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Whisky News, September 2008

The New Black

Green is the new black, and if anyone doubted that applied to Scotch whisky, Diageo's latest announcement should make the fact perfectly clear. Having already incorporated the latest environmental technology into its new Roseisle distillery near Elgin, the company recently announced plans for a pioneering bioenergy facility at its Cameronbridge site in Fife. Cameronbridge is Scotland's
  
largest distillery in terms of output, and Diageo has signed a partnership agreement with energy management company Dalkia which will see around £65 million spent on the new venture. According to Diageo, “The facility will for the first time integrate sustainable technologies - including anaerobic digestion and biomass conversion - on a commercial scale. It is believed to be the largest single investment in renewable technology by a non-utility company in the UK, and is set to reduce annual CO2 emissions at the site by approximately 56,000 tonnes (equivalent to taking 44,000 family cars off the road).” The proposed development will provide 98 per cent of the thermal steam and 80 per cent of electrical power used at the distillery, and Bryan Donaghey, managing director, Diageo Scotland, says “This will be a showcase bioenergy facility which harnesses a variety of green technologies in a project of an unprecedented scale in our industry. It is without question the right way forward in terms of our environmental ambitions and secures the long-term sustainability of our operation at Cameronbridge, moving the site away from reliance on fossil fuels,” The bioenergy facility will generate renewable energy from 'spent wash' - a mixture of wheat, malted barley, yeast and water - produced during distillation. The spent wash is separated into liquid and dried solids. The liquid is then converted, via anaerobic digestion, into biogas, while the dried solids form a biomass fuel source. Some 90,000 tonnes of co-products, which would otherwise require transportation off-site by road, will be turned into bioenergy, in the form of electricity and steam for use at the distillery. The facility will also recover almost a third of the site's water requirements.

Message in a Bottle


   Still with Diageo, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond paid a visit to the company's Talisker distillery on Skye last month, while members of the Scottish Government were on the island as part of the 'Summer Cabinet Programme.' This has seen Salmond and his colleagues leave Holyrood behind for Dumfries, Inverness, Pitlochry and Skye, apparently "…giving local communities a greater opportunity to speak directly to Ministers about issues of local and national importance." While at Talisker Salmond signed a bottle of 25-year-old single malt which will be presented to the 250th visitor to the distillery next year, when the Scotch whisky industry will be at the heart of celebrations for 'Homecoming 2009.' Inspired by the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's national bard, Robert Burns, Homecoming 2009 will be a celebration of the great contributions Scotland has made to the world, including Burns himself, whisky, golf, 'great Scottish minds and innovations' and Scotland's culture and heritage. The event will showcase the west coast whisky trail (www.whiskycoast.co.uk) including Talisker Distillery, and among the celebrations will be Taste the Dram(a), a weekend-long celebration of all that the west coast of Scotland has to offer in terms of scenery and local produce. Presenting the signed bottle of Talisker to Site Operations Manager Cathie MacLeod, First Minister Alex Salmond noted that "With so many exciting events taking place across the Scotland, 2009 will be a fantastic year to invite people around the world, with either an ancestral link or affinity for Scotland, to come home. Today I'm leaving one of them a taste of
Scotland to take with them. I hope that, in the spirit of generous hospitality, they'll share it with others who can enjoy one of Skye's distinctive flavours. Whisky is a great way of building a sensory map of Scotland and the Taste the Dram(a) weekend is a fantastic opportunity to experience the west coast. I hope that thousands will visit Skye for a dram next year and enjoy the spirit of Scotland. “Homecomers will find more than whisky when they visit - with stunning scenery, a vibrant Gaelic culture, fresh local food and history carved into the landscape Skye is a unique destination that gives everyone a reason to visit. The message I'm leaving behind in this bottle speaks for itself - Scotland is the home of whisky.” Cathie MacLeod added that “We welcome almost 40,000 visitors from around the world to Talisker distillery each year and we are delighted to be supporting the celebrations planned for Homecoming 2009, including this special bottle which one lucky visitor will take home.”

China Protection

The Scotch whisky industry has been boosted by the acknowledgement that it is to receive official protection as what is termed a 'geographical indication' in China.
  
Following lobbying by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), China's trade mark office has ruled that the expression 'Scotch whisky,' and its Chinese translation, will now be defined in law, a move that will allow distillers to pursue imitation products in China's courts. SWA legal advisor Lindesay Low says “Over a number of years, we have welcomed the commitment and co-operation of the Chinese authorities in tackling imitation products 'passed off' as Scotch whisky in China. This positive decision to grant stronger 'collective trademark' protection to Scotch is an important advance and will help to ensure Chinese consumers and Scottish distillers are protected from fake products.” According to the SWA, the equivalent of 17 million bottles of Scotch whisky were shipped to China in 2007 and the Association noted that during 2006 it worked with the Chinese authorities to investigate 50 counterfeiting cases. Peter Smith, director of international affairs at Diageo, whose Johnnie Walker brand is a leading seller in the Chinese market, notes that “China is one of the biggest emerging markets for whisky and getting these definitions and protections is really important. To get the generic phrase 'Scotch whisky' protected in this way is a step forward.”

Georgia Heaven


   Bardstown-based Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc is the USA's largest independent, family-owned spirits producer, and although probably best-known for its Evan Williams Bourbons, it also does a nice line in corn whiskeys. Corn Whiskey is distilled from a fermented mash of not less than 80 per cent corn at less than 80 per cent abv, and is the one American whiskey that does not have to be aged in new charred oak barrels, and no minimum maturation period is specified. Heaven Hill produces the USA's best-selling corn whiskey in the shape of Georgia Moon, and the Kentucky company has recently announced two new flavoured line extensions for the brand.
According to Heaven Hill, “Taking advantage of the unprecedented popularity of American whiskeys, and the growing corn whiskey sub-segment, as well as the trend toward infusing fresh fruits into clear spirits, Heaven Hill is launching Georgia Moon Peach and Georgia Moon Lemonade Flavored Corn Whiskeys nationally. The new flavours will be offered in September at 70 proof in the highly recognisable 750ml glass mason jar. “Made with real natural peach and lemon flavours, respectively, Georgia Moon Peach and Lemonade Flavored Corn Whiskey take advantage of heightened consumer interest in both unique American whiskey products and flavoured spirits.” Heaven Hill brand manager Susan Wahl says “We have seen strong resurgence in Georgia Moon and corn whiskey sales as consumers really explore American whiskeys. And of course interest in flavoured spirits has remained strong across a number of categories, so we felt like the convergence of these trends was natural in Georgia Moon Peach and Lemonade. Though the category is small, Georgia Moon is the top selling corn whiskey in the nation, and is growing at a nice clip. This will be a strong seller for us in traditional and in developing markets.”

Manspace

In need of some 'manspace,' whatever that might be? If so, Teacher's may have the solution. National press advertising will run throughout this month in support of an on-pack promotion on 100,000 bottles of Teacher's offering consumers the chance to win a classic car or one of 250 tool kits worth £150 each. This represents the second phase of Teacher's Create Your Space campaign, designed, according to the brand's marketing team, "to build an emotional connection between Teacher's Blended Scotch Whisky and 30+ males," and is part of Beam Global UK's £1.5 million investment in the brand this year. Beam Global UK marketing manager Aileen Nicol says "Through Create Your Space, Beam is making Teacher's the most accessible and relevant Scotch whisky to men aged 30+ by appealing to
  
their need for some 'manspace,' a place where they can escape the pressures of the modern world, find inspiration and allow them to become an authority on subjects of their choice. “By offering them a chance to win a classic car, and an expert mate to help them look after it, we are enabling men to find inspiration in an accessible and immediate way whether out on the open road or tinkering in the garage.” Parp parp!

Bourbon Best


   Most of the books we review at 'whisky-pages' relate to the Scotch whisky scene, so it is pleasing to have a Bourbon book to read for a change, and especially pleasing when it turns out to be such a good one. Bourbon at its Best is the work of drinks writer Ron Givens, and this book offers everything from Bourbon's fascinating heritage and production methods to individual brand tasting notes, stopping off for informative and entertaining conversations with leading Bourbon figures such as Parker Beam and Elmer T Lee along the way. Bourbon at its Best is subtitled 'The Lore & Allure of America's Finest Spirits,' and Givens certainly covers both those bases very comprehensively.
The photography is excellent and the overall design eye-catching and attractive. Definitely one for the whiskey lover's bookshelves, and maybe enough to inspire a trip to Kentucky, even if your usual tipple is more along the lines of a Macallan or Ardbeg. $25.00. For more details see www.clerisypress.com or buy at www.amazon.com

And Finally...

No fuel like an old fuel! Wine guru Oz Clarke and Top Gear television presenter James May were in Islay recently, filming for their forthcoming BBC TV series Oz and James's Big British Adventure. A visit to Bruichladich distillery saw the pair sample X4 quadruple-distilled Islay Spirit before three litres were filled into the tank of an unmodified Radical SR4 racing car. On a closed stretch of island road close to the distillery the Radical achieved a 0 to 60mph speed in just 3.5 seconds over four runs. Distillery manager Duncan MacGillivray declared that "The exhaust smells much better than petrol. Sure, it's a sustainable biofuel, but at £26 a litre, the duty and VAT isn't!
  
Fuel here is a whopping £1.50 - £1.60 a litre, so it's not a viable alternative - just yet. The police even tried to breathalyse the car but fortunately they had the wrong type of tester.” Watch the action at YouTube
  

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