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Issue 12 - The writing is on the wall

Whisky Magazine Issue 12
November 2000


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The writing is on the wall

Jim Murray laments the demise of more distilleries

There is a tradition which says that you can tell the difference between each Scottish distillery just by looking at the individual white-washed warehouses.

On them, written large, are their famous old names painted bold and proud in sooted jet. These distilleries can be found dotted throughout the Highlands and are especially noticeable on the islands where they resolutely stand facing out to, and at the mercy of, the shifting sea.

As events are unfolding, all this has become sinisterly symbolic because for a significant number of distilleries the stormy waters are gathering and the funereal black writing does appear to be on the wall – this could not be more
chillingly apposite.

At a period when the big multi-national distillers have been shedding staff like a tree sheds leaves in the autumn, the news that everyone had been expecting for several years had finally arrived. Seagram was up for sale.

Unless there is a management buy out, which is unlikely, the main Seagram brands are destined for a fellow high flyer. And, as one industry executive said to me just the other day, “who the hell needs another nine distilleries?” Quite.

The stark fact is that Seagram's collection of Scotch malt distilleries represents one of the least alluring of any portfolio to be found among the world's beverage companies. Take away the historical heavyweights of The Glenlivet, Glen Grant, Longmorn and Strathisla and what are you left with? Five distilleries in Caperdonich, Braeval,...

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