Whisky Galore

on 09 May, 2013

I went to two whisky launches yesterday (May 8) – Bacardi’s Glen Deveron, the Royal Burgh Collection and Pernod Ricard/Chivas Brothers’ The Glenlivet Alpha. Both interesting for different reasons and very much a case of ‘chalk & cheese’ when it comes to the brand and what they are doing with it.

The key thing is the channels the two brands are using and it goes some way to shed light on the shape of things to come.

The Glen Deveron Royal Burgh Collection from Bacardi’s Macduff distillery in the far north-east Highlands, is traditional in its packaging. A new entrant in the single malt Scotch whisky sector, it is available from Bacardi Global Travel Retail only in travel retail through World Duty Free stores.

Aged in Sherry oak casks, the 16-year-old comes in at £40.99, the 20YO, £52.99 (both 1 litre) and a delightful 30YO (70cl) at £150. The tasting notes extol notes of apple and cereal which are undoubtedly there. I was struck by the creamy texture. Some, in the know, might say ‘umami’.

The use of the travel retail/duty free channel for limited editions, special expressions, is a recurring theme these days. Why try and sell these sorts of products in multiple retailers that just want to drive prices down to generate footfall, when, with the threat of diminishing stocks, particularly aged stocks, you can command premium prices in airport shops.

For the less well off Scotch enthusiasts who don’t travel, it means they are never going to see, let alone taste these fascinating expressions. The travel retail sector seems almost obsessed with the affluent and appealing to the various emerging middle classes in countries such as China and India. Ever since true duty free was abandoned in Europe, travel retail has had to re-invent itself. Limited editions and channel exclusives have been the answer.

Moving onto The Glenlivet Alpha. There appears little traditional about this single malt. Firstly and crucially, we have no age statement, joining the likes of The Macallan. But there are also no tasting notes and no cask information. The idea is you have to guess it. Different. The packaging is modern and minimalist and the limited 3,500 bottles of 50% ABV, command a retail price of $120.

Alpha is a beautifully crafted light single malt. Master distiller, Alan Winchester could barely contain himself from giving away the story. Totally against his grain…

As if Alpha isn’t interesting in itself, the company is using social media to heighten awareness and create interest. Every week “its flavour secrets can be unlocked via a series of online challenges provided by The Glenlivet to help whisky lovers engage their senses”, gushes the press release.

“The secrets of Alpha can be unlocked by taking part in a series of online challenges dedicated to each sense. Using a suite of interactive digital tools, whisky lovers & novices alike can explore the unique flavours….”

The sense challenges have gone live on Facebook and The Glenlivet website www.TheGlenlivet.com. Alpha’s “identity” will be announced on The Glenlivet website with a live reveal video on June 6 at 12.30.

Interesting, exciting but again, if you’re not wealthy and/or not into the likes of Facebook, Twitter et al, you aren’t going to get a sniff of Alpha.

An interesting, absorbing day. Nice whiskies, by the way.

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