Sunday, 6 May 2007

The magic of single malt (2)

After some obscure historical considerations which seem to have no link with the title of the article (see The magic of single malt(1)), this few new lines could make the title of these series of articles some more clear... At least I hope so.
Anyway, the first part of the article ended with the international marketing opportunities offered by both the invention of blended whisky (mix of single malt for the richness of the taste, and grain whisky for the standardization of it) and the French vineyard plague named phylloxera. Till here, no magic at all... Just some economical and historical facts.

With the success blended whiskies encountered rapidly, there was some raw material needed for the production of this new kind of spirit. Some genius "noses" were able to produce very nice blended whiskies based on a mix of different single malts, "diluted" and "equalized" with grain spirit.
The single malt was not anymore a basic consumable produce, but has been relegated to the status of raw material for blends which will be marketed and which will have an unequaled success for many decades.
Many distilleries will be build just to produce a certain flavor needed in the composition of a successful blend. White Horse needed Lagavulin as a base for instance. This might not be a good example, as I'm not absolutely sure Lagavulin has been created just to produce an element of White Horse...
But there are lots of other distilleries which work pratically exclusively to produce raw material for blends, and which are not really renowned for the quality of there single malt, like Glen Keith, Macduff, Glentauchers or Glen Spey...
But let's not go too fast...
The undisputed reign of blends has ruled the world of whisky for more than a century.
The first distillers who dared to market their "raw material" as a product as such were the Grant's of Dufftown with Glenfiddich in 1963. And this was immediately a great succes.
The question is: what made the success of this first single malt on the international market? The quality of the product or the quality of the marketing?
Of course, Glenfiddich is a quality product. It is a good spirit. But sure not the best single malt... But, the shape and the color of the bottle made the difference... And the commercial genius of the company. So, Single Malt saw the beginning of its revival in the mid sixties.
Of course, if a (new) product is successful, the concurrent will not wait too long to do the same... But the first one was undoubtedly Glenfiddich, and so it became the taste to imitate.
Probably a bad thing, as again the pioneer on the market was not the best quality... So commercial goals were more to imitate a succesfull product rather than produce great quality.
Till now, nothing magic yet...
(to be continued...)

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