The big piece of whisky news this month is that Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced in the UK budget that the government would be cutting spirits duty by 2%:

“To back one of the UK’s biggest exports the duty on Scotch whisky and other spirits will be cut by 2%,” Osborne told the House of Commons. “More pubs saved, jobs created, families supported and a penny off a pint for the third year in a row.”

How much duty and tax is paid on a bottle of whisky in the UK? Check out this graphic from Whisky Impressions.

whisky duty

There’s been a big campaign from the Scotch Whisky Association in the run up to the budget to cut duty be 2%. That’s partly because Scotch whisky sales are dropping within the UK:

The figures, published today by whisky trade body the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), show 83.3 million 70cl bottles of Scotch whisky were sold in the UK last year, down 4.78 per cent on 2013 when 87.5 million bottles were sold.These figures come from HMRC’s statistics for the number of bottles released from bond for sale in the UK. The SWA said the UK market for whisky has contracted 9.5 per cent since 2009, when 92 million bottles were sold.”

However, if you dig a little deeper, it’s a more complex picture. Mark Reynier, the man who helped rescue Bruichladdich before moving on to set up a new distillery in Ireland, thinks the poor Scotch sales are nothing to do with tax at all.

Mr Reynier, now developing a distillery in Ireland, said it was disingenuous to say that all whisky is in a decline in the UK, noting that while sales of blends have fallen, single malts have prospered.

Claiming that the industry is still struggling to overcome its “fuddy duddy” image, he said: “The reality is the consumer in the UK has been ignored. They [distillers] are quite happy selling containers of the stuff to Venezula and all around the world. But they have actually failed to address to credible attempt to reinvigorate the blended whisky sector in our home market.

On a more positive note, Celtic Renewables has revealed its first ‘whisky fuel’ sample. It uses by-products from the Perthshire distillery, Tullibardine:

A Scottish company has unveiled the first sample of a biofuel made from Scotch whisky by-products. Edinburgh-based Celtic Renewables spent the last year developing its process as part of a £1m UK government programme. The firm says the biofuel, called biobutanol, could provide an alternative to car and aviation fuel, as well as other technologies. It hopes to build its first demonstration facility at Grangemouth petrochemical plant by 2018.

Drink whisky, save the world.

Good news for fans of Compton MacKenzie’s brilliant novel Whisky Galore. There’s going to be a small, touring production:

The story has now been turned into a play by Iain Finlay Macleod and will be performed across the Highlands and also in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. It will be performed almost entirely in Gaelic, with English subtitles, and adult audience members will be offered a dram at lunch-time and evening performances.

Finally, worth heading over to the Whisky Rover who’s just put up a recording of Ardbeg guru Dr Bill Lumsden, from one of Ardbeg’s 200th anniversary events not so long ago. Dr Bill has opinions. And they’re marvellous. You can listen to them here.

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