The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2010

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SCOTCH REPORT Changing Tack L ess than ten days into his new role as Global Controller for Cutty Sark, Highland Distillers’ Jason Craig sat down with THE TASTNG PANEL to share his hopes and ambitions for this grand old brand. Once America’s favorite, there’s little point trying to hide Cutty’s long-term decline. Not that he even tries. “The brand has lost its way,” admits Craig candidly, “but there’s time yet to build on the greatness within.” His confidence follows the surprise change of ownership earlier this year, when the brand’s long-time proprietors, upscale London wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd, swapped their shares in Cutty Sark for full ownership of The Glenrothes single malt, though Highland Distillers remain in charge of production at the Speyside distillery. Jason Craig, new Global Controller for Cutty Sark. It seemed on the face of it an unlikely trade, with Cutty Sark now sharing an owner with The Famous Grouse, currently growing about as quickly as Cutty is declining. But Craig sees sense in the deal. “Cutty Sark widens our blend portfolio and couldn’t be further away from Grouse in terms of profile, target drinker and product if we tried,” he claims. “They complement each other perfectly.” Having moved from the more refined world of single malts (Craig has been quietly building Highland Park these past four years) the rough and tumble of blended Scotch marketing may come as something of a surprise. But the quietly-spoken Scot is taking nothing for granted. “The job now is to review everything about the brand,” he says with feeling, “starting with the product and working up.” Over the next few months the Highland team will be tasting reference bottles dating back to the 1950s; reviewing brand positioning to freshen Cutty’s classic cool for a new gen- eration of drinkers and putting packaging and promotion under the microscope. Quizzed about U.S. distribution, currently handled by Skyy Spirits of San Francisco, Craig’s response was straightforward. “We need some stability during this major relaunch; now’s not the time to rock that boat!” Kudos to The Macallan (coincidentally, one of the whiskies in Cutty Sark) for its efforts in partnership with Lalique crystal to raise much-needed funds for charity: water (, a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Using the ancient cire perdue (lost wax) method, they’ve created a one-of-a-kind decanter which will hold the oldest and rarest Macallan ever bottled. The 64 Year Old, currently on world tour, will be auctioned by Sotheby’s on November 15, 2010 in New York. Hopes are that all auction records for whisky will be smashed and a six-figure sum donated to a worthy cause. 22 / the tasting panel / june 2010 CUTTY SARK SETS ITS SAILS ON A NEW COURSE by Ian Buxton

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