anna Malmhake, CEO, Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard, says that "We are delighted and proud to have reached the four million cases milestone. To think in 1988, when Irish Distillers joined Pernod Ricard, Jameson sold just 466,000 cases globally, with Ireland as its main market. Since then, Jameson has witnessed consistent and sustained investment, with a long-term strategic outlook based on premiumisation and innovation coupled with strong and targeted marketing.
"The result has been incredible global success with 50 markets now in double digit growth worldwide. To have reached the four million cases milestone, which equates to over 1.3 billion glasses of Jameson consumed
around the world last year, is a true reflection of the growing international success of Jameson, and the future potential of the company's entire Irish whiskey portfolio."
Following the recent merger of Arran Brewery and Isle of Skye Brewery under the stewardship of Gerald Michaluk (right, picture © Kevin Gibson), the entrepreneur has announced ambitious plans to create a 'Scottish National Brewing & Distilling Centre' at Rosebank distillery, near Falkirk.
Michaluk bought the former Diageo plant from Scottish Canals for an undisclosed sum, and hopes to raise in the region of £10 million to redevelop the Rosebank site, which closed in 1993. In the shorter term he intends to produce beer there, as part of ambitious plans to increase his existing brewing output tenfold, but the long game involves craft distilling.
Part of the conditions of sale of Rosebank were that distilling could not take place before 2017, and Michaluk says that "It will be our intention to open what we now call a 'micro-distillery' after that date, or before, if Diageo releases us from its imposed restriction."
Rosebank single malt has achieved a cult status not far removed from that of Port Ellen or Brora since its demise, but it seems highly unlikely that Diageo will allow the new venture to use the Rosebank brand name.
Nonetheless, whisky aficionados are looking forward to the day when the aromas of mashing once again waft across the neighbouring Forth & Clyde Canal.
Glasgow-based independent bottlers Douglas Laing & Co has announced that it is doubling bottling capacity at its East Kilbride plant and increasing stocks of whisky on the back of record sales and profits during the latest financial year.
The company, headed by brothers Fred and Stewart Laing, increased pre-tax profits by 17 per cent during the year to March, to £1.4 million, with sales growing to £5.7m.
According to Fred Laing (right), the firm has invested £0.7m in augmenting whisky stocks, noting that "This has taken stock value to £4.7 million at cost - considered a great investment for the future, taking into account perceived stock shortages."
In particular, the company has increased its holding of Islay malts on the back of a 35 per cent increase in sales of its Big Peat blended malt. "In the Far East, Japan, Hong Kong and Vietnam considerably
outperformed budget," says Laing, adding that in Europe, sales across Germany and France had fared considerably better than might have been expected in the prevailing economic climate.
Leven on stream
Diageo has officially opened its new bottling facility at Leven in Fife, where £86 million has been spent to create six new bottling lines, augmenting capacity in the existing neighbouring facility. The new plant replaces the capacity lost with the controversial closure of the company's Johnnie Walker Kilmarnock site three years ago, and as well as handling Scotch whisky, vodka and gin are also being bottled there.
The bottling venture has been operational since July, and is now turning out more than one million cases per week in the run up to the Festive season, with 350 seasonal workers currently employed alongside the 900
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at whisky-pages. Drink well and drink wisely, but keep drinking. We wouldn't want Diageo's new bottling hall to have been developed in vain…