Each week, we bring you the latest whisky news on WhiskyCast. Now, we’ll be bringing it to you as it happens here on our News Updates page!
August 23, 2016 – With thousands of different whiskies to choose from, whisky drinkers can often be baffled by the possibilities when trying to pick just one. What if an individual’s personality profile could help narrow down those possibilities with a high degree of success?
Dr. Adam Moore of the University of Edinburgh has been studying that idea with support from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. “When the SMWS approached me and asked if I thought there would be a way to connect personality types to whisky preferences, I said that I thought there might be, but no one had ever really tried anything like that before,” he said in a telephone interview.
The Princeton-educated psychologist and research scientist created a psychometric test using standard questions to measure five key personality traits: Agreeableness, Neuroticism, Extraversion, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience. The test was given to more than 300 volunteers at SMWS tasting events in Scotland, London, Washington, Vancouver, and Melbourne over a six-month period, with the volunteers also rating their preferences among the 12 core flavors generally found in Scotch whiskies. “Through statistical modeling, I was able to find links between certain personality traits and preferences for certain flavor profiles of whisky…and then after collecting significantly more data…we began to have some confidence that these links were real and then we built the test on the basis of that,” he said. The final online test uses 35 different questions and is available to the public at FlavourBehaviour.com.
After a user completes the test, Dr. Moore’s algorithm generates a personality profile such as “The Perfect Norm” and a style of whisky best suited to that profile, such as “juicy, oak, and vanilla.” As an example, this combination is described as “a very moderate character with no one clear dominant personality trait, so this balanced whisky flavour is sure to float your boat.”
Listen to Mark Gillespie’s interview with Dr. Adam Moore:
Of course, just because a whisky drinker fits one particular profile doesn’t mean that individual will not enjoy other styles of whisky. “The links between personality traits and preferences for certain flavor profiles is only one aspect of the entire relationship between an individual person and the kind of whisky that they like,” says Dr. Moore – who admits that the test would likely have projected that he would prefer either “juicy, oak, and vanilla” or “heavily peated” whiskies. Dr. Moore has not taken the test himself, largely because his knowledge of the questions and the algorithm would make it too easy to structure his answers to produce a desired result.
Where the test may prove to be most useful is in helping a newcomer to whisky pick a style more likely to match that person’s individual personality. “I can’t think of even a single time when anybody said ‘I absolutely hated the thing that you recommended,'” Moore said.
Links: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
August 22, 2016 – For the third year in a row, a single malt from Inver House Distillers has taken top honors at the Whisky Fringe festival in Edinburgh. The Balblair 1990 vintage was named the Spirit of Whisky Fringe Award winner in voting by attendees at the Royal Mile Whiskies-sponsored event this past weekend. The victory comes after the 2014 victory for the Old Pulteney 1990 vintage and last year’s win for the Old Pulteney 17 year old – which came in 10th place this year.
Also for the third consecutive year, Glenglassaugh single malts took runner-up honors, as attendees picked the distillery’s 30-year-old expression as their second-favorite whisky of the weekend. According to the organizers, 161 different whiskies received votes during the three days of the Whisky Fringe. Tomatin placed three different single malts in the top ten, while William Grant & Sons had two. The only whisky from outside Scotland to make the top ten was Redbreast 21 from Irish Distillers.
1: Balblair 1990
2: Glenglassaugh 30
3: William Grant & Sons Ghosted Reserve 21 Year Old Blended Malt
4: Tomatin 36
5: Cù Bòcan 1988 Vintage (Tomatin)
6: Tomatin 1995 21 Year Old Sherry Cask
7: Kininvie 23 Year Old
8: Redbreast 21
9: Sovereign Port Dundas 1988 27 Year Old Single Grain
10: Old Pulteney 17
The 2017 Whisky Fringe will be held the weekend of August 11-13 in Edinburgh.
Links: Royal Mile Whiskies
August 14, 2016 – Following several days of criticism on social media over its decision to dissolve the long-running Masters of Whisky education program, Diageo North America executives are reaffirming their commitment to on-premise and consumer education – and plan to retain at least some of the brand ambassadors that are currently scheduled to lose their jobs when the program ends at the end of September. Executives from Diageo and ENTHUSE, the agency tasked with creating a new on-premise education program, plan to meet this week with the 24 Masters of Whisky ambassadors to discuss the new program.
In an internal staff memo provided to WhiskyCast by Diageo representatives, Reserve Brands President Stephen Rust praised the program set up in 1993 that has provided training to bar and restaurant staff as well as thousands of consumers at whisky festivals in the United States. Rust described the decision to move its on-premise education program contract from MKTG, the agency that managed the program for Diageo, to the ENTHUSE division of Inspira Marketing Group.
“We are not walking away from this program. We’re simply revising our approach to ensure we’re meeting the needs of on-premise accounts and other key stakeholders. We’ll do this by working with a team of experienced men and women with deep category expertise and a continued focus on mentorship and education.”
The 24 current Masters of Whisky were notified in a conference call earlier this month that the MKTG-run program will be terminated September 30, with their jobs to be eliminated along with an unspecified number of support staff. Much of the criticism had focused not only on the decision to end the popular program, but also on its timing. The conference call was set up two days after the July 31 death of Evan Cattanach, who helped create the program in 1993 following his retirement as a veteran of 33 years at Diageo’s distilleries in Scotland. His son, Gregor Cattanach, has been a Master of Whisky for many years and is one of those to be laid off when the program ends.
According to Steve Beal, a longtime Master of Whisky who retired last year, the decision took the program’s staff by surprise. “They’d all gone down to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, executed some fantastic educational programs and probably the best industry party of the week, and they’d all come back with a really strong forward-thinking view of the future,” he said in an interview for this week’s episode of WhiskyCast, noting that they had all been hit hard by Evan Cattanach’s passing. “Probably 24 hours after that news, they’re all called to have a group conference call and the announcement that their program had been terminated…I think it’s only a coincidence, a very unfortunate one.” Coincidence or not, the news was not taken well by the whisky and cocktail community following initial reports this past week on ScotchWhisky.com.
Faced with a backlash from bartenders critical to the success of Diageo’s Reserve Brands, which include Johnnie Walker, the portfolio of single malt Scotch whiskies, and Bulleit Bourbon, company executives apparently pivoted quickly to try and retain as many of the current ambassadors as possible. Sources close to members of the Masters of Whisky program indicate that many of them were still waiting for details on severance packages as of this past Friday (August 12), and had not been given any details on the new program or whether they would be considered for positions. The undated memo from Stephen Rust provided to WhiskyCast on Friday may give more guidance on that than disclosed so far.
In light of recent reports around Diageo’s revised approach to its Reserve brands in the on-premise and our ambassador program, I wanted to reach out to provide clarity about the recent changes.
The Ambassador program, including the Masters of Whisk(e)y and tequila ambassadors, is near and dear to many of Diageo’s former and current employees, including myself. It has allowed us to reach countless consumers, media and members of the Trade, and has elevated brands across all categories. It has also laid a foundation of education unparalleled in our industry and that is a direct result of all the passion from those involved throughout the years.
Through our partnership with ENTHUSE, we are not walking away from this program. We’re simply revising our approach to ensure we’re meeting the needs of on-premise accounts and other key stakeholders. We’ll do this by working with a team of experienced men and women with deep category expertise and a continued focus on mentorship and education.
As the future of the industry changes, we must adapt to ensure we’re setting our portfolio of brands up for success. We feel confident this new approach will allow us to increase our coverage in accounts, creating customized business solutions and providing additional resources in the on-premise.
We are not moving away from education. This new structure will allow us to provide a more customized and beneficial resource that will drive accounts’ business needs, create additional resources for them to utilize and increase awareness of and knowledge base around our products.
As we continue to support our distilleries and the incredible people who create our spirits, we look forward to working with ENTHUSE and their team of National Educators and Reserve Account Experts to help on-premise accounts utilize our brands and build their business. In partnership with ENTHUSE, we will meet with all current ambassadors in the next week to provide greater clarity on this new model as we hope many of them join us in this new journey.
If anyone has questions or would like additional details on this revised approach, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Diageo did not make Rust or other executives available for interviews, but in an email to WhiskyCast, Inspira Marketing Group Chief Possibilities Officer Kim Lawton confirmed that her company would be working with Diageo to “provide the current Ambassadors and MOW a more formal communication plan.”
This story will be updated as necessary.
August 11, 2016 – One of Ireland’s most popular whisky attractions is scheduled to close at the end of the month for an €11 million ($12.25 million USD) redevelopment. The Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin’s Smithfield neighborhood will receive a complete makeover during the winter before reopening next March in time for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Irish broadcaster RTE reports the facility’s 75 employees will be reassigned to temporary jobs during the project, with some leading tastings at a neighborhood hostel and restaurant and others staffing a “welcome kiosk” on Bow Street to greet tourists.
The Old Jameson Distillery attracts nearly 300,000 visitors each year, with more than four million guests since the visitor center opened in 1997. Distilling at the site ended when Irish Distillers shifted almost all of its Irish Whiskey production in 1975 to the new Midleton Distillery in County Cork, and most of the original distillery site had already been demolished and redeveloped when the company decided to turn the surviving buildings into a visitor center. The Dublin facility is a companion to the Jameson Experience visitor center at the Old Midleton Distillery adjacent to the current distillery.
In a statement, Irish Distillers CEO Jean-Christophe Coutures said “as the renaissance of Irish whiskey continues at pace following incredible global growth over 25 years, we want to build on our efforts to share the story of Irish whiskey and Jameson around the world. We’ve enlisted the world’s best ‘experience designers’ and complimented that with a 100 percent Irish contracting team who will work together to deliver on our vision.” The redevelopment is being created by BRC Imagination Arts, which has created “brand experiences” for Coca-Cola, Heineken, and the nearby Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.
Links: Old Jameson Distillery
August 9, 2016 – On the same day that Isle of Arran touted a record day for tours (300) at its 21-year-old distillery in Lochranza on its Twitter feed, the distillery announced North Ayrshire Council has granted planning permission to build a second distillery on the island. Construction is expected to begin in October on the site in Lagg along Arran’s southern coast with distilling to begin in mid-2018, according to Arran managing director Euan Mitchell. While there were at least three legal distilleries on the island at one point, Mitchell estimates there may have been as many as 50 illegal stiills in the area around Lagg in the past. “Traditionally, they would have produced quite a heavily peated style of single malt, and our intention is to replicate that and create quite a distinctive character in comparison to Arran,” Mitchell said in a telephone interview.
While roads and other infrastructure in the area around Lagg are minimal, there is a special significance for the site of the new distillery. It overlooks fields now being used to grow malting barley for Arran, and visitors will be able to see the fields from the new distillery’s visitors center. Funding is already in place for the project, with an estimated budget of around £10 million GBP ($13 million USD). “We have a young, dynamic team of architects working on the project, and they’ve come up with a really amazing design…it’s a modern design, but it’s designed to really fit into the landscape,” Mitchell said.
Current plans are to use the name “Lagg Distillery,” though Mitchell says no decision has been made on what brand name the distillery’s single malts will carry. Those plans call for the first release of the distillery’s whisky approximately five years after it opens, though Mitchell is not ruling out a couple of single cask releases during that time – presumably after the initial casks reach the three-year minimum age at which spirit can legally be called Scotch Whisky.
Listen to Mark Gillespie’s interview with Euan Mitchell:
Arran is in the middle of a large-scale expansion after reporting another year of solid growth during 2015. Last week, the distillery reported a 25 percent increase in net profits for 2015 over the previous year, along with a 16 percent increase in sales. The distillery in Lochranza will shut down in mid-October for the installation of two additional stills, with production scheduled to resume in mid-January. The distillery has also opened a new bottling and blending facility, complete with private tasting rooms for importers and distributors visiting the distillery.
According to Mitchell, the increase in visitor traffic at the distillery made it necessary to create a separate area for business guests. Arran recorded around 85,000 visitors during 2015, up from 66,000 the previous year, and projects a similar increase this year. Tours will continue during the construction project this winter, but will not include the actual stillhouse where work is being done. “We’ll let them try a sample of different expressions, show them around the warehousing, and give them as much information as possible,” Mitchell said. For the record, the island has around 4,500 full-time residents, and visitor traffic at the distillery has a major impact on the island’s economy.
Links: Isle of Arran
August 5, 2016 – Believe it or not, there was once a time when passenger trains were popular for cross-country travel in the United States. Baseball teams traveled by train on road trips, political candidates conducted “whistle-stop” campaign tours with rallies at train stations, and many Scotch Whisky lovers got their first taste of single malt whiskies in a Pullman train’s bar car.
After the end of Prohibition, The Glenlivet’s Captain Bill Smith Grant negotiated a deal with the Pullman Company to make his single malts the exclusive Scotch Whisky sold on board Pullman’s trains. The two-ounce miniature bottles were the forerunner of today’s “airline-size” bottles, and became popular in the U.S. long before Glenfiddich’s highly-touted single malt debut in the mid-Sixties.
While train travel today is not nearly as popular, nor nearly as luxurious as it was during the days before airline travel became commonplace, The Glenlivet is celebrating that heritage with a series of three limited-edition single cask bottlings. The Pullman Train Collection series is only available in the U.S., with each expression selling for a recommended price of $350 per bottle. While not inexpensive, the three different cask types used for the series give us a unique opportunity to look at the different influences casks can have on a whisky, since the basic “new make” spirit off the still is the same for all three bottlings.
The Glenlivet Pullman Club Car
This is the oldest of the three bottlings in the series, with 18 years of maturation in an ex-Sherry butt, and as with all three, is bottled at cask-strength (56.24% ABV) with no chill-filtering. As might be expected with a Sherry butt, the nose is fruity with notes of grilled peaches, plums, and mango, balanced by figs, clove, cardamom, and cocoa. A sip reveals a creamy and chocolate-y mouthfeel followed by spicy clove and cardamom notes on top with underlying notes of milk chocolate, figs, and plums. The finish is smooth and lingering with touches of raisins and plums. Score: 92 points.
The Glenlivet 20th Century Limited
The 20th Century Limited was one of the most famous train routes of all time, second only to the fabled Orient Express. The New York Central railroad ran this red-carpet train nightly between Grand Central Station and Chicago, making it popular for business travelers as well as vacationers.
This whisky is 14 years old, bottled at 58% ABV, and was matured in a European Oak cask that helps accentuate the citrusy characteristics of the spirit. The nose is honey-sweet with notes of brown sugar, orange peel, allspice, and ginger root. The taste is where the citrus comes alive, with tart lemon zest and orange peel notes, spicy clove, allspice, and ginger root, and touches of honey and brown sugar in the background to pull the flavors together with exceptional balance. The finish is long and equally well-balanced with citrus tartness complemented by ginger root and a subtle hint of clove. Score: 93 points.
The Glenlivet Pullman Water Level Route
This expression gets its name from the scenic route the 20th Century Limited used as it skirted the rivers and lakes between New York City and Chicago, and most of that same route is still in use today on Amtrak trains between the two cities.
This whisky was matured for 14 years in an American Oak cask and bottled at 57.4% ABV. The American Oak brings out a different range of flavors and aromas than its European Oak counterpart, with a nose dominated by honey and vanilla, dried flowers, muted spices, and brown sugar. The taste has honey and black tea notes balanced by clove, lemon zest, brown sugar, and a hint of molasses. The finish is clearly different; long and chewy with molasses cookies, oatmeal, and honey. Score: 91 points.
The three whiskies in The Glenlivet Pullman Train Collection will be difficult to find. Just 270 bottles of the Pullman Water Level Route were produced, compared to 498 for the Pullman Club Car and 524 for the Pullman 20th Century Limited. All three share the same fruity, floral character that is common among all of The Glenlivet’s single malts, but the nature of these single cask bottlings gives a whisky connoisseur clear differences to explore in the impact wood makes on a whisky over time.
Editor’s note: These tasting notes were based on samples provided by The Glenlivet. Full editorial control over the content of this story remains with WhiskyCast.
Links: The Glenlivet