Friday, 5 February 2010

#367 - What's In A Brand Name?

Granted, the malt maniacs can be a crusty old bunch at times. Because many of us have been interested in single malt whisky for at least two decades, we personally experienced a time (during the 1990's) when single malt whisky still was a more-or-less authentic product. What's more, we started building our 'collections' (actually mostly deferred drinking stocks) when bottles from the 1970's and 1980's were still affordable...

Of course, the influence of "big business" and corporate ownership could already be felt on the 'production' side of the whisky world, but consumers could still enjoy crafted single malts that displayed a distinct distillery character. This situation has changed dramatically in recent years; there's little room anymore for the miracle of coincidences in the ISO-driven processes of most alcohol conglomerates. These days, the goal for most malt whisky distilleries is to produce as much malt whisky as possible, as cheaply as possible. This effectively means that single malts are now often marketed in the same way as blends. The name of the distillery used to be the only 'brand' in the single malt whisky world, but these days the connection between brands and distilleries has grown very slim indeed.

Take 'Singleton' for example - it used to be the brand name for single malts that were produced at the Auchroisk distillery, but these days Diageo uses the old 'Singleton' name for three different single malts that are marketed in three different markets under the same name; the Glendullan 12yo for the USA, the Dufftown 12yo for Europe and the Glen Ord 12yo for Asia. So, that's three completely different malts (granted, not as different as they used to be in the 20th century) that are sold under one generic brand name for people that buy 'by the label'... That's why one malt maniac prefers the brand name 'Simpleton' for these simplified, relatively generic whiskies. 

Another example of the growing gap between the brand and the product is the recent sale of the Glenrothes brand from Edrington to Berry Brothers. While Berry Brothers become the owners of the brand, ownership of the Glenrothes distillery itself stays with the Edrington Group. In exchange, ownership of the Cutty Sark blend transfers to Edrington. The deal is supposed to be concluded by April 2010...

Sweet drams,