Blog: Andy MortonScotch whisky firms learn the value of leftovers

Andy Morton | 9 December 2014

Experimentation has long been a watchword in the Scotch whisky industry. It is what has given consumers the huge range of ageing options, from refill hogsheads to virgin oak to Sherry butts.

But the innovation has also left warehouses full of unused stock, leftovers from experiments that came to nothing or are still ongoing. 

This liquid can hardly be described as unwanted as it often retains unique characteristics. The problem facing the big firms is how to monetise it as there's often not enough volume to sell in commercial quantities. 

It appears some companies are getting to grips with this issue. Last month, William Grant & Sons launched a bespoke online store that sells Glenfiddich whisky taken from previously unreleased casks. The venture is a great idea for anyone looking for a GBP200 stocking filler as the expressions can be personalised and delivered to anywhere in UK. But, as I was told at the store's launch night, it also serves as a great way to sell off rare stock in small volumes.

Diageo is also taking value from its leftovers. Today the company launched its latest Private Collection edition under its John Walker & Sons brand. The 2015 expression differs from last year's in that, instead of blending whiskies that share smokey characteristics, the new one combines liquid with a fruity nose.

What they both have in common, however, is that they make use of a number of experimental single malts that until now have been languishing in vaults across the Diageo portfolio.

As Diageo's master blender for Johnnie Walker, Jim Beveridge, said at today's launch: “There's not much you can do with them, so this is a great way of using it.”

Only 8,888 bottles of the 2015 expression will be released so not much volume is needed for the blend's constituent parts. Their rarity, however, allows Diageo to sell each of those bottles for GBP550.

And with Beveridge determined to launch a new blend in the collection once a year till at least 2020, there will be plenty more opportunity for him to scour the corners of the Diageo warehouses and turn overlooked leftovers into money-making product.

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