Whisky News, December 2010
by Gavin D Smith
When it comes to record auction prices for Scotch whisky, the ante has been well and truly upped by The Macallan, whose 64-year-old Lalique 'Cire Perdue' bottling sold for $460,000 (£288,000) at Sotheby's in New York recently.
Proceeds from the sale, along with around $140,000 raised as the bottle experienced a 12-city 'world tour' starting in April, go to 'charity: water,' an organisation that provides access to safe drinking water for people in developing nations. It is anticipated that more than 30,000 people will benefit as a result of this collaboration between The Macallan and Lalique.
"We are delighted that the proceeds from this historic auction of The Macallan 64 Years Old in Lalique: Cire Perdue will help fund our efforts," says Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water. "Clean water is foundational to communities, and I'm proud to be working with these two esteemed brands to foster thriving and healthy populations worldwide."
David Cox, Director of Fine and Rare Whiskies for The Macallan adds that "We have had a phenomenal response to this very special and rare decanter. We are absolutely thrilled with the result of this auction which has smashed the world record for the most expensive whisky ever sold. It was wonderful to experience the culmination of this incredible project which has made its way around the world to raise a staggering $600,000 for charity."
Up with Whisky
Some additional positive whisky news on which to end the year is that nine out of the 10 leading markets for Scotch whisky grew in value during the first six months of 2010. Recent Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) figures reveal that between January and the end of June global shipments rose by 17% over the same period in 2009, being valued at £1.47bn.
Amongst the top ten markets, shipments to countries such as South Africa (+44%), the USA
(+34%) and France (+6%) increased in value. Tough economic conditions in Greece, however, resulted in lower exports (-9%).
Single malt Scotch whisky exports rose by 31% (to £242m), with blended Scotch whisky shipments also up 9% (to £1.1bn), compared to the first half of 2009. New figures revealed for the first time the strength of blended malt Scotch whisky exports, which were valued at £57m. The global volume of Scotch whisky shipments rose by 3%, with the equivalent of 477m bottles being exported.
Gavin Hewitt, SWA Chief Executive, says that "Scotch whisky distillers continue quietly and consistently to deliver impressive exports in many markets. The industry welcomes the UK Coalition Government's commitment to support exports. With a Trade White Paper being developed, fair market access for Scotch whisky must be a priority. We also look to the UK Government to create a domestic business environment which supports exporters. Bold reform is needed at home to introduce a fair and socially responsible UK excise duty system, which also secures revenue to address the deficit."
GI in China
Further good news is that China has agreed to recognise Scotch whisky as a 'Geographical Indication (GI),' following three years of discussions between the SWA and the Chinese Government. According to an SWA spokesperson, "The decision ensures the highest levels of protection by China's enforcement authorities. Local consumers will be better protected from imitations, while the integrity of Scotch whisky as a product made in Scotland is supported."
Gavin Hewitt of the SWA notes that "The Chinese Government's strong commitment to protecting consumers of Scotch whisky from imitations is welcome. Scotch whisky's recognition as a geographical indication is a major step forward, helping the industry to stop fake products in what is an exciting and growing market."
Meanwhile, at Glenglassaugh distillery on the Moray Firth, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond and the Chinese Consul General in Scotland Madam Tan Xiutian celebrated the announcement by filling and signing a
special 50 litre octave cask of Glenglassaugh (above). The contents of the cask will be bottled in five years time and auctioned for charity.
Madam Tan said of the agreement that "This designation is very important for both the whisky creator and the consumer," while Glenglassaugh Managing Director Stuart Nickerson declared that "China is a key market for Glenglassaugh and this announcement means we can re-focus our efforts with renewed confidence, knowing our products and customers are protected."
Panama has now followed China in recognising of GI for Scotch whisky, with Richard Austen, HM Ambassador to Panama, noting that "I am delighted the Embassy team were able to help smooth the way for the Scotch Whisky Association's application to register Scotch whisky in Panama. This has ensured that consumers of Scotch whisky in Panama can have confidence in the Scotch whisky they will buy here in Panama."
Panama is the 20th largest export market for Scotch, with shipments reaching £42 million in customs value during 2009.
If you are seeking an imaginative Christmas present for the whisky-lover in your life, you could do worse than sign them up for the opportunity to purchase a 'Custodian' edition of Dalmore from the Northern Highland
According to a company spokesperson, "Only the first 1,263 people who sign up to the brand's new website will be offered the chance to purchase a 'Custodian' special edition whisky from the award -winning distiller. They will get to buy spirit that was first set to cask at the turn of the millennium, and will then decide when they want their whisky bottled - 2012, 2015 or 2018.They will then choose from two different wood finesses especially chosen by the world renowned master distiller Richard Paterson."
"The finesse is the really important thing," claims Paterson. "The wood and the age determine the final flavour and it's that personal choice which will make it distinct from anything else on the market."
Buyers will pay between £50 and £150 a bottle, depending on the age and 'finesse' chosen, and Paterson adds that "The Dalmore is quality, award-winning whisky, but it also has the envious reputation of being a fantastic investment vehicle. The reason why we sold two bottles of The Dalmore 64 for a £100,000 was because the buyers know it's a wise investment. Although on a different scale, the principle stands for these 'Custodian' bottles."
In addition to getting a bespoke bottle of Dalmore whisky numbered and signed by Richard Paterson, the 1,263 buyers will have their names etched on the walls of the distillery when the new £1 million
visitor centre opens next year. For more details visit www.thedalmore.com.
Whisky Gifts Yule Love
With the much-loved Famous Grouse advertising character back on UK television screens Christmas is clearly almost upon us, and a number of distillers are offering special gift presentations this year.
Chivas Regal has launched a gift set designed by artist Alex Trochut (right), which, according to brand owner Pernod Ricard, is inspired by Chivas Regal heraldry. "The design incorporates a contemporary, bold monogram based on the twists and movements of a steel ribbon. The striking tin, which has a dramatic metallic finish, combines the simplicity, elegance and masculinity of the Chivas Regal brand, in a contemporary presentation."
Pernod' Ricard's Ballantine's Finest blend has also been given the makeover treatment. "Adorned with the brand's centenary logo, the sleek navy blue and silver case tells the story of how George Ballantine left an impression a century ago when he introduced the distinctive bottle and logo, which remains synonymous with Ballantine's Finest today. The pack also includes a silicon ice cube tray to encourage off-trade consumers to enjoy their Ballantine's over iconic 'B' embossed ice cubes."
Meanwhile the 12-year-old expression of Ballantine's is now presented in striking packaging which "...will engage consumers through its intriguing use of design and print which creates the illusion that the pack is wrapped in a tartan ribbon and secured with a metal seal. The 3D effect is achieved by multiple embossing which lifts the ribbon off the tin and creates a weave detail. The effect continues inside the pack with Ballantine's 12 Year Old tasting notes embossed on the inside of the lid."
Malts are not forgotten either, with The Glenlivet being offered in three luxury gift sets for its 12, 15 and 18 Year Old expressions. "The 70cl bottles are housed in a premium dark green, red and blue box respectively which boldly features the brand's crest and age statement. The elegant gift packaging flips open to reveal the bottle encased by premium red inner packaging."
Eric Benoist, International Marketing Director, Chivas Brothers says "We recognise the importance of providing our customers with specialist gift offerings during this key sales period. These creative, contemporary gift sets will ensure maximum shelf stand-out enticing both new and existing customers, while driving the growth of our global brands and their respective categories."
The Brown Forman Corporation has also got in on the festive packaging act, with its Southern Comfort whiskey liqueur brand coming in a limited edition bottle wrapper designed by Christian Northeast and "...inspired by the spirit of celebration, vibrancy and creativity of the city that's home to Southern Comfort - New Orleans."
If your inclination is to buy something to read about whisky rather than something to drink, then two new whisky titles have recently hit the shelves. Aimed at quite different sections of the market are
Whisky in Your Pocket, written by Wallace Milroy and Neil Wilson, and Dave Broom's The World Atlas of Whisky. The former is a compact, inexpensive (7.99) volume based on Milroy's bestselling Original Malt Whisky Almanac, which, in the words of publisher Waverley Books is "A simple, clear guide for beginners and a quick reference guide for the expert. Ideal for those who know what they like, and want to try something else like it."
Broom's volume is both physically much larger, more expensive (£30) and more ambitious in scope. Publisher Mitchell Beazley declares that "The World Atlas of Whisky is the only guide the connoisseur will ever need to understanding everything there is to know about the international life and love of whisky. It is an in-depth and comprehensive journey through the history, process, distilleries and expressions of world whiskies, featuring detailed maps of the key whisky-producing regions. Heritage, romance, flavour and craftsmanship are all celebrated in this complete study of the most versatile of drinks."
Additionally, of course, our own Gavin D Smith's excellent Discovering Scotland's Distilleries (GWP, £9.99), published earlier this year, would also make a most welcome Christmas present, allowing the reader to plan from his or her festive armchair future trips to Scottish distilleries when the weather is (slightly) warmer and there is a little less snow on the roads...
According to a survey conducted for Glayva Liqueur, Scotland's drinks cabinets contain some nine million litres of 'forgotten' alcohol. Apparently, 64 per cent of British households have not cleaned out their cocktail cabinets for at least five years, and 80 per cent of the bottles therein are full, or more than half full. Among the lost treasures are bacon-flavoured vodka and eel wine. Here at 'whisky-pages' we rarely leave a bottle un-emptied, and as a special Christmas gesture we are offering an exclusive new service. Simply post your unwanted drink to us - maybe not the eel wine - and we will consume it for you. What could be more generous than that?
Nollaig Chridheil as they say on Islay...