COMMENT: A smoky flavour
While just-drinks' editor is quaffing his way around Argentina, much of the rest of the team is in Edinburgh this week for the inaugural World Whiskies Conference. Events such as these are sometimes met with a little scepticism, particularly when they are untested.
However, occasions like these, when organised well, are invaluable opportunities for the industry to talk en mass about the issues it collectively faces. In such challenging and busy times the importance of meeting regularly with your fellow members of the industry can be overlooked. Indeed, has a united front for the drinks industry ever been more important? The whisk(e)y industry in particular has more reason than most to face the world with one voice as it continues to struggle to be heard above the noise being made by younger and trendier categories.
The conference is only half a day old but has already proved a lively event. What has impressed me most is the range of speakers on offer. Far too often conferences can become insular exercises in mutual back slapping, but we have already been addressed by representatives from the financial, brewing and tobacco industries, each one delivering an outsider's perspective.
There will probably be a collective flinch from many readers to learn that the tobacco industry was invited to speak at a drinks event, as the industry likes to pretend the businesses have nothing in common. This, however, was a sobering half hour for anyone who still dismisses the threat of increased regulation on the alcohol industry as fantasy. Many of the signs we are seeing in the drinks industry now from the anti-alcohol lobby and the UK government are the same signs ignored by the tobacco industry only ten years ago.
Most chilling of all was when Wyndham Carver, secretary general of the Imported Tobacco Products Advisory Council, pulled from beneath his lectern a bottle of Teacher's with a mock health warning on the front and back akin to those on cigarette packets in the UK. Marketing bosses beware - this really didn't make for pretty viewing.
We'll have more on today's and tomorrow's speakers as the conference progresses, so stay tuned.
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