Discussing the decade

Discussing the decade

We decided to ask three members of the distilling community to sum up the last 10 years and then look to the future for whisky.
Rob Allanson

28 November 2008

Publication: Issue 76

PANELRonnie Cox (RC)
The Glenrothes
Richard Paterson (RP)
Whyte and Mackay
Colin Scott (CS)
Chivas Bros.10 YEARS AGO RC: I was a good looking recently married (1st and only) youthful Latin-American traveller. So what happened...The malt whisky sector was recognised by nearly all, to be here to stay. This wasn’t just about branding but about being whisked away in flavour analysis (a la Jilly Goolden) and discussion. No longer mine is peatier but look at the fullness and character.“Smooth” was being considered an inappropriate descriptor. It had had its useful day. There were some eccentric anoraks spending time telling us that whisky isn’t just whisky its an aroma and flavour pleasure. New single malts hitherto known only to the blenders and friends of those who regulalrly “walked the dog,” proudly graced the shelves; distillery and ambassadors were starting to emerge and books began to appear in proliferation. What would Alfred think. He was alone in his time.CS: For Chivas Regal we are looking forward a minimum of 12 years, and therefore looking back 10 years does not seem a long time. However, it is now 11 years since I created Chivas Regal 18 Years Old, which was very exciting but also an enormous challenge.Ten years ago, the premium market was slowing down over a few years, while in contrast the super-premium market was emerging and has since been growing steadily.After Pernod Ricard acquired Chivas Brothers in 2001, Chivas Regal has since gone from strength to strength, as the emphasis has always been on crafting the most luxurious blends of the highest quality and consistency.RP: Ten years ago the Scotch Whisky industry was still floundering on a rocky course. It was indeed a sensitive time for our industry. Whisky lochs, amalgamations and rationalisation was the order of the day.Prices remained low and the supermarkets were wielding their ‘own label’ power.However there was a wind of change blowing in the air, many sensed a degree of optimism but nobody knew when it would break. It was one of those ‘whisky cycles’ except this one was taking longer.But in the wings had the perfect ammunition to give us that final breakthrough we desired – single malt whisky.Yes there were many factors which lead to our success but to my mind single malt is the key that opened the door for a new beginning for us.THE CURRENT SITUATION RC: The opportunities continue to grow in number. Those that hang on and continue to promote will always win through when we see the turn. At the top end this means continuing to hand sell and woe-betide those that listen not.Those of us in the industry for many years have seen the effects of sad economies before and we’ve come through.The earliest relevant to me was that in 1878 in Scotland when the City of Glasgow ruined all but 254 of its 1200 investors in the unlimited company.CS: Due to economic growth in many of the countries where Scotch whisky performs well, we have seen the luxury Scotch whisky sector expanding. I think people are placing greater value on the craftsmanship, quality and heritage of the Scotch whiskies they drink, and I feel that with our brands we are more than ready to satisfy this.Interestingly, due to the global increases in demand for our Scotch whiskies we have recently reopened Allt a’ Bhainne and Braeval distilleries and are currently expanding The Glenlivet distillery to increase its production.CONCLUSION RP: Today ‘Scotch Rocks’ and thanks to the contribution from Whisky Magazine, whisky festivals, the whisky conference and much more we are poised for greater things.RC:We probably have learned more about single malt maturation in the last 30 years than in the previous 500. In the last 10 those behind the Sector have doubled its share of the industry; created a solid base to construct for the future; developed a thirst for information amongst the enthusiasts and knowledgeable; and a plethora of mostly valuable Scotch whisky books and all this through considered communication and tasting and, of course, Whisky Magazine.CS: During the 35 years that I have been working in the Scotch whisky industry the business seems to be fairly cyclical with its highs and lows, but it has always had the strength to survive. This I believe is mainly due to the passion of the people who work with Scotch whisky.When I started in the early ‘70s, the world was constantly getting smaller with huge advances in communications and travel as well as new developments in modern technology. It was a very exciting industry then because despite these immense changes and global demands we still treasured the traditional processes and rich heritage that we have at its heart.

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