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Issue 28 - The Miller's Tale

Whisky Magazine Issue 28
January 2003


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The Miller's Tale

Listening to another overlong speech at The International Wine & Spirits Competition Dinner, a desperately unoriginal thought struck me. How about organising a classification of Scotch single malt whisky distilleries? Not merely by geography, nor indeed by flavour profile, but into divisions. You know, like the bordelais did in 1855. There was a half-hearted attempt made a couple of years ago; a marketeer from one of the bigger whisky companies approached five whisky writers and asked them to rank the distilleries. For reasons too long-winded to put in this column, the effort failed to gain credibility and exposure.

So why bother? Surely, if you put certain distilleries on a pedestal, they would only seek to hike up their prices, to put clear water between them and their competitors? But that is if you look at it from the producer's perspective. If you look at it with the eye of someone wanting to buy a bottle of whisky, it has obvious merits: it will give the confused and promiscuous purchaser of whisky a quality, and by extension, value guide. Why is the standard bottling of one whisky more expensive than that of another? Because the distillery in question has been recognised by an impartial panel of experts to belong to the first division of distillates.

Is there a downside to the idea? Of course there is, especially if your whisky distillery isn't in the first division. Unless you do a Château Mouton-Rothschild and buy your way into the elite. I suspect some marketing ...

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