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October 3, 2012

Scottish Whiskey Companies Set Sights on Asian Market

By Pardhasaradhi Gonuguntla

Sydney, Australia – Reported by James Gregory Wilkinson for Elite Traveler, the private jet lifestyle magazine

Scotland’s leading whiskey houses are trying to capture a greater share of the Asian market and in the process are giving the region a growing number of exclusive releases—but you’ll need to be quick because they are turning up in extremely limited quantities.

The Glenfiddich name has been synonymous with “single malt Scotch whiskey” since its foundation by distiller William Grant back in 1887. While the brand’s much-loved 21-years malt, with its Caribbean rum barrel finish, remains popular with true connoisseurs the world over, it’s the distillery’s limited-release 1974 Vintage Reserve, launched at Hong Kong International Airport, that’s been captivating Asia Pacific since its unveiling in late December. Despite an initial launch of only 200 bottles, retailing at US$1,130 each, demand mirrors the distillery’s previous limited-edition release, Snow Phoenix.

“After the pioneering launch of Snow Phoenix, which was created by combining single malt whiskeys of different strengths, ages and finishes, it’s wonderful to release another vatted whiskey in the form of the 1974 Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve,” says Glenfiddich master distiller Brian Kinsman.

The 1974 Vintage Reserve also follows the exclusive releases in Taiwan of vintages from 1961 and 1976 (in 2010) and the 1972 (in 2009), but to the joy of many aficionados, the latest release is more widely available.

With Asia Pacific’s demand for blended and single malt whiskey, it’s no surprise that other leading distillers, including Glenlivet, are focusing on special Asian releases. Glenlivet’s exclusive Asian release, the 12-year-old Glenlivet Excellence, has been a star of the show since its release in November 2011 (about US$68). Paying tribute to Glenlivet’s founder George Smith, the Excellence combines the brand’s signature floral style with a “higher proportion of whiskey matured in ex-sherry casks,” according to Chivas Brothers’ Brand Director for Malts Neil Macdonald.

Macdonald says Smith was known for “his determination that ‘only the best will do,’” and that’s reflected in the Excellence, which comes in an elegant, clear glass bottle with a distinctive gold label. The Excellence is not just about looks—sure it does come encased in a gold-foiled carton—but on the palate it’s about vibrant fruit, pear and honey, while the nose is filled with vanilla, orange zest and a dash of hazelnut—characteristics that have proven popular among Asian whiskey drinkers. “The launch of The Glenlivet Excellence reflects our ongoing commitment to growing the brand in this increasingly important market,” says Macdonald.

Not to be outdone, luxury spirits distributor Moët Hennessy Diageo released 12- and 18-year-old single malts under The Singleton of Glen Ord brand last summer, targeting Asia’s whiskey fans (12YO: about US$62; 18YO: about US$155).

“The Singleton of Glen Ord has been very well received by whiskey adorers in both mature and emerging markets alike,” says Diageo’s brand ambassador Drew Mills. Part of a collection of specific expressions targeting key markets, The Singleton of Glen Ord’s deep shining amber color, warm fruity aftertaste and dark chocolate nose are sure to make it a hit with new and established whiskey drinkers in Asia. Diageo also launched The Singleton of Glen Ord 35YO in February, seeking to entice Asia’s most discerning whiskey drinkers (about US$1,354).

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