Tag Archives: whisky

The Best Scotch in the world is…Japanese??

From The Times:

Yoichi 20 years old, distilled on the shores of the Sea of Japan, has become the first variety produced outside Scotland to win the coveted single malt award in an international competition run by Whisky Magazine, the main industry publication.

I don’t want to diminish what Suntory has accomplished here, because I do think it is indicative of a larger trend- that of people understanding that Scotch isn’t the end all be all of whisky (let alone single malts). But I don’t believe this is a whisky version of the the Judgement of Paris.

For one, this idea that Whisky begins and ends in Scotland is an idea that is less than ninety years old. Up until the turn of the twentieth century, it was the Irish brands that held both favor and flavor, for it was the Irish who, for the most part, held on to the traditional distilling processes of pot stills whilst the Scottish made their money in the blends. It wasn’t even until 1963, when Glenfiddich released and mass marketed the idea of “single malts” outside of Great Britain, that single malts took off throughout the world. The reason why Scotland was dominating single malts was that there was almost nobody else making them for the longest time, certainly not on the scale that the Scots were/are.

Additionally, I am willing to bet that the scoring between the #1 and #2 whiskys was microscopic. There are many, many great single malts out there, and any one of them could have won.

Still, I am quite happy to see the folks at Yoichi (and at Suntory, who won best blend) win. Both clearly have shown an attention to production details which I believe is crucial to creating an amazing spirit. Anyone who believes that it is Scotland’s inherent destiny to make the best whisky in the world needs to get out a little more.

(Thanks to The Leisure Guy for the heads up)

The High Pricing of Whisky

Eric Asimov had a post on Friday that caught my attention. In it, he refers to a book by Robin Goldstein called “The Wine Trials”. In discussing the book, and a related article on Newsweek, he started speaking of the amount of money spent on wine, and how some use the excessive amount of money as evidence of the snobbery (and perhaps even classism) found in the wine world.

…in characterizing the behavior of wine drinkers, Robin is grounding his conclusions in economic and psychological studies that demonstrate a correlation between the pleasure taken in a product and the amount of money spent on it. He and his team wrote an academic paper, “Do More Expensive Wines Taste Better” (Warning: PDF – Kate), based on their findings, which is now available for viewing on the web site of a group called the American Association of Wine Economists.

As you may imagine, this piqued my interest, as the status and purpose of expensive wines likely runs parallel with that of whiskies. In discussing the whisky book, several people have spoken to me about the $70,000 bottles of Scotch, and the $200 glasses of Rare bourbons and Irish Whiskeys being sold and bought.

Goldstein’s conclusion of his paper – essentially that those who are unaware of the high price of the wine draw no greater joy from it – runs similar to my own beliefs in regard to the whiskey world. I cannot speak for the wine world, but in the whiskey the high prices found in the industry can be attributed to two distinct forces – the collectors and the marketers.

The collectors are a weird breed, from the little I’ve dealt with them. They collect everything from mini bottles similar to those found on airplanes, to the bottles of distilleries long extinct. As with most every collectible community, the rarer the bottles, and the higher quality of the state of the bottle, the higher price that they will bring. Additionally, you’ll find that sometimes the first, 100th, or even 1000th bottle bottled of a run will bring a high price. In Glenturret in a display, there’s a first bottle of a limited run being sold for twenty five thousand pounds.

The marketing of the high prices is not a new thing either. In the mid 19th century, it was cognac that was afforded the high prices, as it was a drink that was supposed to connoted status, both in palate and in class. When the wine crops in France were decimated by the Phylloxera vastatrix bug in the late nineteenth century, cognac became scarce, and the upper class moved to whiskies, both Scotch and Irish, to fill the void. Since that time, status has always been inferred upon the rarer drinks, the older single malts. The rarity of, say, a twenty year old scotch, would not have been the first purchase of the middle to lower classes when cheaper alternatives were available. The status of some whiskies has been fully taken advantage of by marketers ever since. To buy that twenty year old single malt now, according to some marketers, denotes taste and class, regardless of whether that whisky is any good.

The pricing of whisky continues to intrigue me on many levels, as it plays in with the psychology of purchasing and even the psychology of drinking (If you want to give a conniption to someone, added cola to an aged single malt – it screws with them on so many different levels).

The Last Distillery

Canadian Club/Hiram Walker today, and I am DONE! WOOT!

Rest in Peace Michael Jackson

Whiskey and Beer writer Michael Jackson has passed away. At this moment, it’s difficult to think of anyone who has done more to extol the virtues of grained ales and spirits in the past forty odd years.

If you have a moment today, raise a respectful glass to the man.

When Scotch Meets Strawberry

Picture in your mind, a company board room in Scotland…

COMPANY PRESIDENT: Gentlemen, it seems as if we’re not making as much money as we should be. We’re far behind the larger scotch whiskey makers in sales and we’re losing marketshare. I need ideas. Give them to me.

There is general murmuring amongst the several particpants of this discussion.

SYCOPHANT #1: We could explore untapped markets.

PRESIDENT: Good, good.

SYCOPHANT #2: Senior Citizens? Children?(snapping his fingers in a moment of Eureaka) Women! Women don’t drink scotch!

SYCOPHANT #4: …Yet. Women don’t drink scotch yet.

PRESIDENT: Great idea number 2!

SYCOPHANT #3: But how do we market scotch to women?

SYCOPHANT #1: Coupons?

SYCOPHANT #4: Free Candles?

SYCOPHANT #2: Flavored Scotch? After all, flavored vodkas sell well.

PRESIDENT: Man, you are on fire today Sycophant #2!

SYCOPHANT #2 blushes and grins as the several other Sycophants pat him on the back and give him high fives.

PRESIDENT: But what kind of flavors?

the group of men look pensive as they think about what flavors women would want.

SYCOPHANT #5: Potpourri?

SYCOPHANT #3: Brazilian Mist?

PRESIDENT: Brazilian Mist?

SYCOPHANT #2 Strawberry?

SYCOPHANT #1: Hey, that’s right! Women like strawberries!

Sycophant #2 beams with pride as the high fiving and other similar frivolity continues.

PRESIDENT: Strawberry flavored scotch! Who would have believed it?

On the opposite end of the room, a small, nebbish man by the name of JENKINS raises his hand as he finishes reading a report.

JENKINS: Uh…sir?

PRESIDENT: What is it Jenkins?

JENKINS: Couldn’t we get a decent marketshare if we, uh, y’know, made a better whisky? Perhaps we wouldn’t look so shallow and prejudiced towards women in how we bring a new product to market. I’m just saying.. y’know, that it looks like we’re being a tad patronizing…

Jenkins notices the room has gotten deathly silent, as if he had shown up to a funeral wearing nothing but knickers and a smile. The other sycophants stare at him as they stand behind the president.

JENKINS: I’m so fired, aren’t I?

The president nods and Jenkins leaves. The party starts up again, with all of the men congratulating themselves on how they’re about to corner the women’s scotch market.


Okay, so it didn’t really go like that, but damn. They really did say that “We decided we wanted something aimed at the younger, female drinker – we thought there was a real gap in the market”

Of course they’ve tested the drink. The anecdotal results? Of all of the people who have tried it, only a handful haven’t liked it, and surprisingly, they were all women.

Sometime these posts write themselves.

(via Liquor Snob)

Technorati Tags: Drink, Scotch, Whisky, Marketing