Whisky News, April 2012
by Gavin D Smith
Scotch breaks records
The healthy state of many export markets for Scotch whisky, despite economic gloom and gloom in a significant number of countries, is reflected in recent figures form the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). Overall, exports rose by 23 per cent in 2011 to hit a new record of £4.23 billion in value.
According to the SWA, "Rising demand in both emerging and more mature markets has resulted in export values increasing by an average of 10 per cent a year over the last five years. It now contributes £134 per second to the UK balance of trade. Exports to the USA, the biggest market by value, broke the £600 million barrier for the first time in 2011 to reach £654.9 million - up 31 per cent on 2010. France, the second biggest market, saw exports grow by 27 per cent to £535.4 million.
"Affluent young professionals in fast growing economies are increasingly developing a taste for Scotch whisky," says the SWA spokeswoman. "This is contributing to growth in countries across Asia and Latin America. Direct exports to Singapore, which serves as a distribution hub for much of Asia, rose by 44 per cent to £317.9 million. Taiwan saw an increase of 44 per cent to £155.2 million. In South America, Brazil was the fastest growing market by value with exports up 48 per cent to £99.2 million.
Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the Association, says that "Despite continuing economic uncertainty, Scotch whisky continues to meet increasing demand from all corners of the globe. It continues to appeal to consumers in countries such as the USA and France and is being enjoyed by younger professionals in newer markets in Asia and Latin America. Exports have increased for seven years running, contributing to delivering an export-led recovery, a focus for both the UK and Scottish Governments."
Give Tullamore its Dew
William Grant & Sons Ltd, owner of the Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey brand since 2010, has announced its intention to invest in a new, state of the art pot still whiskey and malt whiskey distillery in Tullamore, County Offaly, returning whiskey production to the town for the first time since the original distillery closed in 1954. The €35 million investment will meet the long-term production demands for Tullamore Dew, the world's second largest Irish whiskey brand, which is currently growing by more than 15 per cent a year.
According to a company spokesperson, "William Grant & Sons has agreed principal terms and is in the final stages of negotiating the purchase of a 58 acre site at Clonminch on the outskirts of Tullamore from Offaly County Council. The location offers a plentiful supply of natural, quality spring water from the nearby Slieve Bloom Mountains, ideal for the triple distillation process used in Tullamore Dew. Work on the new distillery, which will utilise the latest in green technology is scheduled to begin later this year."
William Grant & Sons' Group Marketing Director, Maurice Doyle notes that "The new distillery will not only cement William Grant & Sons' presence in Ireland, but reinforces the fact that the brand is now firmly rooted back in its original home of Tullamore.
"Our distillery will combine traditional distillation practices with the very latest in modern and green technologies to prepare the brand for future growth, while making sure the exact same taste and quality which has made Tullamore Dew famous around the world continues to be delivered. Irish whiskey is a major growth story internationally and with this investment we're looking forward to putting Tullamore Dew and the Midlands region back on the map as one of Ireland's premier whiskey producing regions."
On the other side of the Irish Sea, there is some positive news to report regarding the progress of the proposed Kingsbarns distillery project in Fife. The scheme to create a distillery in a derelict
farm steading on the Cambo Estate near St Andrews has moved a step closer to fruition, with principal promoter Doug Clement pitching his scheme to gain investment during the past few weeks on the 'business
crowd funding' platform Crowdcube. The website allows anyone the chance to invest and ultimately share in a company's success, and Clement reports that backers are showing encouraging interest in the Kingsbarns project, and he has high hopes of
securing the £1.85m required to begin renovating buildings and commission the creation of stills and other plant within the next three months.
Clement managed to get Australian whisky guru Bill Lark, largely responsible for turning Tasmania into a whisky-making region all its own, involved in the scheme and £100,000 was raised in six months,
funding planning permission and preliminary distilling licences, while a provisional £150,000 Scottish Enterprise grant was secured, along with tax relief status.
The intention is to open a visitor centre and distil white spirits such as gin as well as whisky, in order to provide cash flow during the years while the whisky matures prior to initial bottlings.
South of the border, Cumbria is getting in on the whisky act too, with planning permission having been granted for a £1.5 million conversion of Low Barkhouse Farm at Setmurthy, near Bassenthwaite Lake, into
The Lakes Distillery. Managing director of the enterprise is Paul Currie, who worked with his father Harold to establish Arran distillery back in 1993-95.
According to Paul Currie, "It's ideal for whisky making. If you look back at the history of Cumbria, it was a Celtic area and whisky was distilled illegally here until late into the 19th century. The conditions are very like Scotland."
Noting that "It will be 10 years before the product appears in shops," Currie explains that, as at Kingsbarns, visitor facilities and gin distillation will create income while the whisky matures.
The first 100 casks of malt whisky to be produced will be set aside for members of a 'founders' club,' and once in full production output is expected to be around 240,000 bottles of spirit per year. Work on converting the Victorian farm buildings is due to start later this year.
BenRiach near Elgin was one of the mainland distilleries to pioneer peated expressions, thanks to the fact that former owners Seagram/Chivas made regular peated batches of spirit from 1983 onwards. Curiositas was launched in 2004, and now, The BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd has rationalised and revamped its line-up of permanently available peated expressions and arrived at a quartet of variants.
The four are Birnie Moss (with no age statement), Curiositas aged 10 years old, Septendecim aged 17 years old and Authenticus aged 25 years old. As a BenRiach spokesperson says, "From subtly-peated malts to peat so thick you could dance on it, the four are sure to become firm favourites!"
Sales Director Alistair Walker adds that "Peated malt whisky production only represents approximately six weeks' worth of the annual production at BenRiach, but the peated whiskies have become an important part of the distillery's portfolio as they offer something new and unexpected from the Speyside region.
"We wanted to offer our consumers a range of peated BenRiachs that would span the age range - one that would both allow the development of the malt to be charted and also be available on a regular basis. Hopefully, with these four expressions, we will achieve that." For more information visit www.benriachdistillery.co.uk
Royal Salutes Her Majesty
It was inevitable that at a time when several other Scotch whisky brands were getting in on the Diamond Jubilee act, Royal Salute would feel the need to join the party. After all, the brand was created in 1953 to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and so Royal Salute is celebrating the Queen's 60 year reign with the launch of the Royal Salute Diamond Jubilee Limited Edition, available for the equivalent of around $164 for the rest of 2012.
A Royal Salute spokeswoman says that "In keeping with the Diamond Jubilee theme, the porcelain flagon is finished with a rich, royal blue glaze. Presented in a hand-crafted display box that elegantly showcases the bottle, Royal Salute Diamond Jubilee will have a strong on-shelf presence in over 20 markets, with innovative retail displays, inspired by the light-reflective qualities of a diamond, highlighting the exceptional quality of the whisky within."
Neil Macdonald, Global Brand Director for Royal Salute, says that "Royal Salute was originally created to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. We are therefore delighted that this Royal Salute Limited Edition will celebrate the Diamond Jubilee - as it is only the second time in history that this milestone has been achieved by a British monarch."
Spaced out on whisky
We all know that Dr Bill Lumsden and the dedicated folk at Glenmorangie and Ardbeg distilleries are keen to push the boundaries of innovation and experimentation, but sending Ardbeg into space seems to be going a bit far even for them.
Nonetheless, this is precisely what has happened, as revealed at this month's Edinburgh International Science Festival, with Lumsden unveiling the initiative in a talk entitled 'Whisky Wisdom - Scotch Whisky ; Science, Art or Myth?'
Ardbeg is taking part in a maturation experiment led by US-based space research company NanoRacks LLC which will test the interaction of Ardbeg-crafted molecules with charred oak. This will take place in normal gravity on Earth and also microgravity, far up in space on the International Space Station.
The vials sent into space contain a class of compounds known as 'terpenes' - a set of chemicals which are very widespread in nature and often very aromatic and flavour-active - as well as other molecules. It is the interaction of these molecules with oak wood that forms the basis of the maturation experiment. This is believed to be the first time anyone has ever studied terpenes and other molecules in near zero-gravity.
The experiment could explain the workings of these large, complex molecules as they will remain on the International Space Station for at least two years and help uncover new truths about the change that the molecules undergo in this near zero-gravity environment.
Lumsden says "This experiment will throw new light on the effect of gravity on the maturation process. We are all tremendously excited by this experiment: who knows where it will lead?"
The old tradition of April Fools' Day media spoofs is alive and well, thanks to The Edrington Group's Famous Grouse brand, or should that be Famous Goose? April 1st saw prominent press adverts headed
'A very limited edition,' followed by a large bottle shot of 'The Famous Goose,' with the familiar game bird motif replaced by one of a goose. Careful reading of the small print on the label revealed
that the contents of said bottle comprised 'A limited edition of fresh Scotch mist matured for one day in seasoned oak casks…'