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Issue 16 - Fighting to find the right blend

Whisky Magazine Issue 16
June 2001


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Fighting to find the right blend

Dave Broom considers the implications of the industry's dog-eat-dog corporate strategy upon whisky's future

Getting out of drinks in favour of showbiz and sewage (now there's a natural synergy) has allowed Pernod Ricard to become the third biggest whisky firm, while Diageo (which took the wine side) just keeps expanding like the drinks industry equivalent of Monty Python's Mr Creosote.

Is it good news for the industry? At this point the answer has to be yes. Pernod-Ricard is successful at marketing premium brands – look at Jameson, Wild Turkey and Havana Club for proof of that. A new premium Scotch portfolio looks like a good fit. That said, many questions remain unanswered. How will the new owner juggle a fresh, expanded malt range? Will the fact that Pernod Ricard now has The Glenlivet and Glen Grant mean that Aberlour's role will diminish? I hope not. Will they finally do what Seagram never did and realise that in Longmorn and Strathisla they have two of the greatest single malts around? It always baffled me that the marketeers in Seagram head office paid scant attention to their production guys and asked them what they drank. The answer, by the way, is Longmorn. Hopefully Pernod will pay more attention.

Ultimately, what happens with the malts is a side issue. Pernod Ricard's success as a player will be judged on how it handles the flagging fortunes of Chivas which in turn means how it gets rid of the biggest stock surplus in the industry. Seagram always had a pretty basic way of managing production in its distilleries, whether they were in Speyside, Kentucky, Canada or Cog...

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