Timing gives Campari's Glen Grant edge in age-statement battle - Comment

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At a dinner in London last night, Gruppo Campari officially unveiled the latest permanent additions to its Glen Grant Scotch whisky range. The two 12-year-olds and one 18-year-old were first announced last month. Then, as last night, what sparked most interesting was their resolute age-statement credentials.

Glen Grants 18-year-old is part of Camparis new Scotch range

Glen Grant's 18-year-old is part of Campari's new Scotch range

How has Glen Grant bucked the trend in a market where diminishing stocks and growing demand have pushed distilleries further down the non-age path, and where, for example, Beam Suntory says only a quarter of its Laphroaig releases over the next three years will have age statements?

According to Glen Grant's ebullient master distiller, Dennis Malcolm, it's all down to timing. It is ten years since Campari bought the Glen Grant single malt brand - a decade on from a purchase that saw the Italian group pump a lot of investment into the distillery, its facilities and, most importantly, the laying down of stock. While Diageo and Pernod Ricard are now frantically distilling spirit at their Scottish stills, Campari is ahead of the curve.

just-drinks Scotch Whisky Essentials

Also, says Malcolm, when Campari bought Glen Grant, the "world was my oyster". "We could have started exporting to any country," he continues. "But, we didn't. We only focussed on a handful of markets, and made a strong foundation that we've been able to build from."

This has given Glen Grant sufficient stock for consumers that have been told by decades of Scotch whisky marketing that age matters. Campari's new global brand manager for Scotch & Irish whisk(e)y, Mark Steven, says it allows the brand to "go against the grain".

(Steven adds that Glen Grant won't confine itself to aged expressions. "We are moving forward and we will be innovative," he says. "We have a lot of liquid, and whether we will use it for age or non-age, we will be inventive.")

There is, however, a hole in Glen Grant's aged portfolio, previously filled by its 16-year-old.

"I killed the 16 off two years ago," Malcolm explains with a smile. "The speed that it was going at, we wouldn't have had any left."

He is, it seems, only half joking. According to the master distiller, long-term plans were for an 18-year-old. Yesterday's launch of the newly-packaged 18 would been delayed if the 16 had been allowed to continue.

Still, the axing of the expression didn't go down well with the sales team, Malcolm says.

"They hated me for it," he laughs.

Whether the animosity continues depends on the success of the new range. But, backed by his foundation of aged stock, Malcolm has made a solid start.

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