It’s an interesting exercise to scan down a brand’s Instagram feed. More often than not, it’s a neat idea of how they consciously – or unconsciously, sometimes – wish to present themselves. Perhaps, like our own clothing, such a digital feed tends to suggest who we are, what we are, our status, or job; these images reflect personality. Sometimes a very noticeable thing occurs: the images change their style completely – a new campaign, a new direction, a new brand agency at the helm. But with the distillery in question today, it isn’t just the imagery that has changed style, but everything in the frame, including the whisky and the bottle its housed in. A total makeover. A new regime has begun at the Glenturret.
There would be more than the whiff of a young Citizen Smith to instantly barge in at this point and declare capitalism has gone mad, the quality of whisky will take a nosedive, it just isn’t the same as it used to be etc etc etc. I’m sure some may lament that whenever a whisky distillery overhauls itself it’s a sign of the end times. We fear change etc.
Without a doubt, a brand’s whisky can get more expensive when a new owner breathes new life into a distillery, but show me a whisky that has gone down in price in recent years. This is also, more often than not, the occasion when armchair experts kindly gift us their opinions on marketing to declare that any price increase is there to cover the costs of the designer… which is not at all how money flies about the whisky business.
A new bespoke glass bottle will probably set you back in the region of £100,000, when you factor in the designs, sure; but the industrial moulds are 50% of that initial cost simply to be able to manufacture a bottle – it doesn’t appear out of thin air. A single day’s run on glass at the factory tends to be for a minimum of 30,000 bottles (that’s what they make in a day, furnaces and molten glass don’t really negotiate on time) and the unit cost is anywhere between £1-1.50, which you would need to pay for an off-the-shelf bottle anyway, just without the additional mould and design work.
Assuming you have distribution in place, you’ll need significant quantities to ease into several dozen markets, enough to provide a steady flow so that gaps don’t appear on the shelf, which means significant quantities – hundreds of thousands of bottles. You’ll probably need to have three or four days to run the glass through the furnace (more if you wanted a different size, like 75cl for USA and South Africa). Plus the label costs, box costs, case costs, cork costs, and… you get the idea. You’re already knocking on the door of half a million quid to be able to get something out there at decent scale.
Suddenly paying a designer a few quid at the start isn’t so spicy in the grand scheme of things. (I don’t know how much Lalique decanters cost to make, however, but they’re not cheap to buy.) What I mean by all of this, is that the whisky business is an expensive one when it comes to setting up shop; the brand work is a minor part of that, and notice I haven’t even mentioned the alcohol distillation costs yet, the staff wages to make the whisky, let alone the vast sums of advertising and promotional money required to get that bottle in front of your eyes.
And the very fact that a bottle is in front of your eyes at all means someone, somewhere, somehow, paid for it to be there. None of this is a crime, of course; it is just life. The cost of making a brand stand out – creating that intriguing proposition to catch people’s eye in a very cluttered marketplace, with new brands rising up with compelling concepts every five minutes – is to avoid the cost of failure, where ultimately good people might lose their jobs. I’m sure you’ll agree, that is not anything to celebrate at any point, let alone during a pandemic.
So to rebrand, like the Glenturret have done, is a serious business.
Which means I’m actually quite impressed when someone goes whole-hog into things, a total makeover, and I was very intrigued to observe the Glenturret step into this new era. From what I can see so far, this includes new whisky assemblages, new bespoke bottle design, new livery, new restaurant driven by Michelin-star ambitions. Restaurants are becoming an ever-more important part of the distillery scene, particularly for those on the tourist trail – Wolfcraig, a new distillery, is planting itself on a prime spot for just this purpose.
Whisky is no longer, for many distilleries, about just making spirit, but rather about a package of offers: membership to a club, fine dining, tourism and cask sales (so, people becoming an investor), all in addition to the whisky. It’s a bit more highbrow than the packet of fudge and a free Glencairn of yesteryear. Sure, in some places, the whisky begins to feel like an afterthought on such a menu, but it will be possible to do all of these things very well.
We’re living through the great transition, in slow motion, of the whisky industry. As an entirely new generation of drinkers is brought into the fold, fresher and more diverse faces, not just tastes but cultural expectations change. For the drinker of yesteryear, the above probably sounds disappointing; to the drinker of tomorrow, to not offer several of the above will be a let-down. We must therefore be receptive to changing times.
For the Glenturret, their project has taken a little while; the new regime takes an awfully long time and a lot of effort, and no doubt the pandemic hasn’t helped in logistics. The distillery was purchased by the Lalique Group – well, a 50% stake – back in the spring of 2019, two years ago nearly. Plans were to increase production, create additional new decanters (handy, being part-Lalique), construct a new visitor centre, hire ex-Macallan guru Bob Dalgarno as blender and more – and they’re well on the way.
It wasn’t much of a gambit to ditch the old bottle livery, which possessed a somewhat quotidian feel. It was inoffensive, the sort of thing that appeals to everyone and, in my mind, no one. A hint of rusticness, old-world sensibilities. Ironically that itself was a fairly recent rebrand so what we have today is the rebrand of a rebrand. Questions: was the old one clearly not working in its job to speak out to drinkers? Was this the new ownership firmly putting its new stamp on things? Both, I’d wager, in equal parts.
From the old to the Lalique is quite the leap, but the decanter pictured here is just an alternative spin on the main show, the new bespoke bottle made from commercial-grade glass, which is also shown at the top of this article. At this point, a few of you at the back will no doubt spark into life to boldly declare that you’re immune to design, that only you and perhaps the Dalai Lama are able to fully understand the meaningless of branding. But for the rest of us mortals, whether we are in control of the thought or not, aesthetics do matter, all the time. We make snap judgements on appearance without even knowing it; we are walking talking floppy disks full of files saved over our lifetimes that we load up – consciously or otherwise – to make value judgements on everything.
I confess: I was less inclined to really talk about Glenturret’s whisky recently until the rebrand. The previous aesthetics were a bit of an also-ran, their online content was 50% cats, seriously, which I’m fine with being a cat man, but I was never moved to really sniff out their whiskies. The new designs have caught my attention firmly.
The bottles are striking. At first, the aura of art deco didn’t compute; it felt a bit too retro, a nod to the drinks tray of yesteryear, and there was a dissonance between that and the distillery positioning of being the “oldest”. The agency behind the design was Appartement 103, based in Paris, though the bottle itself – according to the stamp on the base of the bottle, was designed by Lalique. Plenty of nice nuances from whoever actually brought this all together, one can tell a bit of thought has gone into it. The embossed coat of arms seems to be the only nod to the distillery’s history, and the bottle is clearly look at home on a sideboard rather than locked in a cupboard. A large front label (take note, Adelphi) gives a lot of opportunities to communicate different things at different scales, and will no doubt be a good platform for spin-off ranges such as for travel retail and special editions, whilst retaining overall design consistency, and a coherent architecture rather than a mess. I find white a touch bland these days. But the more I stare at it, the more I admire it. The bottle is a grower. It feels nice in the hand. What will the typical whisky drinker thing of it? Well, if she does exist (for I think the community has totally fractured now with radically different palates and preferences – there is no typical drinker, not by a long way), she might think it is at least refreshing. She might think it is a gamble. And in my mind, difference is to be welcomed.
Elsewhere, the Glenturret is keen to make the most of its brand collaboration with Lalique, which I suppose is something of a sister brand anyway, and the first of those rather inaccessible whiskies has recently been released. That crystal-encased whisky costs the better part of £10,000. I sense many old timers holding their nose at that, but I suppose these whiskies are really about attention, association, promotion, as much as something collectable to own.
Do you remember those hyper-expensive The Dalmore whiskies in Harrods years ago? Bottles lasting on the shelf for far, far too long, eventually selling after four whole years to a young Chinese collector? But The Dalmore brand will have benefitted from all of the associations to grow its share of the ultra-premium whisky market in that four-year period. The brand halo positively glowed under its gathering dust, and perhaps the single malt genre itself benefited from this added allure. We’ve seen skyrocketing interest during that period; more money, more options, more customers with more wallet sizes. A few more jobs might even have been created in the process – that’s not a bad thing. I’m no apologist for this sort of pricing, but given this period was the heart of the Syrian conflict I found it hard to get too upset about something that didn’t affect me in the slightest.
Just like there are one or two more troubling things in the world right now, I’m not going to find negativity for a £10,000 Lalique thingy – it’s there for a purpose, to make a targeted statement, create brand awareness with a new audience (which is possibly a world away from these fair pages) and elevate the brand as a whole. It’s not to my tastes, sure. But I’m betting half of you wouldn’t turn your nose up at it if you were gifted one.
By hiring an ex-Macallan whisky maker, an ex-Macallan marketing director in Ken Grier, and by putting out a whisky in a Lalique decanter – itself right out of the Macallan playbook – the strategy is perhaps a bit too obvious. It wouldn’t work for every distillery, though many will try. Only time will tell if it can work; I’m almost certain that in time it will.
Anyway, back to Glenturret’s more accessible range, which has also recently begun to appear on shelves for us mere mortals. My notes, then JJ jumps in… the Triple Wood will set you back £51.49 via Master of Malt, or £47.45 from The Whisky Exchange, who also stock the Peat Smoked for £52.45 and the 12 year old for £64.95.
Glenturret 12 Year Old – 2020 Maiden Release – Mark’s Review
Colour: deep copper.
On the nose: very alluring. And, dare I say it, very Macallan… Classic warming dried fruits, at the lighter end with sultanas and raisins, a few redcurrants tucked underneath. Toffee apple, bread and butter pudding. Camphor, sandalwood, old school-room desks. Cranberry sauce.
In the mouth: lovely texture, with warming wood spices (you wouldn’t want much more) and lashings of those dried fruits. A little coffee bitterness, salted caramel. Things fade a little on the back end, the finish just leaves warming cloves and pepper, hints of blackcurrants, with some herbal notes, thyme. Perhaps a little sour or bitter on the finish, with bitter dark chocolate. Nicely autumnal. It feels very polished. It has class.
Go out (well, stay in, Covid etc) and buy this. It’s excellent. A lovely, warming everyday dram, great for 12 years of age. If you thought Macallan was losing its edge, step this way (though I suspect fans of the Edition series will like this a lot.) GlenDronach folk would be very interested too.
Glenturret Triple Wood – 2020 Maiden Release – Mark’s Review
On the nose: a hint of funk, light, fresh, yeasty, but it’s quite harmonious with the rest. Simple, vanilla led (the American oak feels more dominant in that sense). Pears, quite honeyed and mead-like, with some dried apricots and old roses.
In the mouth: plenty going on for the ABV (I do tend to think 43% is quite stingy these days), though it does lack presence somewhat. Some gentle warmth, though it’s not spicy – Assam tea, no more, along with stem ginger in syrup, lime juice. Honey and vanilla again, with Malted Milk biscuits and a slither of lemon meringue pie. Quite a short finish.
Pleasing, but rather a gentle affair. A lot more could be gained by increasing the strength, without losing much on margins. I’d say plump for the 12 year old, without a doubt.
Glenturret Peat Smoked – 2020 Maiden Release – Mark’s Review
Colour: pale gold.
On the nose: A little lavender note, perhaps laundry detergent, which is lost to the smoke and becomes very citrusy, woody and vanilla. I’d say hints of tea, something mossy and vegetative rather than sweeter smoke and a pleasing meatiness of bacon fat.
In the mouth: a breakfast of Rose’s Lemon & Lime marmalade smeared over wholemeal toast, followed by a cigar. Silky texture still – one of the consistencies among all three is the pleasing oily texture. Bitter dark chocolate with coffee; fried mushrooms; lot of spiciness, cloves and coriander warmth on that tobacco finish.
Not quite as harmonious, a little too savoury for peat, but that’s totally a personal preference for me. It’s certainly good fun and worth a punt at £50 a bottle, especially for the usual blind tasting lols it would bring.
Glenturret 12 Year Old – 2020 Maiden Release – Jason’s Review
Colour: worn copper.
On the nose: a lovely blend of sherry influence, fudge notes and apples – each in poised tandem. A Red Velvet Cake, soft red grapes, honeycomb and malted loaf. A gentle waft of molten chocolate, the richness of gravy and marzipan. Also, some warmed hazelnuts and tobacco.
In the mouth: more fudge and a touch of smoke, chocolate once again and leathery sherry-dynamic. Some earthiness mixed up with nutmeg, sultanas and Muscovado Sugar. Very drinkable, effortlessly enjoyable and a touch luxurious in places.
Glenturret Triple Wood – 2020 Maiden Release – Jason’s Review
Colour: rubbed brass.
On the nose: thankfully not sherry heavy and nicely balanced with some style even at 43%. Yeah, red fruits and the sherry poking through occasionally, but its more apples, honey and figs with vanilla. Nicely orchestrated. Butterscotch, orange, marzipan and a touch of rubber just to ground it all. Strawberry jam as well. A splash of water releases tobacco and more jam.
In the mouth: now it does suffer a touch at 43% here, but it dampens down any enthusiastic casks. There’s some woodiness, tangerine and lemon. Grated ginger, kumquat and cranberry with raspberry tea. More jamminess and a touch of leather on the finish. Adding water brings out more smokiness.
Glenturret Peat Smoked – 2020 Maiden Release – Jason’s Review
Colour: a golden sunset.
On the nose: yeah there’s peat, of an earthy variety. At first, it is ferocious, but time allows it to dissipate, giving rise of caramel, damp wood and black pepper. Sugar Puffs, honey roast ham, bruised apples and a metallic burnt note. Toffee apples, creamy and zesty with some burnt ginger and praline. Returning later, some kindling, maple syrup and plums.
In the mouth: all that peaty tar and embers you’ll enjoy with moss and sooty flavours. Chip fat, apple puree and raw pastry dough. This has more to say than several of the big-name Islay’s I’ve had recently. Cracked black peppercorns, beef stock, Yorkshire pudding – I’m thinking of that crispy initial bite and cloves on the finish.
It goes without saying that some of the recent new brands or relaunches we’ve seen have been somewhat underwhelming, slight meh and more often than not, more expensive. You’ll know the ones. But I’m surprised by these new Glenturret’s, mainly because they show that someone actually cares. After years of being treated like a second class citizen by Edrington, the distillery is showcasing its qualities in admirable fashion.
The 12 is a classy thing, more Macallan in places than Glenturret, which depending on your point of view is a good thing, or maybe not? I’ve not had an official bottling as good since the 1980s release. Edition-like at times, mesmerising and thought-provoking for the remainder. Maybe this is the version before the quality slips in later batches? For now, you do have to check this out.
The branding isn’t for me entirely, but the bottles do have a robust and tactile aspect to them. The packaging is a little golfing tourist and takes me back to the distillery shops of the 90s. But what really stands out and delivers isn’t the glassware or the royal blue. No, it’s what that truly matters at the end of the day – the blending and quality of the liquid for a reasonable price. These showcase what can be achieved with care, attention, and possibly, a little love as well.
Mark’s Overall Conclusions
Though I don’t score now (a numbers to emotion thing for me; doesn’t compute; back to the old days) Jason seems to be there or thereabouts with my sentiment, so we’re in agreement that the new regime at Glenturret is off to a good start indeed. These are good whiskies, simple as that, and I for one will be looking to explore the range further.
Of course, one can’t help wonder if it was the brief or of it’s just the signature ex-Macallan blender style, to create something that (peat aside) feels very, well… Macallan. There, I’ve said it. I should probably have rooted out some older Glenturret styles for side-by-side comparison – perhaps a later article. Bringing the old team back together makes me wonder just what a brand is in the first place; is it some mobile thing that is defined by the people who created it? Or the design, the image, the distillate, the associations? As marketers will tell you, a brand goes well beyond a logo; but a brand must stand for something unique in order to reach out to drinkers across the world, to have beliefs, not to not be afraid to do something bold.
Otherwise who’s going to pay for the glass?
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Yes, that bottle screams Macallan. Not my cup of tea. Rarely does decent whisky come from a bottle like that, but I’ve never had a dud Glenturret so good luck to them. (Also: sliver, surely? )
Hi Jude! Out of interest, why do *you* believe that good glassware – which I suppose is a bit subjective – doesn’t mean good whisky? Genuinely interested.
(“sliver”? Is there a rogue word among all of my waffle above?!)
The bottle is rocking modern Art Deco better than Aviation Gin and Haig Clubman but is it aiming for that similar audience? The Macallan for millennials? Either way, I am gonna be pleading with my wallet to stretch that far. Great article.
Thanks Jeff! Yes, it’s definitely screaming Art Deco better than the others (which feel slightly cartoonish Art Deco). I agree. Does it appeal to younger drinkers? I suppose for me it feels like something that would sit on a mother’s sideboard in the 1980s – which is not a bad thing at all, just that’s the vibe.
Are we witnessing what could be the next Macallan or should I say next Glendronach? Assuming they keep up the quality.
Buying a bottle of one of these might tempt me into buying the Edrington Turrets just to compare them
It’s interesting. Quite a broad range of age statements, triple wood, plated. Not quite sure what would be a comparison. But yes I’d be interested to compare against older style bottlings.
Thank you Mark for the article and reviews (along with Jason). After reading this and hearing Roy (Aqvavitae) wax lyrically about the 12 year old last night I have ordered a bottle, can’t wait to give it a try and share with my Glendronach loving friend.
Keep up the good work, love reading Malt daily.
Thanks for sharing, Gary. Let us know what you think (of bottle and spirit) when it arrives.
Just to update.
The bottle arrived yesterday, so I opened it up last night and enjoyed it. Reminded me a lot of the ingredients used to make a sticky toffee pudding (raisins, dates, toffee, brown sugar) but need to spend some more time with it.
I’m 50/50 on the bottle! With the quality of the liquid it could have been in a standard bottle and been just as good but thinking along the lines of targeting the Macallan audience I can understand the design even if I don’t need/want it.
That was quick work! Like you I was a bit split on the design, but with time I’ve really grown to like it.
Not sure what’s more disturbing, your appeasement of the “American gods” of marketing or the fact that Edrington’s ginger step-child can (apparently) churn out some decent juice! However, I’m not sure I’d describe £65 as anywhere near ‘reasonable’ for a vatted 12yo expression. Sorry, there are red lines.
I went to Crieff Hydro once on one of their winter deals, our lodge was closer to the distillery than to the hotel complex. I ventured across the bridge to ‘The Famous Grouse Experience’ and offered them around 50 of my whisky tokens for their premium tasting tour only to be told no one was available to take me round. ‘Miffed’ wouldn’t cover it. However I did come away from the shop with one of the last bottles of the 30yo from the (vastly underrated) Famous Grouse blended malt series.
Hi bifter. Out of curiosity, what price would you think is reasonable for a vatted 12 year old – and why?
“the fact that Edrington’s ginger step-child can (apparently) churn out some decent juice”
Tamdhu used to be owned by Edrington. They make pretty good stuff.
This is a slightly subjective question and, as a mere consumer, I would have to base my response on the relative prices I see elsewhere. Brands you find in supermarkets such as Glenfarclas, Balvenie or Old Pulteney seem to manage to put out 12yo single malts for under £40, or even less than £30 on frequent discount. I’m guessing that we see here what is possible with at least some regard to the cost of production and relative economies of scale.
However, if we make the case that the new ‘The Glenturret’ (and I despise this kind of self-reverential grandiosity) is a luxury product for specialist and online retailers then even Dalmore 12 and ‘The’ Macallan 12 (established premium brands) come in around the £50 mark. They’re also asking £105 for the 15, which again far exceeds the cost of most premium brands in that market sector. Sorry, I tend to get a bit pinko-liberal about such things so I apologise for the rant. It’s nothing personal, you just asked the question 🙂 You’re in the industry, do you think it’s reasonable? Or should I reverse the question and ask you to highlight another vatted 12yo malt that retails for £65 and represents good value?
In your preamble you highlight the expense involved with a brand makeover and the marketing costs. Is there a print/online campaign in key markets? Do they have a brand ambassador? Are they placing product in airports in exotic places? I don’t know the answers to these questions but, when such things are present, and when we see hefty ‘decanters’ or, say, art deco stylings, there is usually an underlying corporate focus: brand positioning; target markets; market share/growth; RoI; profit. Tom Dixon was formerly Habitat’s creative director, he once said Habitat was “an organisation based on a lot of intangibles: emotion, taste, snobbishness, aspiration. Paying more than an object is worth is really what Habitat is about.” To me, this is like a Habitat whisky. It all looks rather similar to what we’ve seen before with Old Pulteney, Balblair, Bladnoch and that old cause célèbre, Mortlach. But if Glenturret was capable of being a luxury brand why did Edrington let it languish so?
Excellent notes and I suppose a few threats to pick at there and I very much suspect this is really a conversation to have in full flow in a pub! My main thrust to that would be: why perceive cheaper to be better. Or better value, rather. (This is almost certainly because people were used to paying those prices back in the past, I’d wager.
Ford makes cars with four wheels that go back and forth; but BMWs (a nod to JJ there) probably make a better moving thing on four wheels. Is BMW branding and image or has Ford maybe not been too bothered with build quality and has lots of cheap plastic components to allow for scale and “value”? Questions, musings.
All distilleries of a certain size will have media/marketing involved, and this is not a dirty word (or rather, it’s a bit strange to think of it as one) when these things are simply ways of finding customers. That’s all. I don’t think anyone would seriously suggest companies do not do these activities else they’d go bust. And whether it’s the US or in Asia, one thing sells whisky more than anything else: an engaged, real world tasting and conversation about the spirit. Tangible stuff. That’s where ambassadors come in and – despite Covid – will no doubt return in future.
Sure it costs money, but… how else is a company going to sell whisky? Punters won’t just come to a brand willy-nilly, not anymore. Those days are long gone. The cheaper whiskies you mention will almost certainly come at a cost: whether that’s blending, ABV, efficiencies somewhere along the line, to allow for the vast scale. And it’d be far more expensive / a compromise to get on the bottom of a supermarket shelf (cheapness allows for volume obviously).
It’s a good quote on Habitat there, I like that.
I’d say even Springbank is a well defined brand, what most people consider to be good value, though perhaps isn’t what most people think of a “brand” per se. It is authentic, true to its values etc. I can’t find any prices of its 12yo, but its 15 looks a very high price these days. But of course, age itself is nonsensical: what it if had a high density fast fermentation and left to languish in tired old barrels for 20 years? I’d rather have a vibrant youthful thing any day.
But this is the crux, in your last note, about what an “object is worth”. Without knowing what went into production – fermentation, wood, barley, yeast and all the variables, it’s hard to know what “worth” will ever be?
But we do have our tastebuds, though. And for taste alone I’d say the £65 asking price is exceptionally reasonable indeed. Great discussion though.
Yes, I wish we could be having this kind of discussion in a pub and glad to exchange views! We would probably end up ‘agreeing to disagree’!
I was a member of SMWS for a few years, just enough to see it swing from the tail end of mere survival to it being acquired by a conglomerate that seemed to suck the soul from it. At first what you paid depended primarily on age with a fairly narrow band of differentiation of brands – £80 for a 25yo ‘third rate’ distillery like Glenturret 🙂 £120 for a ‘premium’ distillery such as Macallan. Nowadays the gammut is huge and you’ll pay close to £1k for that Macallan. And somewhat allegorically for anyone familiar with Edinburgh, the centre of gravity has swung from The Vaults (looking out to the ‘Banana Flats’) to Queen St (a Nesbit-designed Georgian townhouse). A similar metamorphosis has overwhelmed the whisky industry generally. The dark days of distillery closures, shortbread-tin marketing and old fuddy-duddies on Chesterfields have been replaced by a new-found demand for brown spirits. A young, middle-class, international set, flush with readies has emerged and, unsurprisingly, in the face of demand the price of whisky has risen. It’s a reflection of wider trends in society, e.g. executive pay not only outstrips that of their underlings proportionately but hyperbolically, ergo so does their spending power. I have to acknowledge this, there’s no point in railing against the fundamentals of capitalism, I must render unto Caesar. However I can still bemoan it!
Onto the age thing. Looking back, it was Macallan that began the whole drive to NAS with its travel retail offerings (paying for shelf space in airports to compete with Bourbon brands that mature more quickly), followed by the NAS ‘stripper series’, Amber, Sienna, Ruby. They were the blue-sky thinkers, the ones who set the template that others have followed. The end result of this process has been shelves full of hot, nasty, ester-led NAS bottlings in the supermarkets (if not crowded out by gin-ageddon). Meanwhile anything with an age statement over 10 or 12 years has rocketed in price. I will likely never again purchase a well-aged Balblair or Old Pulteney. £500 for a 25yo? They’re taking the piss in my view. Even the 40yo Glenfarclas I bought for my 40th birthday (a brand synonymous with value) is now three times the price, a distant dream – that’s got nothing to do with the cost of production or inflation. At the end of the day, a lot of people must be making a lot of money. Of course not all NAS is bad but I would contend that the removal of age statements is a key enabler in the dissociation of price from the costs of production and in the elevation of age statements to automatically denote ‘premium’ whisky. How else would Glenturret now be able to establish a floor price of £40 for NAS whiskies and ask £65 for a 12yo?
There are more threads, marketing, concepts of value, etc, but it has already been a bit of a diatribe. Hopefully whisky events return soon and I can find out for myself if this The Glenturret 12 is really worth the asking. Can you tell I’m skeptical?!
May I just say, what a wonderfully erudite discussion this has become – diatribe, no! I suspect we’d find a fair bit of common ground in all of this. How rare, for the internet.
I think ultimately what I’m setting out is not so much an argument for bling, but rather showing the rather greasy business end of a changing culture. The reality of the new era. And that, in reality, it isn’t all bad.
I too was a member of the SMWS at the changing of the guard and, like many, have found the new regime not to my liking there. It might be worth parking things like Macallan which is a collector/flipper bubble unto itself – it rather warps the idea of value somewhat. NAS-wise, I recall perhaps it was the early days of Bruichladdich that might have spearheaded much of this: tales of why (If I remember it correctly) a 9 year old whisky should be perceived any less better than a 10 year old led to a ‘fuck it’ attitude and getting NAS whiskies out there, dropping the arbitrary age statement (itself the ghost of whisky past, the century old marketing – and it was simply that, if one looks at the adverts! – to suggest age statements, older, were better irrespective of how they were made. Whisky was of course hugely driven by marketing, and that’s always been the way. I wrote an article series a few years ago for Whisky Magazine on the history of Scotch whisky advertising and it was really fascinating. I must dig it out.
Nothing wrong with being a skeptic!
Absolutely agree, there’s no need for polemic, plenty of room for respectful disagreement. I’d be interested to see your article if you can find it.
You mentioned Springbank earlier, a favourite distillery of mine, and I was quite happy to pay the precise sum of £65 for the most recent Cask Strength 12 year old – Bourbon, sherry, Port and red wine casks in the mix I believe. I also managed to grab a Hazelburn 13 Oloroso Cask for the same price. The Springbank 15 is also around that mark actually but (without wanting to kick off THAT Malt debate again) I actually prefer the 10, which comes in around £40. Another fave distillery is Glenfarclas, I think £65 would bag the 17. These might be my kind of benchmarks for value so the Glenturret would have to be going some…
On the marketing. I don’t think I could just disregard Macallan in the way you suggest. As you say it has warped the idea of value and transformed a distillery into a transcendant brand, like Rolex or Ferrari or Apple. However I see that marketing DNA throughout the industry right now, which in turn feeds a virulent (mutant?) secondary market. There are now whisky investment companies, trading whisky like equities! I also wonder if the industry itself has become somewhat seduced by itself (in a post modern sense), where the curated image becomes the hypernormalised reality. When the bubble bursts I’m sure no one will have seen it coming.
Enjoyed this 🙂 I admire your positivity. I do feel I need to become less cynical at times but, in this boom, there is a lot of bullshit about, Skodas with BMW price tags shall we say? The Malt team are pretty good at skewering it though and willing to engage with your readers so bravo!
Replying to this comment as the site apparently limits massive threads! It’s interesting you mention Glenfarclas there. I recall someone once asking Mr Grant why his whiskies were comparatively inexpensive and he said that because Glenfarclas had remained in the family. Whenever another company takes over, it has to recoup additional investment costs, over and above the whisky itself. That I suppose is the nature of the beast with respect to industry consolidation.
You’re right that the boom has brought about some questionable products to market. But I think the boom has also (and this is my positive optimism!) allowed for an industry with far more diversity of styles than otherwise would have been the case. There’s basically lots more interesting stuff out there, but we have to work harder to find them.
Anyway, here’s to enlightened discussions!
Thoroughly enjoyed reading yours and Bifters thoughts on this, thanks for both of your inputs.
I enjoy the tasting notes as much ad the articles! “Chip fat, apple puree and raw pastry” Jason, is this experience of a gone wrong deep fried apple turnover you tried at some point?
Seriously though, those bottles look great but as long as they don’t go the way that Macallan have… Price and NAS quality.
Scottish cuisine at its finest. Well, arguably they have gone the way that the Macallan have – but for now, it’s been parked in a good place.
A very interesting article and possibly even more interesting discussion.
Comparing prices of similarly aged whisky between different distilleries with totally different economies of scale and production costs is in my view the wrong approach. I spent 10 years in the food industry in purchasing and logistics before being drawn into a career in the law which helped me to pay for my very expensive whisky addiction and I perhaps appreciate the costs of manufacturing and distribution more than many. However it is not rocket science to realise that a small distillery in a remote location can not produce whisky at the same unit cost as a big factory type distillery. I understand Glenturret’s unit cost is one of the highest in the industry.
When I look at the price I compare it with whisky at comparable price not age. I am looking forward to trying the new Glenturret 12. I am not particularly keen on the bottle but the distillery is part owned by Lalique so one expects a bit of bling.
When I finally do try the whisky I will firstly embrace the whisky itself as a unique product and take myself back to the very enjoyable day I spent at the distillery in 2008 in thick snow with my daughter throwing snow balls at the grouse outside, picking up a very cheap and excellent Tamdhu 18 long since finished and the slightly concerned smile on my late wife’s face as I slipped over flat on my face walking back to my car.
I will then compare it in my mind to whiskies of a comparable price not age and suspect it will fair well.
I attended the Bruichladdich Academy that same year and got to meet Mark Reynier and I have followed his progress at Waterford. I have purchased all of the 1.1 bottlings and started to open them and enjoy them for what they are. For around 3 year old whisky they are expensive. However for what Mark is doing at Waterford and the quite different approach he has taken with regards to barley strains, traceability, production, information and bottling I am happy to pay the extra cost to support the venture and recognise the additional costs involved without trying to compare it with other whiskies produced differently. I take a similar view with Glenturret and will assess the value based on the quality of the product.
I also suspect that Glenturret 12 bottle will make a cracking door stop.
“Comparing prices of similarly aged whisky between different distilleries with totally different economies of scale and production costs is in my view the wrong approach.”
I quite agree and as you suggest this is increasingly the case with the new distilling scene – and that’s merely scale, let alone ingredients. I can only speak for Waterford (glad to hear those bottles being opened!) but merely splitting things into individual farms at 10% or more to the barley cost, before we’ve done anything with it. Organic grains cost much more than conventional. Biodynamic more. Heritage grains are eye-watering in cost!
Thanks also for sharing that wonderful family memory.
Speaking of opening Waterford bottles (I’m enjoying the Rathclogh 1.1 which I was surprised and pleased to find in Texas) does anybody else find the glass(?) stoppers rather hard to remove from the bottle?
I find myself have to use more force than I would like where whisky is involved.
The bottles are beautiful but lacking a tad in practicality, I feel. It’s also hard to judge fill level. Maybe that’s just so I’ll be taken by surprise when I run out and feel the need to go out and buy a replacement at once.
There’s a magic technique. You just need to give them a little push… https://www.instagram.com/p/CBDBvELnFQk/
Thanks for the link. I have been easing them open with a knife. I have enough bottles that I intend making some kind of back lit ornament with the stoppers!
Sorry for the late rejoinder. Glad to hear you had a better experience at Glenturret than I did. I guess you might be referring to my comparison between malts of similar ages from the consumer’s perspective? Yes, economies of scale are important and I was careful not to list, for example, Glenlivet who produce more than 50 times what Glenturret do, have ten washbacks, a million pound mash tun and a 50 hour fermentation time (and that’s not even the new site they’ve built – no tours of that). But what then of Edradour or Royal Lochnagar, which are almost boutique distilleries, smaller still than Glenturret? Or Springbank, which has perhaps twice the capacity but is more remote? My original assertion was that £65 is not ‘reasonable’ for a 12yo at 46% (incidentally it was Jason who used the word, not Mark) and I’ll stick by that. Give me one other distillery that has a vatted 12 year old at that price or higher (don’t say Daftmill!) And, not to be snobbish but, Glenturret is not a name that has resonated through the ranks of whisky lovers for decades past. This is all about building a new brand.
I don’t think it’s putting words in Mark’s mouth to say he agreed that the expense has more to do with the positioning of the product, the marketing makeover or the (possibly leveraged?) purchase from Edrington. He pointed some of these things out himself. Lalique will have to make back on their investment. I guess, at the end of the day, ‘reasonable’ has to be a subjective judgement and that’s where we (respectfully) disagree.
While on this page I noticed, in the links at the bottom, a review Adam did of another Glenturret and he seems to be on the same wavelength as me:
As long as people make excuses for producers, as long as they continue to shrug when prices suddenly jump (what did the old Glenturret 10 sell for?), the more the producers will keep upping the RRP. As I pointed out above, we’ve seen the same moves from producer after producer (or new owner) and the list of malts that offer value to those on (even above) average salaries, is a pretty short one now. You may have the means to be blithe about it and the boom in the secondary market suggests demand is still to be sated but what used to be entry level quality is becoming more and more unattainable and what is affordable is becoming more and more traduced in terms of quality (and NAS is part of that wedge).
Just bought a bottle out of curiosity.Was set to buy another Tamdhu 15 which has been a permament in my collection since its release a few years back .Will be interesting to see how it holds up, both are similar in price and the Tamdhu 15 still remains the best core range sherry matured whisky out there up to £100 in my opinion.
Yes, that’d be a good side by side – let us know how it goes.
I wonder if this bottling will make it’s way to the US (I suspect no)? It’s interesting to discuss price when the reality of price is that it is very fluid with no set structure. The price for me in the US is mostly tax and middle men distributors, and tariff. Whether a bottle like this is 40 or 60 USD, doesn’t really matter. What is more important is what the importer will add and what tariff’s will be plopped on top.
For example: from what I understand, Glenturret 12 yo is available in Germany for around 50 euros. Springbank was mentioned above. A bottle of springbank 10 routinely goes for 70-80 dollars in the US now, thanks to Pacific Edge importers, taxes, and import tariffs. The 15 yo? Forget about it.
So, while the producers do set the base price, it is just one of a multitude of components to what many of us have plunk down if we would like to have a dram.
I should say with time it possibly will. But you’re right – price is a fluctuating thing when you add all the extras. Even in Europe, there are complications based on different tax structures. That itself has interesting consequences (i.e. in Belgian, online sales are ultimately pointless when everyone buys from the cheaper Netherlands).
Please remove the link to our website for the previous Glenturret design in this post. Whilst you are entitled to have an opinion, linking directly to our website is not on. That said, I have to say that I’m very disappointed in your description of our work. I have worked in and for the Scotch Whisky industry for 20 years now – an industry that prides itself on professional behaviour and mutual respect. Your comments not only lack insight (this was an unloved brand buried deep in the Edrington portfolio with a completely different audience profile and proposition) but are disrespectful to the team that worked on the last re-brand of which we were part of.
Hi Justin. Sorry you feel that way about my comments on your old design. I don’t believe I was disrespectful by thinking things felt a little quotidian and old world, particularly with the passing of time, and particularly in comparison to the current rebrand. I’m sure felt you were indeed hitting your brief, and that the brand may have been unloved in the past.
Hi Mark. To be clear i have no issue with your comments. I don’t agree with them obviously, but you are entitled to your view. My issue is with you linking our website directly to your article. Please remove the link.
Spent a few days with this one now and yes it is a lovely drop.Price/quality wise £65 might be pushing it a bit for a re buy. No doubt it could have been a lot cheaper £50-55 without the fancy bottle so for me the rebrand has in effect put me off buying another one.
Why should consumers even care about the production overheads of distilleries? That’s not our concern as customers. The only thing we should care about is quality and value (at least for “average joes” like me and not the whales spending fortunes for exclusivity) This nigh apologist view on production costs and how it affects “value” is mired heavily with misled brand loyalty. We have more options and brands to choose from today than ever before. If the price/quality doesnt match up then I move on and buy a bottle that does.
I also think that for the sake of transparency that you need to state whether the review samples you tasted were sponsored by the distillery.
Mother, is that you?
Michael: I’m literally a whisky marketing professional having gone through a huge branding project (twice) commenting on another brand’s whisky marketing after they’ve gone through a branding project. Some people might find that a fascinating read; hey some folk might respect that and think it offers some interesting behind the scenes insight into the cogs of the industry. But felt like that wasn’t for you, that’s why god invented the scrolling gesture/button/wheel of your choice.
You’re right about the transparency though – normally we do, and I think here we bought 2/3 bottles out of our own pocket.
I do find it interesting, and I didn’t mean to insinuate otherwise, but why would that as an “average joe” buyer influence how much hard earned cash I’m willing to fork over for ever more expensive scotch? Really one of the most important things I care about as far as distillery costs go is cask quality and recognising that better quality casks cost more money. It’s one aspect that usually directly translates to a better quality product for the consumer. As for how much it costs to manufacture some swanky bottle, how much it costs to print the label, cork costs, what the distillery does for lunch etc probably has no bearing on price evaluation for the vast majority of potential consumers. It’s really just smoke and mirrors for rampant premiumisation in the whisk(e)y industry as a whole. I have to agree with bifter on that.
My ultimate point is – in the total cost of a bottle of whisky, the packing unit cost is negligible. You could serve these Glenturret in a styrofoam cup or in a brown paper bag, and you’d probably save a fiver.
And my point – and this is where you, the only possible judge of what you value in this world – is that when you factor in that the fancy packaging doesn’t add much to the cost, where does the price increase in the whisky come from? To question that, is to question the value of the liquid within, which is really what it’s about. For people to stop railing against the man, and to start questioning the integrity of the spirit.
To ask questions, ultimately, of how much that spirit cost to make; yes wood, but what about the raw materials? The grain source? The fermentation length? The speed of distillation? What about the production ethos of the producer – are those values you can subscribe to? Will that change your perception of value?
All of which I think is something you could get on board with, unless I’m mistaken.
But my point here is really to say: forget about the packaging. I’m just coming at it from a different angle than you were.