Blog: Olly WehringWorld Whiskies Conference - what we've heard

Olly Wehring | 21 April 2009

just-drinks has spent the last couple of days ghosting around the World Whiskies Conference in London, listening for gossip and even having a few conversations. Here's a selection of what we've heard.

Berry Brothers & Rudd, the London wine merchant, is preparing a push on its lesser-known spirits portfolio in the next couple of months. A soft launch is being planned for the Vinexpo conference in Bordeaux, beginning 21 June. Part of the plan involves a new rum from Mauritius, which is being developed under a scheme known in Berry circles as "Project MR". Keep an eye on just-drinks for more details.

A new distillery in Norfolk, eastern England, is preparing to launch its English whisky later this year. Andrew Nelstrop, MD for distillery owner the English Whisky Co, told just-drinks that the whisky is likely to be priced at around GBP30 per bottle and will be sold primarily in the UK and Japan.

Rumours that Diageo has not been paying its membership fees to US spirits trade body DISCUS have been quickly quashed by company representatives at the conference.

United Spirits looking to bump up volumes by a further 17% in its next fiscal year, to 105m cases, president Vijay Rekhi told just-drinks. We'll publish more on this soon.

Independent analyst John Wakely has ruffled a few feathers at the conference, following his comments yesterday about several drinks companies.

He is being hotly contested for the prize of industry enemy number one by Don Shenker, head of Alcohol Concern, who whizzed in (and out again) yesterday to tell the industry why minimum drinks pricing makes sense.

Scotch distillers are privately braced for a tax rise in tomorrow's UK Budget Speech, to be given by Chancellor Alistair Darling. A 2% increase on drinks tax above inflation, as originally intended by the Government, is thought likely to go ahead, despite persistent campaigning from the drinks sector.

Portuguese cork producer Amorim is looking into the prospect of combining corks with the screwcap concept. A screw-off cork closure will be needed to head off growing competition from the rising popularity of screwcaps among consumers looking for convenience, a senior Amorim source told just-drinks.

Overall, the mood among whisky distillers here remains surprisingly upbeat, given the dire state of the global economy. However, there is some concern about trading down by consumers and provisional figures seen by just-drinks this afternoon show that Scotch exports fell by around 3% in volume for the for the first nine months of 2008.


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