Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Writing’s On The Wall For Laphroaig

Literally…

The latest Laphroaig marketing campaign is currently inviting its twitter followers to tweet comments with the hashtag #BIGOPINIONS and the successful ones are being projected onto the side of the distillery’s infamous white walls…

Laphroaig - #BIGOPINIONS

Laphroaig – #BIGOPINIONS

This isn’t the first time that we’ve written about Laphroaig, and probably won’t be the last, as we at WU are quite the fans of their distinctive work. With that in mind, we were delighted to have our suggestion broadcast last night. Click on the photo to see the video from last night’s stream. Sentimental? Yes. Worth it? Definitely!

Slainte from @whiskyunplugged

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Dumbing down the drams?

It is a fair statement that the scotch-drinking world can be snobby, elitist and strongly opinionated – indeed it is our mission statement in the “About WU” section that we try to look beyond the divide – but one argument that is progressively resonating throughout the whisky communities (whether elitist or otherwise) is the role of No Age Statement (or “NAS”) whiskies in that world.

The last few years has seen a real explosion of single malts being released by distilleries of all sizes to try and attract new customers. No greater sign of this trend is the ever more inventively casked and matured drams making their way into the market, with multiple maturation becoming the norm amongst the NAS drams. Effectively, the competitive market is pushing distilleries to be more creative to sell their product quicker, and the demand for it must be there because they are continually selling out.

The Macallan Gold

The Macallan Gold

In the meantime however, the distilleries themselves are still creating the same quantities of the base liquid year in and year out, and the result is that more and more of the annual produce is being matured for shorter periods and sold as NAS whiskies, i.e. at the sacrifice of maturing whiskies to the traditional staple outputs of the 10, 12, 15 and 18 year olds.

One recent example can be seen in scotch giants Macallan, whose traditional releases have all been supplemented (and virtually replaced in stores) by their 1824 series, where the product’s colour is now effectively the dram’s calling card, rather than the age or substance itself, leaving you to choose between gold, amber, sienna or ruby (in ascending order as far as your bank balance may stretch). Whilst this may seem like shrewd marketing and may still be indicative of the product itself (see Colour By Numbers), it doesn’t hide the fact that the shelves at your local dram shop are a-changing.

WU was surprised to read recently that the recent Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve NAS dram (you know, the one in the bright blue box) is now set to replace the traditional Glenlivet 12 on the shelves, despite the fact that previous reports had suggested that it would be an entry-level alternative. This is a concern. Particularly as they do taste different to one another. Diageo favourites like Talisker and Singleton of Dufftown have similarly released NAS entry level drams (such as “Storm” and “Spey Cascade” respectively) and we hope that this isn’t to the fall of the staple Talisker 10 and Singleton 12.

The Supermarket Glens

The Supermarket Glens

Interestingly, at a recent event WU overheard that certain distillery owners were actually demanding a return to traditional, aged outputs – provided that the quality was right – to counter the current NAS culture.

As with anything that changes the norm, there will always be noses put out of place, but if we start to lose some of our favourite tipples for the sake of marketing and the quick buck, then we fear that it is actually change for the worse. Particularly so, if distilleries start to place style over substance, and that’s the key factor here: substance. If a distillery loses its traditional output for the sake of something new, innovative and better, then we welcome the change. It does come down to taste and personal preference after all. But, if it comes down to cash and the big players start to unilaterally put out cheap rubbish to stay afloat, then we might actually start to side with the traditionalists. Just so long as the drams don’t turn out to be NAS-ty then we’ll be fine.

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Lessons learned at Laphroaig?

As the 200th birthday celebrations continue, the good folk at Laphroaig have announced the release of this year’s Cairdeas release, which is (not surprisingly) limited in numbers and exclusively available to the Friends of Laphroaig.

Whilst it is hardly an exclusive club, given that it is free for anyone to join, as ever you’ve got to be in it win it, and it seems that the moaning masses referred to in WU’s previous article Laphroaig – 15 Years Old (Slight Return) have been heard this time around.

Following a mailshot to all FoL members, the email recipients had to essentially put their name in a hat to have the chance at owning a bottle of the limited release. The opt-in ballot also gave members the opportunity to select whether they were bidding for one or two bottles. After a time-frame of 3 days, the ballot was closed and within hours all applicants were emailed as to whether or not they had been successful. Fortunately, we at WU were successful, albeit the “popular demand” of the release meant that each applicant’s allowance was in fact just the one bottle of the 2015 Cairdeas.

“Cairdeas” itself translates from Gaelic to “friendship” and although the laphroaig.com website has not yet got a section detailing this 2015 Cairdeas release (and therefore currently remains rant-free), hopefully the use of the ballot has kept some of those friendships alive.

 

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