Whisky News, March 2011
by Gavin D Smith
Snap up Macallan
Following its previous association with celebrity photographer Rankin, The Macallan has teamed up with fellow snapper Albert Watson, and is now offering a limited edition bottling of the Speyside single malt to celebrate the association.
In the words of The Macallan's lyrical PR machine, "Albert Watson was invited by The Macallan to weave a visual narrative of The Macallan's exceptional oak casks, beginning in the forests of Northern Spain and ending at The Macallan's spiritual home in Speyside, Scotland. This bottling is the artistic result of their journey."
The dram in question comprises 1,000 bottles of a 20-year-old Sherry oak expression, which comes complete with a 'hand-signed' portfolio of ten unique Albert Watson prints, and is available for £700.
According to The Macallan, "To celebrate the launch of this Albert Watson edition of The Masters of Photography, we are running a photography competition, and we would like you to upload your finest photographs that celebrate the theme of 'Great Journeys.' It could be something from your travels, or a special moment showing a passage or progress from one stage to another. Or simply take a look and vote for your favourite picture, because the top ten photographs, as voted for by the public, will be judged by Albert Watson."
For further details visit www.themastersofphotography.com
Size isn't everything, of course, but we all like value for money, hence the plethora of new whisky books pledging to feature ever increasing numbers of brands. We have already reviewed books of this sort by Ian Buxton (a mere 101) and Dave Broom (a more impressive 300+), but Dominic Roskrow is undoubtedly the man with the biggest - 750, to be precise.
Roskrow's contribution to the genre is entitled The World's Best Whiskies, and carries the subtitle '750 unmissable drams from Tain to Tokyo.' Physically this is a weighty and very attractive volume, which covers all the expected ground, but does much else besides.
One of its great strengths is that the more in-depth 'distillery profiles' are actually nothing of the sort, in the way that most such titles understand them. Roskrow has largely dispensed with the minutiae of mashing durations, foundation dates, and so forth, and opted for altogether more human and observational material.
Thus, the 'profile' about the Speyside distillery of Strathisla tends to focus on the havoc wreaked last winter on Chivas Brothers' nearby warehousing complex and on previous flooding at the distillery itself, and the book is significantly strengthened and given greater credibility by this personal, anecdotal approach.
Just as distillers vie for 'the most expensive whisky in the world' tag, so it is surely only a matter of time before someone trumps Dominic Roskrow in the numbers game. What price a '1,000 best
whiskies' in 2012? The World's Best Whiskies, Jacqui Small, £30.00.
The association between Isle of Skye 8 Years Old blended Scotch whisky and the world of Scottish horseracing has been touched upon here before, but now it has moved up a gear with the announcement that the Ian Macleod Distillers' brand is to sponsor the £50,000 Scottish Champion Hurdle - the richest hurdle race in Scotland - staged on 16th April at Ayr racecourse.
An Ian Macleod spokesperson notes that "The sponsorship is the latest stage in the brand development for Isle of Skye...which aims to raise the profile of the award-winning blended Scotch throughout Scotland's racecourses and beyond. As well as being the official whisky sponsor of the 2011 Scottish Racing 'Trainers' Championship,' Isle of Skye 8 Years Old Blended Scotch Whisky is the official whisky partner at all five Scottish racecourses - Ayr, Hamilton Park, Kelso, Musselburgh and Perth. Isle of Skye is also the proud sponsor of Scotland's number one National Hunt racehorse trainer, Lucinda Russell and her team at Arlary House Stables."
Iain Weir, Marketing Director for Ian Macleod Distillers, adds that "We are delighted to be supporting the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr Racecourse. This is one of the most prestigious events in the
racing calendar, built on values of tradition and excellence that sit very well with Isle of Skye 8 Years Old Blended Scotch Whisky."
For those of you who take your whisky really seriously, next month sees the staging of the sixth annual World Whiskies Conference at the Glasgow Radisson Hotel & Conference Centre on 12th and 13th April.
Topics under discussion include 'Scotch v the rest: the next five years,' presented by Val Smith of the International Wine & Spirits organisation, the intriguingly titled 'Why Scotch has failed Scotland,' by food and drink industry veteran Donald Blair, and 'Roseisle: what it means and why it matters to Scotch whisky,' presented by Diageo's Brian Higgs and Dr Nick Morgan.
A popular feature of last year's conference was the 'media panel' event, which is to be repeated this time around. According to conference director Ian Buxton, "An open panel of leading writers,
broadcasters, bloggers and journalists will discuss how whisky can improve its communications with the media; then take questions. Contributors include Neil Ridley - CaskStrength.net,
Rob Allanson - Whisky Magazine, Gavin D Smith - whisky-pages.com, Chris Brook-Carter - JustDrinks.com."
For more information visit www.whiskyconference.com
London-based The Whisky Exchange has scooped Independent Spirit Retailer of the Year, sponsored by Glengoyne, for the third time in a row at The Drinks Retailing Awards 2011.
The awards - staged recently at the Dorchester Hotel - recognise the most outstanding retailers in the drinks market, bringing together the leading lights in retail to reward innovation and best practice across the sector. This year's event was hosted by TV presenter and wine expert Olly Smith and marks ten years of the prestigious awards.
Sukhinder Singh of The Whisky Exchange says that "It is a real honour and true testament to the dedication and skill of the whole team to be awarded this prestigious title for the third year in a row. It is fantastic that great brands like Glengoyne are supporting independent retailers as they are much loved by whisky enthusiasts."
Neil Boyd, UK Commercial Manager for Glengoyne owners Ian Macleod Distillers, notes that "Independents and specialists have a vital role to play in today's marketplace which is why we chose to sponsor
this important category. We were very impressed with the quality of the entrants and would like to congratulate The Whisky Exchange on a great hat-trick of awards."
Meanwhile Ian Macleod Distillers has continued its apparently relentless rise in profitability with an eighth consecutive year of improved financial results. The family-owned firm, based at Broxburn, near Edinburgh, is responsible not only for Glengoyne single malt but for the high profile Smokehead, the Isle of Skye blend, featured above, and London Hill Gin.
The year ending 30th September 1010 saw volume sales of Glengoyne rise by a remarkable 40 per cent, largely due to dynamic export growth, with India being targeted as a key market, while company profits climbed from £3.1m over the comparative period in 2009 to almost £4.3 million.
New warehousing has recently been added to the Glengoyne distilling site, 12 miles north of Glasgow, while visitors during the coming months can also look forward to enhanced facilities at the
popular tourist attraction, which regularly pulls in 40,000 people per annum.
Last month it was sexism and now it is racism. Who says we never allow the real world to intrude here at 'whisky-pages'?
Newspaper headlines such as 'Scotch gets rum deal' appeared recently to announce the dreadful news that Angostura - owner of the eponymous 'Bitters' and a stable of rum brands - has produced a series of billboard and media advertisements mocking Scotsmen in kilts. One such advert, featuring a dusky maiden who appears distinctly uninterested in a man in full Highland dress performing an energetic Scottish traditional dance, carries the somewhat ponderous strap-line 'In Scotland men dance in skirts. In Trinidad, men dance with WOMEN in skirts.'
The campaign is an attempt to lure local drinkers back to their 'native' spirit, and while it has caused predictable outrage in some quarters, most Scotch whisky producers of our acquaintance are fairly relaxed about it.
Thank goodness we British have never fallen into the trap of perpetuating racial stereotypes. Can't decide whether to watch an old DVD of It Ain't Half Hot, Mum or 'Allo 'Allo with my Ovaltine and
Highland Park new make spirit cocktail before bed...