Whisky Magazine Issue 20
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Tom Bruce-Gardyne explores the reasons, both cultural and political, behind Spain becoming the world's biggest consumer of Scotch whisky and with an image quite unlike any other
Caught between a rock and a hard place, between the greed of the government and the power of the supermarkets, selling Scotch whisky in Britain is no picnic these days. Once the taxman and the retailer have taken their cut, precious little profit remains on standard blends which account for 90% of all Scotch whisky drunk in the UK. If consumers knew the Chancellor was siphoning off £7.20 from every £12 bottle purchased, the whisky-drinking classes would probably have taken to the streets by now – but it hasn't happened yet.
Even in whisky's homeland, the national drink now seems to be Smirnoff Ice. Requesting a dram in one of Glasgow's hip young bars is more likely to be greeted with hoots of derision than delight. If you're a whisky salesman it's enough to make you weep, or at least hit the bottle. What's the alternative? A two-hour plane journey south takes you to a completely different world – a sun-kissed paradise where whisky reigns supreme.
Spain has overtaken first Britain, then the States and finally France to become the world's biggest consumer of Scotch whisky. Some of the French are a little upset about this and suggest that if you factor in the cross-border shopping in the Pyrenees – where thrifty Frenchmen can save 10 to 15 francs a bottle – France is still ahead. Regardless, there has been a seismic shift since the late 80s when Americans swallowed four times the quantity of Scotch the Spanish supped.
Scotch whisky enjoyed prestige status for many...