Monday, February 27, 2006

The 16 Men of Tain

The 16 men of Tain still religiously make Glenmorangie Single Malt. A distiller friend of Dr. Bill Lumsden (the Glenmorangie Master Distiller) told him that it should take no more than a man and a dog to run a distillery : the man to feed the dog, and the dog to make sure the man didn't press the wrong button. Glenmorangie soldiers on though with their 16, in the name of tradition and with a few of the 16 even making it a hereditary activity!
Whatever they're doing in Tain, they're certainly doing a wonderful job as Dr. Lumsden tasted us through the Glenmorangie 10 and 15 year olds and the 4 special wood finishes - sherry, port, madeira and burgundy, with the latter each having their own individual flavour note contributed by the casks in which they are "finished". We also tasted Ardbeg, the Single Malt from Islay.
Glenmorangie boasts of many distinctions in the way they make their whisky, ranging from the tallest stills in Scotland to the special attention they pay to the wood used for the Bourbon casks they buy. The wood used in the casks is from the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and Glenmorangie has done intense and fascinating (to some people!) research on the science of trees and how that contributes to aging their spirit. Well if you thought that only God could make a tree you'd be surprised at what they're getting upto @ Tain.
After the tasting, Tulleeho spent a fascinating half hour with Dr. Lumsden...

Q-You were here 3 years ago and are here again now. Have you had the chance to observe any changes in consumer perceptions about Single Malt as well as their drinking behaviour?
A - We have had two consumer events this time, and we have seen an increase in interest as well as knowledge levels. In the trade sessions we have conducted also, people have become far more aware, and knowledgeable.
Q-You're on the last stop of your Asia leg at the moment. What's the biggest market for Glenmorangie in Asia?
A- Yes, I am coming from Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, and Singapore. About a year ago, Japan was our biggest market, but now Taiwan is no 1 for us. We sold 10,000 Cases of Glenmorangie there last year.
Q- What age group do you ideally target your Single Malts at? Is it different for different variants?
A- We target people above the age group of 35. Yes, Our 10 yr old is suitable for younger drinkers, whereas the wood finished ones are better for the older. In fact we had a very young mix of people coming in for the tastings in Taiwan, and their were quite a few questions, especially from the ladies who wanted to know what I wear under my Kilt! (Editors note: If you really want to know what Scotsmen wear under their kilts, watch the movie Braveheart, but not before you’ve numbed yourself with a not so wee dram).
Q- Whisky as a category has been affected in some parts of the world by new trendier spirits. Have Single Malt sales been affected in any way by the rise of new categories / spirits?
A- NO. For blended scotches that might be the case, but single malts are a very strong and robust category and usually people who enjoy single malts don’t shift.

Q- Which of your whiskies do you expect to do the best in India?
A - The 10 year old definitely. We also expect the wood finishes to do well.
Q - There's been some talk about Vijay Mallya of United Spirits, buying Invergordon Distilleries in Scotland. Are you in support of moves like this which involve people from outside Scotland acquiring distilleries there? Do you think this might lead to a change in traditions?
A- Considering, we’ve just been acquired by LVMH (a French group), I’m in a far better position to comment on this. I think it’s an excellent thing and much better than closing down the distillery altogether. As a company, Glenmorangie had come as far as we could on our own. A group like LMVH has added considerably to our strengths especially in the areas of marketing, and distribution. As far as changes in traditions are concerned there can’t be any, as the production process for Scotch whisky needs to be religiously adhered to.
Q-The passing of Glenmorangie from the Macdonald family into the hands of LVMH, represents one more independent distillery becoming part of a conglomerate. Pros? Cons?
A- The only downside to this maybe in the eyes of the consumer. As they might feel that the product is not the same anymore. I can assure them however that as far as the distillery goes, there has been no change in our operational freedom. (see above for other comments on the same)
Q- What do you feel about the belief of people like Jon, Mark and Robbo (of the Easy Drinking Whisky Company) and others of their ilk, that decent quality whisky should be enjoyed and not worshipped and that there's too much waffle surrounding whisky.
A- I think they are doing a good job. My only concern here is that Single Malt is a whisky with a long and glorious tradition and they might hamper the prestigious image of Single malt with their efforts and comments.
Having said that, there are other such companies like Compass Box, who are doing a very good job.

Q- Well we know about the 16 men of Tain, but how about the women? Are there any women master distillers? Why not?
A- Well we have no women, maybe because the job is challenging, but even if a lady joins, the 16 men of Tain will still remain! That’s part of our tradition.
Q- How do you like to enjoy your Malt? Which is your personal favourite from the range?
A- I like it with a splash of water, or depending on the climate, a cube of ice. My favourite is the Glenmorangie 10 yr old. I also enjoy the Highland Park-12 yr old.
Q- What activities are Glenmorangie planning on doing for consumer and trade activation in India?
A- We are not getting into any aggressive advertising or marketing. We will follow the education route, and make consumers more aware.
Q- Places visited and liked in India?
A- I have not been to many, but Delhi, from whatever I have seen, seems, very green and clean. I like Delhi and would definitely like to add on a few vacation days here on my next visit.
Q- What's your desert island drink?
A- The Glenmorangie Single cask -1981 (bottled in 1997). I have two bottles of those, and I hope they will be with me then also!
Slainte! (the Scottish alternative to Tulleeho)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allan Holdsworth's album 'The 16 Men of Tain' is nicer :-)

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like to see the history in what Iv bought. The idea of a man and his dog amuses me. Keep up the good work.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My brother and friends from Switzerland called my attention to Glenmorangie. Indeed, this distillery has a pretty dignified tradition. Here in Berlin I appreciate a drink from time to time of that exceptional ten years old Single Malt. Well done!

12:49 AM  
Blogger SCinRB said...

I visited the Glenmorangie distillery this summer and was duly impressed with the facility, staff and of course, the whisky! What a beautiful part of the world!

11:19 PM  
Blogger shpilk said...

I found out about Glenmorangie by way of Allan Holdsworth, too.

Have to find a US distributor.

1:01 PM  

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