Whisky News, December 2011
by Gavin D Smith
Christmas whiskies - Glenmorangie
It's that time of year again when distillers' thoughts turn to seasonal packaging and Yuletide novelty. Glenmorangie surely deserve some sort of award in relation to the latter by offering consumers whisky and coal.
According to a company spokesperson, "Glenmorangie, Scotland's favourite single malt whisky has created a luxury Christmas and New Year gift to celebrate and reinvigorate the festive Gaelic tradition of 'first-footing.'"
In Scotland, the 'first foot' refers to the first person to cross the threshold of your home after the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, or Hogmanay, and traditional first footing gifts are a bottle of whisky and a piece of coal.
Glenmorangie notes that "The coal symbolises the wish for the receiver's home to be warm and safe for the coming year and the bottle of whisky is for toasting the future. 'Lang may yer lum reek' is the accompanying Gaelic toast meaning 'long may your chimney smoke' to wish prosperity for the coming months."
It is perhaps pedantic to point out that 'lang may yer lum reek' is actually Scots vernacular, rather than Gaelic, but then presumably whoever is responsible for writing this copy rarely ventures outside the M25.
The writer continues "Glenmorangie is celebrating this special custom by presenting a symbolic piece of coal in a luxurious gift box alongside the classic Glenmorangie Original to bring health, wealth and good fortune to malt whisky lovers all over the country for 2012. Each piece of Glenmorangie 'first-footing' coal has been sourced from Ayrshire, the birthplace of the celebrated Scotsmen Robert Burns and Robert the Bruce."
Glenmorangie Original and the 'First-Footing' Scottish Coal luxury gift box costs £31.49, and is available from specialist retailers and department stores.
Christmas whiskies - Ballantine's
While Glenmorangie executives have been toiling underground with pick and canary, Ballantine's have opted for the less innovative option of re-packaging its 12-year-old expression in seasonal garb.
"The number one Scotch whisky in Europe" is presented in a "stylish limited edition gift tin," and what can only be a member of a marketing team notes that "The gift pack uses modern and elegant design cues to recast key elements of Ballantine's heritage. The tin bears the colours of the iconic Scottish Saltire flag and a series of sophisticated design and print techniques create the illusion that the tin is wrapped in a traditional Scottish tartan sash and secured with a Ballantine's 12 kilt pin. The folds and shadows of the sash have been recreated through an intricate process of embossing which continues inside the pack where Ballantine's 12 Year Old tasting notes are de-bossed on the lid."
Peter Moore, Global Brand Director for Ballantine's, adds that "This creative and contemporary limited edition gift pack will provide Ballantine's 12 Year Old drinkers with a specialist gift offering during a key sales period. The striking packaging, which fuses classic symbols with contemporary design, allows for maximum prominence in off-trade sales and will appeal to new and existing customers."
Christmas whiskies - Teacher's
Teacher's has chosen to follow a similar route, but with a "special gift carton," with Peter Sandstrom, Marketing Director for distributor Maxxium UK noting that "Teacher's is one of the only
blends to be in a gift carton this Christmas, which will provide an enhanced on shelf presence, and appeal to consumers looking for a premium and authentic blend this festive season. It
is well known for having an exceptionally high malt proportion, guaranteed to be at least 45%, which really delivers a unique and balanced blended whisky with tastes of full rich malts and maturity."
Three recently-published whisky books both have strong visual appeal, and would make ideal Christmas presents for the whisky lover in your life. Or just the lover in your life. You can always read them yourself.
The sumptuously-presented Cutty Sark - The Making of a Brand is a collaborative venture, featuring contributions from the cream of the world's whisky writers, including Dave Broom, Ian Buxton, Charles MacLean, Paul Pacult and our own Gavin D Smith.
Jason Craig, Brand Controller Cutty Sark, notes that "Rather than yet another boring brand book gathering dust on your shelf, we chose to invite a selection of whisky writers we felt were best placed to contribute essays on specific topics related to Cutty Sark. Taken together, these go some way to explaining the appeal of this great brand."
Craig describes the volume as "visually arresting," and this is no exaggeration. Cutty Sark is certainly one of the best-looking whisky books around. £25.00 from www.birlinn.co.uk.
Like Cutty Sark, Glenfarclas - An Independent Distillery is another 'brand book,' but because the story it tells is so interesting, and is well recounted by author Ian Buxton, this is also a good read, as well as a valuable reference tool. Beautifully illustrated and worth buying for the extremely rare photograph of a 'collapsed' still alone! £34.99 from www.nwp.co.uk
Aberdeen-based photographer and whisky buff Iain Macilwain has also produced something rather attractive in the shape of Ardmore Distillery: A Portrait. Macilwain's stunning images capture the narrative of Ardmore distillery, near Huntly, in great style, and the book's publication coincides with the progressively higher profile being enjoyed by Ardmore single malt under the ownership of Beam Inc. £10 plus p&p from www.ardmorewhisky.com or www.broombankpublishing.com
One of the worst-kept secrets of the Scotch whisky industry during the last few years has been that the owners of the Perthshire distillery of Tullibardine were seeking potential buyers for the distillery which
they acquired from Whyte & Mackay (at that point called Kyndal) in 2003 for £1.1 million.
Last month it was announced that family-owned French company Maison Michel Picard, based in Chassagne Montrachet, Burgundy, had acquired Tullibardine for an undisclosed sum. Maison Michel Picard was an existing customer for the distillery's new make spirit which it used for its own-brand whisky business.
James Robertson, International Sales Manager for Tullibardine, declares that "The way I see it is that this is a fantastic opportunity for us as a distillery. Tullibardine will have a company backing it with a solid financial structure and we can look forward to having some much needed investment in the distillery. Anyway, business continues as usual and this is a really positive situation for us all, I can only see us becoming stronger for it."
Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve
This year's Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve is the first ever vatted expression in this annual series, and was selected by a panel consisting of Malt Master Brian Kinsman, Glenfiddich's Global Brand Ambassador Ian Millar, 13 Glenfiddich Brand Ambassadors and the owner of the world's largest collection of Glenfiddich whisky, Hans-Henrik Hansen.
According to a Glenfiddich spokesperson, "Marking an adventurous change to the selection process, rather than sampling whisky from single casks, the panel carefully nosed and tasted three exceptional vatted vintage whiskies dating from 1973, 1974 and 1975. After careful consideration and in-depth debate, the panel selected the 1974 Glenfiddich."
Brian Kinsman declares that "We're delighted to unveil the 1974 Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve - not only because it's our first ever vatted Vintage Reserve, but also because it was selected by a panel of Glenfiddich's passionate Brand Ambassadors. Being surrounded by a panel of judges who are so passionate and knowledgeable about whisky was a fantastic and thoroughly rewarding experience."
One thousand limited-edition bottles are available, and Kinsman notes that "This distinctly Glenfiddich whisky has rich, spicy oak notes and an amazing vibrancy for whisky of this age."
To watch the Vintage Reserve selection video and hear from each of the Glenfiddich Brand Ambassadors, visit www.glenfiddich/explorers.com.
Staying with Glenfiddich, the William Grant & Sons brand has recently announced the launch of its rarest-ever whisky, namely The Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve.
This is a 55-year-old single malt which honours Janet Sheed Roberts, the granddaughter of William Grant - founder of the Glenfiddich distillery - who celebrated her 110th birthday in August 2011 and is the oldest living person in Scotland. Only 11 bottles of the Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve are being released, one to celebrate each decade of her life.
The first bottle will be sold at Bonhams whisky auction in Edinburgh on 14th December, with proceeds going to Water Aid, and during 2012 further bottles will become available at premium locations in the UK, USA, Taiwan, Canada, Russia, China, India and Global Travel Retail outlets.
Peter Gordon, Glenfiddich chairman and great-nephew of Janet Roberts, says that "The Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve is one of the rarest whiskies Glenfiddich has ever released and a real part of my family's history. My great-aunt has witnessed great change at the Glenfiddich distillery over the past 110 years, so it seems fitting to honour her remarkable life in this way."
Martin Green, of Bonhams Edinburgh, adds that "It's not often a whisky of this stature comes up at auction. The rarity and quality of the liquid, the exquisite bespoke packaging and the story behind its creation makes this a collectible that is hard to value. I wouldn't be surprised if the Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve reaches in excess of £30,000 at auction".
Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard has announced a €100 million investment in the expansion of its Midleton distillery in County Cork. The investment comes at a time when the distillery is operating at full capacity in order to meet growing international demand for Irish whiskey, most notably the best-selling Jameson.
Anna Malmhake, Chairman and CEO of Irish Distillers says that "We are very pleased to announce the investment in our distillery at Midleton. This expansion project is a reflection of the international success of Jameson and the great future potential for the brand.
"Jameson is now in its 23rd consecutive year of growth and is experiencing double-digit growth in 40 markets. With this investment, we are confirming Midleton, where the tradition of distilling dates back to 1825, as the global centre of Irish whiskey production."
The 15-month expansion project begins next year and will create 60 manufacturing and technical jobs, bringing Irish Distillers' total employees in Ireland to 560, while 250 construction jobs will also arise from the expansion. Midleton's local community will benefit further, as Irish Distillers is set to increase the 33,000 tonnes of barley it currently sources locally. Earlier this year, Irish Distillers announced a further €100 million investment in a new whiskey maturation facility in Dungourney, near Midleton.
A very modestly-priced veteran whisky has just appeared on the market in the shape of a limited edition 40-year-old Glenbridge Speyside single malt whisky. Just 3,000 bottles have been released by Aldi, yes Aldi, and each one retails for £49.99. Yes, £49.99.
Aldi claims that it is the first supermarket ever to sell a 40-year-old single malt, declaring that "Whisky of this quality and age would usually sell for around £300+. Aldi is giving customers the chance to get hold of a very high quality luxury product for a very low price.
"The malt comes from one of Scotland's finest distilleries and has been matured in European oak Sherry casks, resulting in a very intense and rich flavour. The beautiful decanter is presented in a stylish gift box. The whisky has an aroma of dark chocolate and dried figs, and the sweet taste gives off a marmalade zestiness, while the dry oak tannins fade into a lingering sweet and mellow finish."
This development follows on the limited release last month of a 26-year-old expression of Aldi's Glen Marnoch single malt for less than £30 per bottle. Mrs whisky-pages was at the head of the queue in Galashiels to acquire a couple of bottles of the Glen Marnoch, but alas failed to secure any of the Glenbridge 40-year-old, selfishly citing work commitments.
If any of you were fortunate enough to get hold of a bottle we would love to know what you think of it. Better value than The Dalmore 40 Year Old at £1,500, perhaps?
Merry Christmas and All Good Wishes for 2012…