By Marcin Miller

The Miller's Tale

Spring: the season of fecundity, rebirth and renewal. And, of course, Whisky Live in London. The merry-go-round begins again. Today London and, in two weeks time, whisky events in San Francisco and Copenhagen. Then comes the season of festivals on Speyside and on Islay.
Spring: the season of fecundity, rebirth and renewal. And, of course, Whisky Live in London. The merry-go-round begins again. Today London and, in two weeks time, whisky events in San Francisco and Copenhagen. Then comes the season of festivals on Speyside and on Islay.Those who read the magazine on a regular basis will understand our mission is to celebrate whisky. It’s just as well I remembered as I was about to embark on a long lament. I had high hopes for Iain Banks’ book Raw Spirit; in search of the perfect dram.It gave all the appearance of being a perfect read and a perfect gift. At last, a world class novelist writing a whole book about whisky.What could be finer? I won’t go on to register my disappointment for two reasons. First, there are so many positive things going on in
whisky at the moment that to bore you with a negative view of a book would be churlish.Second, on page 302 Mr Banks reveals he subscribes to Whisky Magazine and every publisher needs to think about his readers first. In short, I guess I was expecting too much. In this issue you’ll find the results of the Icons of Whisky poll. I’d like to thank the thousands of you who voted.The big issue in awards of this nature is whether you should hold a public vote (as we did) or an industry vote (as we did in previous years). An industry vote enables the magazine to give readers an insight into who and what the trade thinks is hot, individuals that might seep into the consumer consciousness in the near future, a glimpse of what might come.On the other hand, a public vote gives a real feel for the zeitgeist.It will be very interesting to watch the development of a couple of our nominations. For example, the Whisky Shop chain is now under new ownership. And the Scotch Malt Whisky Society has been bought by Glenmorangie plc.For a long time we have been aware of independent bottlers buying distilleries. This is the first time a distillery has bought an independent bottler since Springbank bought Cadenhead some 30 years ago. These are two sides of the same coin.What does the Society get out of the deal? Primarily, the security of being owned by a public limited company. In addition, the Society will be able to access Glenmorangie’s not inconsiderable stocks.Indeed a senior figure at Glenmorangie was telling me with delight about some interesting parcels within their wide portfolio that were soon to be making their way over to the Society. The big question is whether other distillers will be as willing to fill for Glenmorangie as they were for the Society.How does Glenmorangie benefit from the arrangement? The Society has been profitable for some time now and there is little reason to suspect it won’t remain so.There is plenty of prestige attached to the Society brand and from a commercial perspective it is a great opportunity. The Society has punched above its weight; it has achieved much for such a small company.Cynics will suggest that Glenmorangie will try to use the Society as a distribution channel solely for its own brands and that the temptation to maximise the commercial opportunity overcomes common sense.If that does happen Society members will simply vote with their feet. The handling of the situation will require a good deal of sensitivity and a lot of clear thinking if the Society is to retain its iconoclastic identity.Doubtless, some members will join Iain Banks in resigning because of the sell-out, fuming that the reason they joined the Society was precisely because of its independence.However, this minority will be quickly replaced by those many enthusiasts desperate for as much single cask Ardbeg – amongst other gems – they can get their hands on. And who can blame them?