Tag Archives: Glenfiddich

Walking tall

A few months ago I interviewed Taygan Govinden, the South African brand manager for Johnnie Walker.

First published in Prestige Magazine (November 2012 edition).

As it appeared.

As it appeared.

Note: Apologies on behalf of Prestige Magazine for the spelling error in the sub-title of the printed version.

PL: Locally you’re the man at the wheel of the world’s biggest whisky brand.  Tell us a bit about yourself.

TG: I’m Durban born and bred but I’ve also lived and worked in the UK and now I’m based in Cape Town.  My background is in analytics, which I think has stood me in good stead for what I’m doing now.  I’m a big cricket fan, and I enjoy sports in general.  Basically I’d describe myself in a nutshell as a passionately South African guy with strong family values.

PL: Johnnie Walker sold 18 million cases in 2011, leaving its rivals trailing by quite some distance.  The brand seems to be living its legend – keep walking indeed.  What’s the secret to its phenomenal success?

TG: The brand has a pioneering spirit that drives us to innovate as we respond and adapt to our changing consumer preferences.  Our heritage is based on the history and tradition of crafting big flavoured whiskies.

PL: The launch of Platinum Label forms part of some wider changes to the core portfolio.  Can you elaborate on what’s been involved?

TG: We’ve introduced two new variants – Platinum Label and Gold Label Reserve.  At the same time we’re gradually phasing out the old Gold and Green Labels.  We are committed to ensuring that our full range of whiskies meet both existing consumer demand and further positions us to fully realise the evolving consumer opportunities of today and tomorrow.  We believe that these changes will allow us to optimally realise these objectives.

PL: Whilst it’s still dwarfed by Blended whisky, Malt is on the rise.  Last year Glenfiddich became the first single malt to sell a million cases.  Green Label itself is the world’s fifth best-selling Malt whisky.  So it might be seen as somewhat curious – in an era showing early signs of an increasing appreciation for Malt whisky – that this variant should be discontinued.  Can you give us some insights into the rationale for this decision?

TG: We are evolving our range to meet existing consumer needs and build on our heritage of innovation of crafting flavours for contemporary tastes. The success we have seen with Gold Label Reserve in the Asian market gives us confidence that this variant offers a more compelling choice for our market.

PL: Will you be launching the Gold Label Reserve in South Africa?  If so, can you give us a sneak peek?

TG: Yes, we’re launching it locally in November. Our consumers can look forward to a blend of premium Scotch whiskies delivering a perfectly mixable whisky with a very smooth taste.

PL: Platinum Label replaces Gold Label, which will now be phased out.  What is the difference between the two?

TG: Platinum Label is an entirely new offering and not a reinterpretation of Gold Label.  It is crafted from the very best 18 year-old Scotch Whiskies with a new, distinct flavour profile.  While Gold Label is delicate and creamy, Platinum Label reflects a strong, sweet and elegant Speyside style with subtle smokiness, stewed fruit, malty cereal, smooth creamy vanilla, and tangerine sweetness.

PL: I recently passed through a duty-free store and I couldn’t help but notice that the price of Platinum Label is some 44% higher than Gold Label.   They’re both 18YO and I would imagine that Gold Label contains high-quality, well-aged whiskies.  What’s the basis for Platinum Label’s relatively more premium pricing?

TG: It should be priced at a 10% to 20% premium locally.  Platinum Label is a completely different whisky to Gold Label and so they should not be compared. The age statement is the only link between these two whiskies.

PL: What will be Platinum Label’s recommended retail pricing in South Africa?

TG: R999.99

Big, bigger, biggest

If you thought that it was all about the motion of the…uh…potion, think again.  Size does matter.

First published in Prestige Magazine (October 2012 edition).

As it appeared.

Every year the authoritative Drinks International publishes a supplement called The Millionaires’ Club.  To the pundit this is something of a bible – and accordingly I read it religiously.  It’s a snapshot of an intensely gladiatorial arena at the end of the annual “games”, documenting the performance – measured in millions of 9l cases – of the world’s big-time spirits brands.  In order to crack the nod a brand must post minimum annual sales of that magical thousand thousand, hence the name.

You might ask yourselves why this should matter to you.  Those of us who consider ourselves to be fierce individualists would probably insist that we make choices to which we are innately suited, rather than paying any attention to what the unwashed masses are consuming.  Or in other words – when it comes to liquor – we should drink what we like rather than worry about what others are drinking.  It’s a simple fact of life however that popular preference has significant sway on our own.  We are susceptible to a large extent, like it or not, to the influence of the world around us.  There is some sense after all, unconscious or otherwise, in recognising the value of something that has been evaluated and accepted en masse.  It is the ultimate endorsement, or so I console myself when falling prey.    Furthermore there’s also an undeniable pull to the beholding of scale: elephants, monster trucks, million case vodkas, and much other such oversized phenomena all offer a certain voyeuristic fascination, especially when they’re pitted one against the other.  Millionaires then is well worth a gander.

So, what’s big and getting bigger?  What’s out there – of significance – about which we might not know?  Do we need to re-evaluate our repertoires? I was seeking out and enjoying Grey Goose a good few years ahead of most fellow South Africans, thanks to Millionaires.  Do you know that Ballantine’s Scotch whisky – which is completely under our local radar – is the world’s third best-selling whisky?  And that’s including whiskeys!  What other tricks out there might we be missing? There’s only one thing for it – here are the highlights of 2011.

A quick note first though:  Millionaires categorises a brand as either global, regional or local, depending on its prevalence.  Global brands are those with wide reach and appeal.  Local brands are limited to just a few markets, or in many cases just a single market.  These are typically value-for-money brands whose success can largely be attributed to pricing, or culturally-specific tastes.   Regional brands fall somewhere in the middle.  I think we have enough Romanoff vodkas and Wellington brandies all of our own so I’ll be focusing on global brands, with the odd passing glance at a few regional brands and at one lone local brand.

All figures quoted represent millions of cases.

Cognac

  1. Hennessy 4.93
  2. Martell 1.86
  3. Courvoisier 1.34

You should know:  Remy Martin declined to participate and did not submit any figures for 2011 – its volume for 2010 was 1.65.  Courvoisier, the smallest of the four dominant cognacs was also the fastest growing last year – adding to the previous year at a rate of 11,7%.  The Jarnac producer built this growth with the launch of a slew of age variants as well as other line extensions, notably C by Courvoisier – a bold, some are saying revolutionary, double-matured cognac with a “full-bodied, intense flavour profile”.  It is targeted it seems at the gangsta rapper brigade…and associated wannabes.  Word up.

Vodka

  1. Smirnoff 24.7
  2. Absolut 11.21
  3. Nemiroff 8.03
  4. Khortytsa 7.5
  5. Grey Goose 3.79

You should know:  Smirnoff continues to consolidate its solid position – it has for some years now been the world’s largest global brand.  Meanwhile Ciroc, the ultra-premium grape-based vodka, has crested a million cases and was last seen passing the 1.5 mark, climbing a rate of 66.7%  thanks to the efforts of megastar rapper and brand ambassador Sean “P.Diddy” Combs.  Ciroc may technically be classified as a local brand (very unusual – given its premiumness), because its volume is almost exclusively concentrated in the US, but on evidence of this performance it won’t be for very much longer.  Around the world people are also increasingly calling for Ketel One and Poliakov, two premium vodkas that have been growing steadily during the past five years.

Rum

  1.  Bacardi 19.56
  2. Captain Morgan 9.2
  3. Havana Club 3.84
  4. Cacique 1.7
  5. Appleton 1.2

You should know: Rum continues to be dominated by the mix-it, party brands.  Only Appleton, with its credible portfolio of aged rums, is giving any hint of what might be to come.

Whisky

  1. Johnnie Walker (Scotch) 18.0
  2. Jack Daniel’s (Tennessee) 10.58
  3. Ballantine’s (Scotch) 6.47
  4. Jim Beam (Bourbon) 5.86
  5. Crown Royal (Canadian) 5.0

You should know:

William Lawson’s posted incredible growth of 35,5%.  Is this the mass discovery of a formerly underappreciated brand?  There are suggestions that a pre-duty stocking in the massive French whisky market may be responsible, but time will tell.  If this is the case it’ll be corrected in next year’s figures, but it might be worth finding a bottle in the interim to see if there’s any merit to the fuss.

The introduction of flavoured “bourbons” such as Red Stag has been a big hit and largely accounts for the strong movement from Jim Beam and Wild Turkey in particular.

Jameson continues its long term surge, growing at an impressive 19,2% off an already large base.  Where though are the other Irish whiskeys?

The most monumental news however is the entry of the first single malt into the club (Glenfiddich of course).  Malt still plays a distant second fiddle to blends, but this signals a bit of a shift – in perceptions if not serious volumes yet.  Hopefully the supply can keep up.

Gin

  1. Gordon’s 4.3
  2. Seagram 2.77
  3. Beefeater 2.39
  4. Bombay Sapphire 2.32
  5. Tanqueray 2.1

You should know: Premium brands rose, whilst standard brands stayed static or sank.  The G and T set are packing their bags and setting sail for Bombay, with sales of the blue bottle leading the charge for the second year running at 7,9% up.

Win with Glenfiddich!

The excitement of Whisky Live is upon us again, and in spirit appropriate of the whisky season my friends (and yours) at Glenfiddich have put together a special surprise for all you whisky-loving readers of Words on Whisky.   Here it goes.

Win a bottle of Glenfiddich 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky, the world’s leading single malt Scotch Whisky, in the lead up to the FNB Whisky Live Festival.

Whether you’re a first-time taster, already a passionate connoisseur, or enthusiastic to learn, see, and taste more, visit the Glenfiddich gold stand at the FNB Whisky Live Festival to nose and taste a dram of the core range of Glenfiddich 12, 15 and 18 Year Old under the expert guidance of the Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador team.

Mmm….

Send your name and contact details to info@whisky.co.za to stand a chance to win a bottle of Glenfiddich 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky valued at R320.00.

The FNB Whisky Live Festival takes place at the Cape Town Convention Centre from 3 – 5 October and is open daily from 18:00 – 22:00.  Tickets are available online at www.whiskylivefestival.co.za.  See you there and may the dram be with you!

PS – Please note that the competition is only open to residents of South Africa, or to those prepared to travel here to come and collect their prize :).  Entries must be received by midnight 5 October.

Winter whisky specials

This message went out to the WHISKYdotcoza database today.  Ignore if you’re not interested in a commercial punt.

Winter is upon us.  If you’re anything like me then you’re probably enjoying a dram or three to fight back the cold.  In this regard WHISKYdotcoza is offering a little bit of winter cheer.

We’ve teamed up with Macallan and Highland Park to bring you these special offers:

These promotions will be open for the next two months, but be warned that stock is limited.  It’s strictly first-come, first served.

Note too that WHISKYdotcoza has secured some stock of the Glenfiddich Age of Discovery Madeira Cask 19YO.  The South African allocation is limited, so if this is something that strikes your fancy don’t delay in getting yourself a bottle.  The numbers are too small to place the product on the site so please contact us at info@whisky.co.za to order.  Price is R1099.

We’ve also been informed by the local suppliers of Laphroaig that there’s a global shortage of the 10YO.  It’s currently out of stock – there’ll be limited stock arriving next month and then no further availability for the rest of the year.  Same deal as above – if this is your bag then get an advance order in to us at soonest convenience.

Until next time – keep well and may the dram be with you!

Bell’s Special Reserve at Hemingway’s Bistro

It’s strikingly appropriate that this post is about Bell’s Special Reserve, for which we’ve just launched a Father’s Day promotion (see the The Return of WHISKYdotcoza), and also a bit of an homage to my dad and his favourite restaurant.

My dad is an unpretentious man.  He certainly can and does appreciate fine things, but I think that he reserves his greatest enjoyment for genuine, down-to-earth, simple pleasures.  When he finds something that he likes he embraces it enthusiastically, be it a wine, a restaurant or a rugby team.  This passion is most evident in his support of the Sharks.  He came to this country not knowing much about rugby and having played only a solitary game (the how and why were lost on a child’s ears), but it struck a chord with him, and today he ranks amongst the most ardent fans in the province, one of those with a pedigree dating back to the old B-Division days.  He takes the same approach when it comes to restaurants.  We’re a family that enjoys our food and we’ve celebrated many wonderful family occasions over a meal at a restaurant.  When the first of the Keg restaurants, the Keg & Thistle, opened in Durban, he was one of the most steadfast patrons; some 5 long, loooong years had to pass before we dined out anywhere else, such was his loyalty.

Today, and for some time now, the Keg’s place in my dad’s heart has been taken by Hemingway’s, a substantial step up (I was going to say “in my opinion” but it’s indisputable so take it as fact).  Hemingway’s is located in the lower Glenwood area of Durban, in a charming Victorian style house that’s been renovated and converted into a restaurant.  Half the tables are on a terrace out front, alfresco always being a useful format in the east coast sauna, and the other half inside.  It’s small enough to feel intimate, but large enough to feel vibey, so suited to just about any dining event I can imagine.  I’ve obviously had many meals at Hemingways – this much should be clear by now – but recently I sampled their new menu for the first time.  It offers a wider selection than the previous, and the medium-rare fillet with blue cheese sauce that I selected was fantastic.  I also finished off a few of my companions’ dinners – I’m nothing if not true to my dustbin nature – so I achieved a fairly broad familiarity with menu and I honestly couldn’t fault a thing.  The service is excellent too.  My dad engages with restaurant staff in very dad-like fashion, but these guys seem to get him.

Victorian? Passable knowledge of whisky. Dangerous knowledge of architecture.

Onto the bar.  So far there’ve been words but too few of them on whisky.  The usual suspects were front and centre – but I was pleasantly surprised to see a few older representatives of the Glenfiddich family also in attendance.  I let my eyes linger on the 15yo Solera, but good as it is I know it well so I wanted to give something else a try.  I decided on Bell’s Special Reserve.  Blended malts are a hugely underrated style of whisky, and as a result relatively uncommon.  It’s little known by the whisky drinking everyman that a single malt, the “pure” style of whisky, is in fact blended – different casks of different wood from different years can typically be used.  So there’s not much by way of conceptual superiority of single over blended malts.  A single malt is representative of a singular place and style, in a way that a blended malt can never be, but a blended malt can call upon a variety of malts and the blender’s skill, and thereby draw from a virtually limitless flavour palette to create something that might be just right for you, for me, for a particular occasion.

Bell's Special Reserve

My occasion was an after dinner dram with my dad.    We savoured the first sweet, then peppery-spicy flavour, and reflected on a great meal, and a great moment in time spent together.  If I had to analyse it more closely I’d say that this whisky could use a bit more time in its casks.  I feel much the same about the Grouse blended malt.  But then again if that was the case we wouldn’t be able to pick up these 100% malt gems for under R200 a bottle.  There’s an extrinsic component to our perception of flavour, I guess that’s why such things as marketing and branding exist.  In this case the Bell’s Special Reserve was the perfect complement to a much enjoyed father-son occasion.