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Issue 61 - Two's company (Ballantines)

Whisky Magazine Issue 61
January 2007

 

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Two's company (Ballantines)

Ballantine's is one of the world's top blends but it is in need of a dose of loving and who better for that than the French? Dominic Roskrow reports

The way in which French drinks giant Pernod Ricard picked up a raft of new brands from Allied last year, assimilated them in to its company portfolio and has set about giving them a polish has been ruthlessly efficient and highly impressive.

Normally when a company falls apart and its carcass picked over by cash-hungry predators there is a degree of blood-letting and unpleasantness, and then a period of disruption as wounds are opened and then badly stitched up.

Perhaps some of that has happened but you have to peer pretty intensively if you want to spot the joins. And already there have been one or two examples where Pernod has picked up the ball and ran with it to great effect.

Scapa, for instance. Here was a distillery that Allied had committed itself to, and invested in. Within weeks of Pernod taking over, though, the company had decided exactly how it intended to move forward, invited the media to share its vision, and set about putting bottles of the Orkney malt where it really mattered: in front of whisky drinkers.

Now, it would seem, it is set to do the same with Ballantine's, which on the one hand is a massive and successful global blend, and on the other has been floundering without a clear identity in the mind of the blended whisky drinker and has been in need of some tender loving care.

Cue the Pernod treatment. What the company inherited was a worldwide blend and the two distilleries that are at the heart of it. So its approach has been logical. First it set...

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