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Issue 78 - The long view

Whisky Magazine Issue 78
February 2009


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The long view

Does history hold the key to future brand development? Ian Buxton puts on his white gloves and has a delve around.

The readers of this magazine include in their number some pretty enthusiastic collectors, and the proliferation of whisky auctions, specialist dealers and eBay sales illustrates just how powerful the collecting bug can become – but just what would you do with a collection comprising an estimated 3.5 million pieces, many requiring some serious specialist conservation and storage?

The answer is to set up a proper archive.

The dictionary defines this as “a collection of documents such as letters, official papers, photographs, or recorded material, kept for their historical interest” and this pretty much describes what you'll find at the Diageo archive in Menstrie, just to the north of Stirling in Scotland's central belt.

There Christine McCafferty leads a team of three fellow qualified archivists and an assistant to, as she puts it, “support brand knowledge, history and heritage and use historic materials to inspire new developments in products and packaging.” It's a role that has developed in recent years. Not so very long ago the trend among almost every company that acquired one of its rivals was to obliterate all trace of the former company's identity as quickly as possible. And, given that the whisky industry has had its share of consolidation, many historic records suffered as a result.

The process reached its nadir in 1987 when, under the leadership of ‘Deadly' Ernest Saunders, the office contents of the former DCLgroup companies were disposed of with deli...

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