The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2016

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Page 26 of 132

26  /  the tasting panel  /  june 2016 SCOTCH REPORT S ingle malt whisky remains the hottest category within the overall Scotch market, with brands clamoring for atten- tion and a flow of new releases all aiming to grab just that tiny bit more market share. Last year, after an extended pursuit, The Glenlivet finally over- took Glenfiddich as the world's best-selling single malt by volume, and with the distillery currently undergoing further expansion, it's clear that Chivas Brothers has no intention of giving up the hard-fought top spot easily. However, it's an expensive game—as witness the $414.5 million that Brown-Forman has just splashed out on buying the Benriach Distillery Company. For the money they get BenRiach's three distilleries, a bottling plant, offices in Edinburgh and three single malt brands: BenRiach, GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh. The transaction marks Brown- Forman's return to single malt after it sold its ten percent stake in Glenmorangie in 2004 and follows their June 2015 purchase of Slane Castle Irish Whiskey (price not disclosed). In securing the three distilleries, Brown-Forman is returning to the most desirable segment of the Scotch market. While CEO Paul Varga's view that BenRiach's three brands are "super-premium" may be just a trifle optimistic today, I have no doubt that all three hold considerable potential, once suitably re-positioned and fully integrated into Brown- Forman's worldwide network. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out, but the cost of entry for a serious play in this market has just got signifi- cantly higher. And, across the Irish Sea, there is no lack of change with another U.S. investor moving to secure a place at the table. This time it's Sazerac (who recently paid Brown-Forman some $543.5 million for the Southern Comfort and Tuaca brands) now step- ping up to acquire Paddy Irish Whiskey from Pernod Ricard subsidiary Irish Distillers Ltd. While, at the time of writing, the deal remains to be finalized, it will bring the world's fourth largest Irish whiskey brand, esti- mated at 200,000 cases, alongside Sazerac's Michael Collins brand and U.S. distribution for Concannon Irish Whiskey. Meanwhile, back in Scotland, the Compass Box Whisky Company continues to beat the drum for "transparency," arguing for a change in European Union regulations which prevent whisky producers telling exactly what goes into their whisky, in particular detailing the age of every component in a blend. But there's no mystery about their latest Enlightenment release, with publicity materials detailing the origin of every one of the whiskies along with the proportion in the blend. Chances are only a few of your customers will be interested, but those who are will be very interested indeed. There are just 5,922 bottles available world- wide (46% ABV; $85)— which is more than twice as many as Compass Box's mysteri- ous Circus expression (49% ABV; $250). The history and age of this blend was lost long ago; all that is known is that the whiskies had an "extraordinarily long" marry- ing period. It's a lusciously rich, sweet whisky with hints of dried fruit, nuts and old Sherries. Make it your business to get a bottle. Finally, a new look from one of my favorite single malts, Glengoyne, which follows the brand winning a trio of Gold medals at this year's San Francisco World Spirits Competition. This was, in fact, the first distillery that I ever vis- ited (on my honeymoon, as Mrs. B. has been known to remind me). Look out for a range of new expressions and new packaging in the U.S. market. The outstand- ing Glengoyne Cask Strength (58.8% ABV) will be released in the U.S. through Shaw-Ross International alongside the newly packaged Glengoyne 10 Year Old and 12 Year Old malts. Glengoyne's Neil Boyd said the bold, new look will offer great stand-out in the increasingly com- petitive single malt market, which I think is where we began. A Piece of the Pie U.S. SPIRITS COMPANIES COMPETE IN THE SINGLE MALT GAME by Ian Buxton

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