The Whisky Tasting Club

Marks of distinction

love coming back from holiday. I really do.

I’ve had enough after 10-12 days and can’t get back to the plane fast enough. This year we went to Italy for 17 days and I didn’t have a whisky for 16 of them. I can’t tell you how nice Glen Grant 5 Year Old tastes after 16 days without a spirit of any sort.

And I’ve come back to what promises to be a great Autumn. Review copies of my book are just two weeks away and it’s published in early October. Our new whisky tasting club will be up and running at about the same time, and I’m getting sent some great whiskies. I’m also being sponsored to go on a speaking and tasting tour for five months – more in the next blog.
But I felt I had to comment on the news I heard today that my good friend Mark Jordan of Brown Forman has been made redundant. Mark has worked tirelessly in support of the company’s premium bourbon Woodford Reserve, built up an amazing rapport with some of the nation’s best bar tenders, and given Woodford a personality in Britain far above most other bourbons. He’s presided over double digit growth most years, has positioned the brand as a premium bourbon with a high profile, and done masses not just for Woodford in particular but for Kentucky and bourbon in general, too. On a personal level he has always supported me, offered me work when the opportunity arose, and generally helped raise my profile within the bourbon sector.

Most recently he helped me get involved with Esquire, both in the magazine and at a great event in Mayfair, something of a highlight as I subscribe to the magazine and admire its editorial content, and for this work  he was sent an email from Brown Forman in Louisville congratulating him on getting the positioning of the brand spot on.

And then they sacked him, after 10 pretty unblemished years with the company.

I am astounded. In an industry where personal relationships help to define how we feel about drinks brands, the whole grubby business leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Mark deserved better than this, and Woodford will be badly damaged in the medium to long term from the loss of its focal point for many bar managers and mixologists across the country. Hopefully someone will jump at the chance to make use of his potential and he’ll be snapped up by another spirits company soon.

On a more cheery note, Mark Reynier regularly makes me laugh with his somewhat paranoid David and goliath view of the world. But he’s surpassed himself with this gem:

He writes:
The Spirit of Whisky Fringe 2010 was not_won by Bruichladdich.
Having won it twice before, the winner of this year’s whisky tasting organised by Royal Mile Whiskies during Edinburgh’s Fringe festival, was another Islay single malt, Bunnahabhain’s excellent 25 year old.
126 whiskies were tasted and voted on by the Edinburgh public.

The Whisky Fringe 2010 top ten was:
1. Bunnahabhain 25 Year Old
2. Old Pulteney 17 Year Old
3. Caledonian 1965 Clan Denny
4. Glenmorangie Signet
5. Bruichladdich 17 Year Old Rum Cask
6. Bruichladdich x4 +3
7. Balvenie 17 Year Old Madeira
8. Port Ellen 1979 Old line-height: 14px;

Indeed, this is the very same whisky that was famously referred to as “not cooking oil. Not diesel oil. Sewing machine oil” by whisky character Charlie McLean in a stitch-up  tasting with a bunch of boozy Times hacks earlier this year in Edinburgh in a deliberate myschievous attempt to be controversial on Burns’ Night.
Who’s laughing now?

(this is also on Mark’s blog - Ed.)

Nice one Mark.

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  • That is a sad turn of events. I’ve never met Mr Jordan, but his plight is one of the tragic facets of the industry for you could not be more correct, Dominic, when you say that our perceptions of a brand are so closely tied up with the person selling it. From the earliest of days, whisk(e)y was schlepped around the world by agents to break new markets and I’m sure for many retailers and barmen the relationship with their agent was (and still is) critical to their business and the ability to interest customers in available products. I shall be in The Whisky Castle, Tomintoul, at the beginning of next month and I’m terrified that I shall walk out again having spent far more than planned, simply because Mike and Cathy are so incredibly knowledgeable and passionate. To my mind, prolific ambassadors ought to be as closely-guarded by their employers as the recipes for the spirits they sell in such numbers. As a possible solution to the concerns raised over the Fettercairn range in one of your recent posts, however, Whyte and Mackay could do worse than lasso Mr Jordan.

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