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Industry honoured at Whisky Live dinner

News and announcements from the Whisky Magazine team

Industry honoured at Whisky Live dinner

Postby Matt2 » Mon Mar 14, 2005 12:33 pm

The top whisky personalities, places and brands have been honoured at an industry dinner held in London.

Winners from across the world were honoured at the event, which was held at the Churchill Hotel in London’s West End. The dinner was held the night before the start of Whisky Live London, a sell out consumer whisky show where whisky drinkers can meet producers and distillers and taste the latest expressions of leading whiskies from around the world.

Two separate sets of award results were announced. The Best of the Best 2005 recognises the world’s best whiskies after blind tastings by more than 100 whisky experts in Tokyo, Kentucky, Glasgow, Dublin and London.

The best single malt Scotch whisky for 2005 is Laphroaig 10 Years Old Cask Strength, and the best blend is Chivas Regal Royal Salute 21 Years Old. The best Irish whiskey is Bushmills 16 Years Old, the best Japanese whisky is Yamazaki Cask Strength, and the best American whiskey is Van Winkle Family Reserve 15 Years Old.

The other winners were for the Icons of Whisky, voted for by a group of about 250 industry producers, retailers and journalists.

Highlights included the announcement of the Distiller of the Year, which went to American distillery Buffalo Trace, Innovator of the Year, which was awarded to The Macallan’s whisky maker Bob Dalgarno, a joint honour to The Canny Man’s in Edinburgh and The Pot Still in Glasgow for Whisky Bar of the Year, and the tile of Visitor Centre of the Year which went to Edradour Distillery in Scotland.

A special lifetime achievement award was given to Barry Walsh, former master distiller at Irish Distillers, who worked in the Irish whisky industry for more than 40 years.

The full results were:

Best of the Best 2005

Best Scotch single malt 2005
* Laphroaig 10 Years Old Cask Strength

Gold medals:
* Glenmorangie Tain L’Hermitage
* The Glenlivet 16 Years Old Cask Strength
* The Balvenie 1973

Best American Whiskey 2005
* Van Winkle Family Reserve 15 Years Old

Gold medal:
* Four Roses Single Barrel

Best Irish Whiskey 2005
* Bushmills 16 Years Old

Gold medal:
* Jameson 18 Years Old

Best Japanese Whisky 2005
* Yamazaki Cask Strength

Gold medal:
* Hibiki Suntory 17 Years Old

Best Scotch blended whisky 2005
* Chivas Regal Royal Salute 21 Years Old

Gold medal:
* Dewar’s 18 Years Old

Icons of Whisky

Distiler of the Year
* Buffalo Trace, Kentucky

Retailer of the Year (single)
* Park Avenue Liquors, New York

Retailer of the Year (multiple)
* La Maison du Whisky, Paris

Hotel of the Year
* The Craigellachie Hotel, Speyside

Bar/restaurant of the year
* The Canny Man’s Edinburgh
* The Pot Still, Glasgow

Innovator of the Year
* Bob Dalgarno, Edrington Group

Ambassador of Whisky
* Jim Cryle, Chivas Brothers

For more information contact: Dominic Roskrow, Whisky Magazine editor, dominic@paragraph.co.uk
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Postby Oliver » Tue Apr 12, 2005 4:33 am

I can't really believe that Bob Dalgarno was named 'Innovator of the year.'

As we all know the recent development at the Macallan have not been great, to say the least.

Under Bob's tenure (probably a great guy personally, I want to be clear here that I am solely focusing on his role as an employee of the Edrington Group) the Macallan has given up its age old standard of bottling malt "exclusively matured in Sherry casks." Thus contradicting Michael Jackson highly consensual encapsulation of the general conception of the Macallan identity: "Without the sherry, its not The Macallan."

Everyone knows that Sherry aging was the heart and soul of the Single Malt Whisky called The Macallan.

Now we get stuff that previous owners only saw fit for blending being marketed as "Fine Oak." Yesterdays' plonk instantly becomes todays new Grand Cru.

Worse, and contrary to official reports, Fine Oak will now become the sole choice for consumers in "many markets."

Memo to consumer in certain markets who want to buy Sherry Casked Macallan: Get Lost!

If the Whisky Industry is going to decide to downgrade its products in the name of increased market shares and increased quartely revenues, the least it could do is refrain from celebrating the enginneers of this ethical and qualitative disaster!

Has everyone lost their passion for the product itself? Hello, is anyone out there?


Oliver
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Postby Iain » Tue Apr 12, 2005 9:25 am

Congrats to Macallan.

I believe they also won the popular vote for Pure Invention of the Year in 2004, for the 1841 :D
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Postby si_peacock » Tue Apr 12, 2005 11:04 am

Whole-heartedly and unequivocably agree with your comments Oliver.

Macallan was always one of those malts who I'd introduce to people who 'don't like whisky'. After the question 'do you like sherry?' usually.

It's a real shame that one of the most popular malts is being 'dumbed down' (to use an expression from a different thread regarding Laphroaig).

We all know that whisky changes over time with the intervention of legislation, fashions, climatic changes, production techniques etc. The last thing we need is to make changes that will reduce the quality of the product.

I work in marketing :roll: and I see the need to innovate, to open new revenue streams and to search for ways to increase the bang in respect to the buck! However, I'm also a passionate consumer and one who feels strongly that consumers should be listened to.

Are we suffering because whisky is still seen shrouded in inpenetrable mystery and old-fogeyism? Macallan is one of the widest and best-selling but even so only a relatively small population drink it. Can't see Coca Cola being able to get away with similar.
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Postby Iain » Tue Apr 12, 2005 12:29 pm

It does seem odd to present Mac with an award for innovation, when that innovation involves stripping away the characteristic that made the whisky so distinctive and popular in the first place!

Perhaps the next Innovation award will be presented to the distiller who removes the peatieness from Ardbeg :?
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Postby Crispy Critter » Tue Apr 12, 2005 6:41 pm

Iain wrote:Perhaps the next Innovation award will be presented to the distiller who removes the peatieness from Ardbeg :?


Wouldn't that be Ardbeg? (in the "Kildalton" version). :)
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Postby Lawrence » Tue Apr 12, 2005 9:58 pm

Oliver, just what are distilleries to do if they can no longer source suitable sherry casks and in the quanitity they need?


Iain wrote:
Perhaps the next Innovation award will be presented to the distiller who removes the peatieness from Ardbeg


Wouldn't that be Ardbeg? (in the "Kildalton" version).


Good one! :D
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Postby Oliver » Wed Apr 13, 2005 12:22 am

Lawrence:

First, there still are Sherry casks available!

Consider that the macallan had been ordering Bourbon or new oak casks to be filled with sherry for a few years and then put their spirit in them. This is in addition to purchasing 'standard' sherry casks directly from Sherry makers.

Its not an issue of whether there are sherry casks left, since they can 'create' them as it were... Rather, it is an issue of whether they are prepared to uphold their standards, their identity. Remember their motto? It went something like, "other distillery gave up this costly tradition, but not us."?

Anyway, the Macallan is not telling us that Fine Oak was introduced because there is a shortage of Sherry oak. No, we are supposed to believe that this 'Macallan light' is offered to us as an alternative to the Macallan as we knew it (even though in some markets it will the sole choice).

You want to know the real rationale for the introduction of the Mcallan light aka fine oak.. Don't ask me, or even Bobby D. Lets hear it from the Horse's mouth.

Just listen to Mark Izatt, Brand Manager of US Macallan Importer, Remy Amerique:

"This lighter style of whisky will open new markets for The Macallan and invite new premium spirit drinkers looking to add a high-quality whisky to their portfolio."

He goes on to say:

"Our eye-catching advertising campaign, combined with the launch of The Macallan Fine Oak and the stylish new bottle and pack design will lead The Macallan down the path to becoming a global luxury icon[.] Every interaction that our consumer will have with the brand will drive home the luxury experience that the brand provides while ensuring that the brand remains vibrant and dynamic."

How's that for innovation?


Cheers anyhow!

Oliver
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today's latest post: Bob Delgarno, your pants are on fire!
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Postby Lawrence » Wed Apr 13, 2005 1:06 am

Oliver thanks for your reply. A couple of points, the Macallan has been producing non sherry matured whiskies for decades and they have mainly gone into blends (ie The famous Grouse). It's nothing new and should comsumers not be able to try this whisky?

I also think that if you take a look at the sherry industry you'll find that things are not going very well of late. There are simply not the amount of casks available and the ones that are, are very, very expensive. I think you would be very unhappy if the Macallan used sub standard casks for their sherry matured whisky.

Faced with the prospect of a diminishing sherry cask supply I think they took the only route open to them. Time will tell.
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Postby Oliver » Wed Apr 13, 2005 2:01 am

Lawrence wrote:


A couple of points, the Macallan has been producing non sherry matured whiskies for decades and they have mainly gone into blends (ie The famous Grouse). It's nothing new and should comsumers not be able to try this whisky?


Yes, I know that they have used their non-sherry matured malts for blending purposes in the past. By the standards of the pre-Edrington owners of the Macallan this non-sherry macallan was rightly deemed unsuitable for bottling as a single malt.

It is my contention Lawrence, that the dreams (quoted extensively in my previous posts) of making The Macallan a world best seller and "a global luxury icon" are behind the lauching of Fine Oak. Note that I quote one of their marketing men here --they ought to know, don't you think?

Consider also my previous post; they have used sherry filed casks that they commissioned specifically for that purpose, in addition to traditional sherry casks.

Fundamentally though, I suppose my point of contention with your post is that your argument is premisced on the idea that there is no other alternative for The Edrington group than to expand the output and sales of the Macallan relentelessly and at any costs...

Why sacrifice such a storied and delicious product such as The Macallan on the altar of the quartely revenue report? Do wine makers attempt to put Chateau Petrus in Every Supermarket in the World? No! Believe it or not, there are other paths besides the self-destructive expansion-at-any-cost chosen by the new owners of the Macallan.

Some single malts, and the Macallan was one of them, are a product of a terroir. Perhaps this means nothing to you when compared to the imperatives of the market.

I just wish that we malt drinkers would ask that their favorite malts be treated with a little more respect than that given to a "global luxury franchise," by their corporate owners. Of course to demand this, we would have to care enough to see through the marketing coverups we are constantly being served in lieu of objective information.


Sante,


Oliver
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Today: When I found out that Macallan was a franchise first, a malt second...
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Apr 13, 2005 2:39 am

Oliver, don't buy it if you don't want it. I agree that the marketeering is pretty nauseating, but it isn't anything different from what Diageo, Allied, Pernod Ricard, or any other large comestibles company does. You are raging against this only because you swallowed the earlier marketeering bs about sherry cask aging.

Introducing the Fine Oak line simply gives them more product to sell, and allows them to grow without putting more stress on the sherried bottlings. (Oh the horror! They're trying to maximize profits!) In theory that would help to mitigate shortages and price rises, which is good for those who only want the sherried stuff. You'll answer by saying that they're taking the sherried Macallan out of some markets, but you're confusing cause and effect--that only shows how serious the shortage is.

I have no doubt that Edrington Group, like many other companies, have made some bad choices along the way, and the counterfeit bottle fiasco was certainly an embarrassment, and an avoidable one at that. But it seems to me that you are way off base on the Fine Oak business, and your continuing vendetta against Edrington appears obsessive and unreasonable. In your view, everything they do is automatically wrong, and has evil motive. In fact, they're just another company trying to deal with a period of high demand and low stocks. We have plainly seen quality suffer in a number of very popular brands, and we all feel bad about it, but we don't all think the producers are trying to cheat us. It's just a consequence of the cyclical nature of the business. I understand that Macallan once stood head and shoulders above the rest in your eyes, and no longer does, and that's a shame. But they didn't do it purposely to betray Oliver. The world changes every day. Turn the page.
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Postby Lawrence » Wed Apr 13, 2005 2:47 am

Oliver, so if I understand your argument correctly you say that Macallan has the provenance of terroir, is akin to a fine wine and as such it is made in limited quantities as per Chateau Petrus?

So does it not follow that if it is made in limited quanties then it's not going to be available in every market? Or if it is in every market then in small quantities for every market?

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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Apr 13, 2005 3:06 am

Lawrence wrote:Oliver, so if I understand your argument correctly you say that Macallan has the provenance of terroir, is akin to a fine wine and as such it is made in limited quantities as per Chateau Petrus?

So does it not follow that if it is made in limited quanties then it's not going to be available in every market? Or if it is in every market then in small quantities for every market?

Lawrence


And, given its popularity and the basic laws of supply and demand, at ever-increasing prices?
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Postby Crispy Critter » Wed Apr 13, 2005 3:08 am

While I see both sides of the "Fine Oak" controversy, I still shudder at the notion of a whisky being a brand instead of a product. Too many times, I've seen "brands" degenerate into meaninglessness. My favorite example involves bicycles rather than whisky: the sad case of Schwinn.

In my youth, Schwinn was a bike builder that built its products in a factory on North Kostner Avenue in Chicago, everything from mass-produced cruisers to hand-built racing bikes. After some mismanagement, labor troubles, ignoring the rise of the mountain bike, and a badly botched plant move that ultimately failed, then several bankruptcies, Schwinn has become a "brand" that is slapped onto bikes built in anonymous Chinese factories.

Then there's another Chicago icon, Zenith. It was once a builder of radios, TV sets, and other electronics, right here in Chicago. Well, you can still buy products with Zenith emblazoned on them, but it's now just a "brand" owned by LG.

When a distiller's corporate owners start talking about their product being a "brand," I can't help but wonder if they really even care about the product itself.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Apr 13, 2005 3:14 am

You make a good point, CC, and I agree that it's a sad reflection on the way the world is going. But perhaps you can take some comfort in the fact that they can't legally put the name "Macallan Scotch Whisky" on a bottle of stuff distilled in China!
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Postby Lawrence » Wed Apr 13, 2005 3:40 am

or on a bike or TV.
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Postby si_peacock » Wed Apr 13, 2005 8:53 am

As a marketing manager (NOT in the whisky industry... ) and a whisky lover I can see both sides of the argument. Don't you hate people who seem to sit on the fence?

The marketing head on my shoulders keeps muttering the 'innovate or die' mantra. In a world with a growing market (don't think anyone here would wish for the reverse) and a finite capacity to fill the market then a company has a right and obligation to maximise profits and enhance the P&L for the board and shareholders.

I've no doubt that had this forum existed during the industrialisation of the whisky process the same views would have been expressed regarding a move from traditional or well-loved methods. Hell, we all applaud those distilleries that still do (some of) their own malting.

Think what dissent the coffey still would've iliicited if designed today.

However, my whisky heart agrees that it's a real shame that innovation MAY mean a reduction in the quality of the product. I don't know huge amounts about the particular issues at the heart of this matter - I only drink Macallan on occasion - but I do know the love that many have for the product.

If the company are bottling whisky which previously was deemed too poor then I have to wonderwhat has changed their minds.

Am I still on the fence? Probably. I'll certainly give the bottling a try and will show my displeasure by not buying a full bottle if I don't like it. With any luck consumer demand will dictate what is available - but I'm not holding my breath.

Si
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Postby Iain » Wed Apr 13, 2005 9:14 am

I thought the original point of this thread was, does the introduction of a sherryless Macallan deserve the award of Innovator of the Year?
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Postby si_peacock » Wed Apr 13, 2005 10:25 am

Hi Iain

Agree that the thread has changed!! But don't think that discussions about innovation within the industry in general is that far from the mark.

In answer to the original question... I don't think so, no

Si
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Postby Iain » Wed Apr 13, 2005 11:47 am

Thanks Si. Of course I agree with you that innovation is a "good thing", and I'm certainly not on the anti-marketing bandwagon - some of my best friends are marketeers :D .

Maybe the question should be - did Mac get the wrong award?

For the introduction of the new Mac Fine Oak line (which has been launched with a great fanfare and attracted a lot of praise as well as some criticism), do Mac deserve an award for marketing, rather than innovation?
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Postby si_peacock » Wed Apr 13, 2005 2:00 pm

Ahhh, interesting one.

I'd say that for Macallan to get through this year without any more big PR issues would be a huge plus for their marketing department. The whisky fake problem aside I'm hearing more and more unrest from regular whisky drinkers.

The way I see it is that Macallan are part of a large company that needs to make money to survive. If that means that quality or quantity is compromised it's a shame but would we rather it vanish altogether?

And don't worry about the marketing bandwagon - most of the stuff I see is too awful for words. In all markets let alone whisky.

:roll:

Marketeer - makes me sound like I need a cape and mask!! :wink:
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Postby Oliver » Wed Apr 13, 2005 2:25 pm

SI wrote:

Think what dissent the coffey still would've iliicited if designed today.


Very interesting observation. Surely, I would have been against it! Reallly industrialisation (and "the market is king" dogma) is what 'killed' Single Malts for over a century. All this was done in favour of a cheaply and more quickly made blends which were wrongly allowed to be called whisky --but that's another story.

Lets note that the same companies and interests who over a century ago pushed to prevent SIngle Malts from being the only spirits allowed to be called whisky are the ones who today try to convert Single Malts into "global luxury icons."

I guess when it comes to regional food and drink products I don't think industrialisation is always a good thing. Go ahead, call me a ludite!

Iain: no, I also do not think that Bob is an "innovator." Like the marketeer Izatt said, they (the other two marketeers :wink: , and other upper management types to be sure) looked at a bunch of options (one of which -- unbelievably -- was to go the way of the 'new coke'), and eventually they picked one that fit their marketing objectives, and Bob Delgarno executed that project. Ok, implemented that project. Implementor of the year sounds good, though Executionner of the year has my vote :wink:

Cheers,


Oliver
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ps: To be fair, lets also note that Malt Advocate Magazine also named him 'industry leader' of the year. The send off included a ludicrously sycophantic piece which tried to absolve him of any involvement in the replica scandal --though wasn't he the one who tasted and nosed the srynge-extracted ten year old sample out the infamous 18th century bottle the Macallan rahsly purchased? (Newsflash to Mr. Cox: checking for authenticity is something other distilleries have done to avoid that type of scandal, btw).
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Postby si_peacock » Wed Apr 13, 2005 2:49 pm

Ya Luddite! :P

Woah... this thread is turning the heat up on a few issues.

I think that many of the good single malts out there have only survived due to the existence of blends that continue to take the majority of spirit.

An analogy - many people say that the only books that get published at the moment are the ones that are listed by WHSmith. By this they mean that publishers know they'll get screwed by WHS for a huge (85%) discount. BUT, WHS take such large numbers it drives the unit cost of the rest of the run down so that a) publisher can make a profit and b) book is sold at a reasonable price

Now, if blends didn't exist (and to a large extent some of the less impressive malts) then the theory is that the malt that does get to market would be so over priced as to be impossible to sell.

By and large I don't drink many blends but don't have an issue with them per se. I also don't have a real issue with people taking whisky however they want to. It's all about the enjoyment and it keeps the market active.

To get back to the original point of the thread - I don't think innovation has taken place simply by Macallan releasing whisky that until recently wasn't deemed good enough. However, if the new release were to miraculously attract tens of thousands of new whisky punters then I certainly wouldn't be miserable about it and may have to revise my opinion.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Apr 13, 2005 6:07 pm

Iain wrote:I thought the original point of this thread was, does the introduction of a sherryless Macallan deserve the award of Innovator of the Year?


We all seem to be in agreement on this.

One thing I would like to question is our easy characterization of unsherried Macallan as "not good enough" to bottle as a single, or at least presumably having been thought so by Macallan themselves. For one thing, if the whisky aged in a perfectly good bourbon cask is substandard, can we then conclude that all of Macallan's quality and character come from sherry casks? That doesn't say much for the spirit itself. It's true that Macallan originally put the stuff into casks without intent to bottle it as a single (just like all those Port Ellens we rave about), but it seems to me that the only reason is that it didn't fit the profile the company had set for itself. This "all sherry all the time" schtick was every bit as much a marketing scheme as anything they are doing now, along with the typical hype about doing it the traditional way, the expensive way, the superior way. I'm not slamming them for this, just trying to put it in perspective. It suited them as long as they could meet demand that way. They certainly aren't unique in using that sort of hype, as a random reading of various labels will show--the shelves are full of "finest rarest old whisky".

Whether bourbon-aged Macallan is worth drinking or not is, as far as I'm concerned, a matter of individual taste, as it is with all whisky. Whether it's worthy of being positioned as a "global luxury icon"...well, that kind of bs always gives me a chuckle. But it might be worth noting that it has long been the rabid fans of Macallan who have put it on that sort of pedestal in the first place. And it's hardly "new coke", which was intended to replace entirely the old product in one fell swoop. More like "Bud Light", an alternate product meant to fill a specific marketing niche.

And speaking of Bud, Oliver, Macallan might have followed the model of American lagers, which slowly replaced barley with cheaper corn and rice, and lowered hopping levels, over many years, until the modern product no longer bears any resemblance to real beer. In other words, they might have introduced small amounts of unsherried Macallan into the standard vattings, quietly dropped the words "all" and "exclusively" from their blurbs about sherry aging, and slowly and progressively diluted the flagship product. That would have been sad indeed, if not an outrage and a betrayal, and it is to their credit that they did not take this route.
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Postby Iain » Wed Apr 13, 2005 8:58 pm

Mr T, I'm glad we're all agreeing here :) I certainly wouldn't argue that unsherried Macallan isn't good enough to bottle as a single. But (like you) I wouldn't agree that it was innovative, and I'm assuming that it's this non-innovative product that has won BD the Innovator of the Year award. Which seems very peculiar and a bit unfair to genuine innovators!

I would have thought folks like JMR would have a much greater claim to the title of "innovators", for some of their Easy Drinking Whisky range. They have taken a fresh and innovative approach to introducing new whiskies, no matter if some folks tut-tut. But they're not a big firm, and they don't have the advertising budget of Mac (or am I being cynical re the motives for magazines in choosing the winners of these awards?!) .

In contrast, Macallan's search for higher sales volumes, and their disasterous foray into "Replicas", seems to have driven them back into their conservative shells. Macallan was once a market leader - the creator of a distinctive whisky style in itself. Now it looks like its in danger of becoming just another Speysider - good, popular, but just one of a sort.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Apr 13, 2005 9:55 pm

Iain, I am reminded of the conundrum faced by popular musical artists who burst onto the scene with a fresh new sound, then face the question of whether to keep on with what they're doing or keep on trying to do something different. On the one hand they get criticized for being stagnant and doing the same ol' same ol', and on the other they get criticized for abandoning what made them popular. In this case I'm not sure what you're criticizing Macallan for--ceasing to be innovators, or ceasing to be what made them popular. Maybe both.

As for JMR, it seems to me that they are little more than a marketing concept themselves, and in my mind an insultingly dumbed-down one. The whisky may be fine, but the cartoony promotion reminds me of nothing so much as Joe Camel. And having an instant tasting note for a name sure saves you the trouble of having to figure it out for yourself, doesn't it? And what shall we make of the fact that the Easy Drinking Whisky Company was created with the financial backing of none other than the Edrington Group?
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Apr 13, 2005 10:12 pm

On second thought, not so much Joe Camel as "Whisky for Dummies". I suppose some people think it's cute. Anyway, not what I'd call innovation in the field, unless the field is marketing.
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Postby Iain » Thu Apr 14, 2005 8:23 am

There's that "tut tut"! Those cheeky chappies do seem to have upset some people :)

I didn't criticise Macallan's Fine Oak range (I think that was Oliver!). It seems to be very popular. I said that it's supported by a very slick marketing campaign, and that was intended as a compliment. But in what way is the product, Macallan Fine Oak whisky, innovatory?

I'm questioning the award, not criticising Mac.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Apr 14, 2005 3:52 pm

Yes, Iain, I'm trying to talk to both of you at once...sorry if it gets confusing.

I think those chaps are far more calculating than cheeky, and I think they developed a product to suit their marketing ideas rather than vice-versa. Hey, if it's good whisky, that's what counts, but that's my opinion.
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Postby Iain » Thu Apr 14, 2005 4:09 pm

Don't worry Mr T - I'm hanging on in there :D

I wouldn't be brave enough to claim that JMR's Irish/Scotch "Celtic combo" is actually BETTER than a Mac Fine Oak, only that it seems to be a more innovative whisky. I think some things from Compass Box would also be in that bracket. And there are others experimenting with styles and flavours.

Like karma, there's "good" innovation, and "bad". It's all a matter of taste. :wink:
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Postby Lawrence » Thu Apr 14, 2005 4:28 pm

I think JMR Easy Drinking Whisky Company won the WI award last year.
Lawrence
Matured cask
 
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Postby Iain » Thu Apr 14, 2005 5:04 pm

Glad to hear it!

Was that before the introduction of the Scotch/Irish combo?
Iain
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