The Tasting Panel magazine

January/February 2015

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26  /  the tasting panel  /  january/february 2015 SCOTCH REPORT An Uncertain Future P erhaps Charles Dickens said it best: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness . . . ." Scotch whisky enters 2015 with its future very far from clear. On the one hand, distillery expansion and increased production is proceeding apace to ensure that future sup- plies can be guaranteed, while on the other the continued slowdown in vital markets such as China is calling into question the need for such volumes. Industry opinion and commentators are split on whether this is a new "golden age" or merely a glittering mirage—fool's gold, if you will. As I reported last time, industry leader Diageo has sus- pended many of its plans for investment in new production. But they are clearly hedging their bets, putting significant marketing effort into their Haig Club partnership with David Beckham and pushing hard with the re-launched Mortlach. This is pitched as "the world's first truly luxury single malt whisky," with pricing and packaging to match. We will be seeing a lot more of both brands in 2015 as Diageo attempts a pincer attack on whisky, striving to bring in new drinkers with Haig Club ($70) and take a healthy share of high-end connoisseur and luxury sales with Mortlach (from $120 and up), where the distillery has been significantly expanded. Not that The Macallan, who might consider themselves to be the leading luxury single malt, will take such pressure lying down. Far from expanding the existing distillery, they have decided to mothball it, breaking ground on a hugely ambitious $160 million new production facility and brand home that is scheduled to open to the public in spring 2017. Their confidence seems unlimited, as does that of Chivas Brothers, who have unveiled their new single malt distillery at Dalmunach. This is a substantial operation, capable of distilling around 10 million liters of Speyside single malt annually, and the company is clearly upbeat about their long-term growth prospects, anticipating increased global demand for Scotch whisky. According to Chivas Brothers' Chairman and CEO Laurent Lacassagne, "The construction of the new Dalmunach distillery is a clear demonstration of our confidence and also of our commitment to invest to meet the significant growth potential. Our blended whiskies form a key part of the Chivas Brothers portfolio in both emerging economies and mature markets, so we believe the increased capacity which the new distillery will help to drive the business." One of the places it may well find a home is in the new Chivas Brothers Extra, the brand's first global release outside travel retail since 2007. In the current style, it does not carry an age statement but is described as a "rich and generous taste, which we've created by using some of our rarest whiskies built on a rich foundation of malts that have been matured in a higher proportion of sherry casks." Meanwhile, the rash of smaller distilling operations continues unabated, with the latest to open its doors being Kingsbarns, near St Andrews. We wait to see whether this will prove a high watermark or whether this optimism can be sustained. Scotch lives in interesting times! UNBRIDLED CONFIDENCE VERSUS AN UNPREDICTABLE MARKET by Ian Buxton Macallan's new $160 million production facility and brand home that is scheduled to open to the public in spring 2017. Kingsbarns distillery, one of smaller distilling operations, near St Andrews.

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