Pernod to invest in Chivas Regal to rebuild brand in China


Pernod Ricard plans to invest more money in Chivas Regal to rebuild the blended Scotch whisky brand in China after admitting the company “made mistakes”
Speaking at a roundtable meeting in London (5 September), Laurent Lacassagne, Chivas Brothers CEO, opened up about “mistakes” made by the French drinks group when it came to Scotch whisky in China – particularly with the Chivas Regal brand.
In its latest full-year results, Pernod announced a 3% organic sales decline for Chivas Regal globally, with volume sales down 2%.
“We made some mistakes. But the whisky market in China is starting to rebuild itself,” said Lacassagne. “We believe we have the foundations to bring back brand growth in the China market.
“We will focus on China with [Chivas Regal] Extra, which currently launched on 1 September in China. We have started to significantly invest in the brand from this year. We are working in the right way.
“We are adding a new platform with sport. We believe sport is relevant for our target audience. Our target sport in China is the NBA, which is starting this autumn.”

An article from The Spirits Business by Melita Kiely


Chinese man pays US$10,000 for glass of ‘fake’ Scotch?


GENEVA – Claims that a Chinese man this week paid around US$10,000 for a glass of fake Scotch in Switzerland have arisen after the story went viral worldwide.
Reports emerged Friday that experts believe the unnamed man who paid the whopping sum for the glass of Scotch was duped.
The Macallan whisky for which the man paid 9,999 Swiss francs (US$10,277) at the Hotel Waldhaus am See in St. Moritz is said to be made in 1878.
The collector’s value for the entire bottle was around 50,000 francs (US$51,387).
The buyer of the expensive glass was said to be a connoisseur of The Macallan, from a single malt Scotch whisky distillery.
After looking at the 56-page whiskey menu and at the 47 Macallans which range from 7 Swiss francs for two centiliters to the 9,999 francs for the Macallan 1878, the man opted for the last unopened bottle of that vintage in the world.
However, portal said on Friday: “The opened bottle of Macallan 1878 was a fake, according to Serge Valentin and other experienced members of Maltmaniacs.”
“The bottle which was opened is probably a well-known counterfeit, which was already revealed in 2004 (in an article from Whiskymag). Also, historically, it is impossible for that bottle to be real, according to Serge Valentin,” the portal said.
The hotel said in a statement: “The Waldhaus Hotel has learned from various sources that the famous whiskey expert Serge Valentin has announced that the 1878 Macallan may be a fake.”
The hotelier Sandro Bernasconi was quoted by the German-language newspaper 20 Minutes as saying, “At the moment it is only conjecture, but it is important to know the truth.”
The hotelier said he had tried to contact the skeptics, but to no avail.
He said there would be “the most rigorous inspection of the 1878 Macallan, which has been opened” and he would be in touch with a renowned British whisky inspector.
“If the final results prove that this bottle of Macallan is a counterfeit, we will pay the 9,999 francs back to the Chinese guest,” he said.

An article from China Daily

Pernod FY profit up 13% as China bounces back


Pernod Ricard’s net profit totalled €1.39 billion (US$1.65bn) in 2016/17, driven by a return to sales growth in China, a strong performance from its international brands, and tight cost control management.
In the French group’s full financial year ending 30 June, sales grew by 3.6% organically – without the impact of currencies and acquisitions – to reach €9.01bn (US$107.1bn).
Pernod, maker of Jameson and Chivas Regal, credited the acceleration in part to the performance its Strategic International Brands, which were up by 4% on the previous year.
The group highlighted a return to growth for Cognac brand Martell and vodka brand Absolut, up by 6% and 2% respectively.
Geographically, improvements were driven by the US, Eastern Europe, Global Travel Retail and China – which returned to sales growth for the first time since 2013.
Meanwhile the Americas region grew by 7%, Europe was up by 3% and Asia-Rest of World enjoyed a 1% sales boost.
A third of the group’s growth was driven by innovation – new products or line extensions of existing brands.
In January, the group introduced a lime variant for Absolut, and launched caviar-infused vodka brand, L’Orbe in March.
Pernod Ricard continued to actively manage its portfolio in 2016/17, acquiring majority stakes in Smooth Ambler, and Del Maguey, and disposing of vodka brand Frïs, brandy and sherry business Domecq, and the Glenallachie distillery. The firm also acquired a majority stake in Corby Spirit & Wine, owner of the Ungava gin brand.
Fourth quarter sales rose by 3% organically and 5% on a reported basis – taking into account the impact of exchange rates and acquisitions – “broadly consistent” with underlying trends.
Alexandre Ricard, chairman and chief executive officer, said: “FY17 was a strong year, delivering profit from recurring operations in line with guidance together with an excellent cash performance.
“These results demonstrate that the strategic direction the Group adopted two years ago is delivering: growth is accelerating and diversifying through successful activation of our strategy.”
Looking ahead, he said Pernod will continue to implement its roadmap, focusing on digital, innovation and operational excellence.
“We are confident that we will continue improving our business performance. As a consequence, our guidance for FY18 is organic growth in profit from recurring operations between +3% and +5%,” he added.

An article from The Spirits Business by Annie Hayes

The blossoming trend of Japanese gin


In Japan, the shoots of a craft gin movement have grown into a force to be reckoned with. But, asks Melita Kiely, what actually makes a gin ‘Japanese’?
A love story has been blossoming in the world of food and drink, and the protagonist is Japan. In recent years, consumers from the UK, US, Europe and Australia have become increasingly infatuated with Japanese culture – and now it seems gin has been hit by Cupid’s arrow from the land of the rising sun. Gin’s ascent to the top of the white spirits category has been phenomenal to witness over the past few years, and a breakaway sub-category appears to be forming – and flourishing – as Japanese gin soars in consumers’ affection, both in the country and abroad.
Trailblazing the way for other producers to follow was UK-based The Cambridge Distillery, which has carved a revered reputation throughout the industry for its innovative, experimental approach to spirits. In March 2014, the distillery created the “world’s first” umami Japanese gin, made using Japanese botanicals including yuzu peel, shiso leaf, sansho pepper and sesame seeds. But why did the company fixate on Japan?
“We were working with Japanese flavour profiles and I became absolutely obsessed with the botanical range Japan had to offer,” explains Will Lowe, co-founder and master distiller at The Cambridge Distillery. “I was completely bemused that nobody had made anything with it from a distillery point of view. The rise of consumers’ fascination with all things Japanese is one of those things where people just seem to have clicked with a demographic because of popular culture; we see the same patterns in food, fashion, music, art – it’s not just spirits.”
It has since become apparent that Lowe wasn’t the only one thinking in that way, as many more Japanese or Japanese-inspired expressions have recently come to market. Take, for example, the founding of The Kyoto Distillery in Japan and the launch last October of the company’s first gin: Ki No Bi. Then in May, less than year a since its inaugural launch, the distillery released two limited edition bottlings: Ki No Tea, made in partnership with tea blender Horii Shichimen, and Ki No Bi Navy Strength. “Three years ago, lots of people started thinking similar things, and for a long time worked in complete isolation,” says David Croll, co-founder of The Kyoto Distillery. “But there’s since been a lot of movement inspired by the gin revolution.”
Even the big players are keen to dabble in this new trend. One such firm is Beam Suntory, which unveiled premium Japanese gin Roku in May. Created at the firm’s Osaka-based distillery, Roku is made with six Japanese botanicals: cherry blossom, cherry leaves, green tea (sencha), refined green tea (gyokuro), Japanese pepper and yuzu, alongside eight more traditional gin botanicals. “Global appreciation for Japanese culture and craftsmanship is on the rise,” explains Rebecca Messina, chief marketing officer at Beam Suntory. “We’ve seen this in the continued increase in demand for our Japanese whisky portfolio, and we also see a broader appetite for other well crafted premium Japanese products.”
Not long after Roku’s launch, Nikka unveiled its own Japanese gin, Nikka Coffey Gin, but insists its creation was not a knee-jerk reaction to what is being dubbed the ‘Japanese gin boom’. “We started this project three years ago,” says Emiko Kaji, international business development manager at Nikka. “We didn’t expect to see such a phenomenon when we started.”
In Japan itself, gin has never been the spirit of choice – particularly in the off-trade. Croll attributes this partly to the Japanese culture of living in smaller houses, meaning consumers are more selective over what spirits they keep at home because of storage constraints. Meanwhile, in the on-trade, gin has “always been there”, according to Croll, but the spirit has been more of a “workhorse” ingredient for bartenders as others take precedence – always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

Two styles emerge
What’s clear though is that there are two different styles of Japanese gin emerging – one created in the country, the other crafted abroad. But with consumers increasingly scrutinising brands over production methods and provenance, and in an industry built on values of authenticity and quality, will the launch of further Japanese gins confuse patrons? Are legislative boundaries needed to forestall perplexity between ‘Japanese’ gins and ‘Japanese-inspired’ gins? Opinions are divided.
“We made a real point of being transparent about provenance when bottling Japanese Gin, and making it as simple as it could be,” insists Lowe. “Yes, it’s called Japanese Gin, but we made it very clear that it’s Japanese flavours distilled in England. Nobody thinks our Anty Gin is made by ants. But for Japan, we thought consumers might mistake provenance if English isn’t their first language. So we called it ‘Japanese Style Gin’ for export market labels. It’s a representation of flavour rather than provenance.”
However, for Croll, there’s only one way a gin can be labelled ‘Japanese’. “Japanese gin can only be made in Japan,” he insists. “A lot of UK gins use ingredients from Africa, but aren’t called ‘African gin’. One thing we have been particular about is provenance. It’s very easy to say: ‘We use sansho,’ but it needs to mean something. In Kyoto, we talk to the farmers, pick and peel the ingredients ourselves. As we have seen with non-Japanese gins, there are well thought out producers and some that are slightly more opportunistic, perhaps.”
Nikka is less concerned by semantics. “We don’t want to be boxed into the ‘Japanese gin’ category,” says Kaji. “But saying ‘Japanese gin boom’ is easy for consumers to understand; it’s catchy. There’s no definition of craft gin itself, and there’s no definition of Japanese gin. We don’t see Nikka Coffey Gin as ‘Japanese gin’; it’s just Nikka gin.’
But with larger firms such as Nikka and Beam Suntory finding their feet as Japanese gin producers, will independent distillers keep their footholds in such a competitive category? “It’s actually since the big producers have launched their products that our sales have gone up, while media attention has been incredible and is bringing more people to the category,” enthuses Croll, who says that as long as the quality is high there is still room for more Japanese gins to come to market. “If you have a good product with a real story and sense of provenance, you’ve nothing to worry about – you’ll be here for a long time.”
And for a nation that is just starting to fall for gin, surely an influx of expressions made with familiar flavours can only pave the way for other gin brands – Japanese-inspired or otherwise – to follow. As Craig Fell, director and co-owner of Japanese-inspired gin Kuro, says: “If gin gets good traction in Japan and becomes the drink of choice, the potential for growth is huge. Brands like ours that use ingredients that Japanese consumers know will help open up the market and create more demand.” If Fell’s forecasts are right, the love story between Japan and gin looks on course for a very happy ending.

An article from The Spirits Business by Melita Kiely

The House of Camus launches an Irish whiskey


Cognac producer Camus has unveiled a project to make an Irish whiskey, using old cognac barrels with ex-bourbon casks blended and aged on an Irish island.
Lambay whiskey takes its name from the island off the Irish coast near Dublin, which is owned by the Baring family, of Baring Bank fame.
The whiskey was unveiledbut it will be formally launched at the TFWA travel retail/duty free show in Cannes in October. It comprises a blend and a single malt, both 40% abv.
The suggested retail prices are €25-30 and €45-50 respectively.
The young spirit (4YO for the small batch blend and 7YO for the unpeated single malt) comes from West Cork Distillers. Camus master blender Patrick Leger, then blends the whiskeys and the casks are left on the island to marry and age.
The company has experienced the effects of a maritime climate on the ageing process through its Île de Ré Fine Island Cognac. Leger said that ageing close to the sea means more alcohol than volume is lost than in a ‘dry’ cellar and apart from possible salty notes, the humidity gives a roundness to the spirit.
Both Camus CEO, Cyril Camus and Leger were at great pains to stress that the whiskey is still “work in progress” but the three-year project is in its “final stages”.
Just as Lambay island is privately owned and strictly by invitation only, both parties see Lambay whiskey as a limited edition, luxury, bespoke product for discerning palates.
Camus said there are no immediate plans to build a distillery on the island but growing barley on the island and using it for distillation is a possible long term plan.

An article from Drinks International by Christian Davis

Conigliaro debuts cocktail bar in Cognac


Renowned drinks expert Tony Conigliaro has opened a new Cognac-focused cocktail bar in France, marking his first international venture outside of the UK.
The new bar, called Luciole, is located on the banks of River Charente in Cognac. Opening earlier this month, Luciole is housed in an historic building that was formerly a horse and carriage stables.
The bar has a vast and unique Cognac selection representing the whole of the Cognac category. Carefully curated by Conigliaro and his business partner Guillaume Le Dorner – who will manage the premises ­– the collection is displayed on the “Cognac Wall”, a signature feature of the bar.
The 50-cover bar offers an “all-encompassing Cognac experience”, where guests will be able to stay, dine and familiarise themselves with all of the leading Cognac houses. An accessible drinks menu allows visitors to discover Cognac through a variety of angles: age statement, vintages, terroirs, crus and brands.
The cocktail menu features 18 drinks, with a focus on Cognac. House creations include long refreshing drinks such as a Spitfire – Cognac VSOP, crème de pêche, lemon juice, sugar syrup and white wine, and Conigliaro’s twist on a classic New York Sour, which matches a Cognac sour with a peach liqueur.
Shorter, more “serious” drinks include Avignon, which combines Avignon incense, Cognac and Roman chamomile syrup – which is part of a drink series on meditation and religion named after the French city, also known as the “City of Popes”.
The kitchen, a partnership with a local chef, currently offers a simple menu of classic French bar food. Sharing plates include classic French charcuterie and saucission, as well as local cheeses and a tartlets menu.

An article from The Spirits Business by Nicola Carruthers

The World’s Most Expensive Cognacs


1. Hennessy Beauté du Siécle Grand Champagne Cognac If you thought Hennessy’s Richard Hennessy was pushing the boat out at an average of $3543, then wait till you find the Beauty of the Century on a wine list – its average retail price is $111,046. It does come in a melted-aluminum chest, though, and the bottle is Baccarat crystal. The spirit is pretty rare too, with the youngest component being 47 years old.

2. Louis XIII de Rémy Martin Rare Cask Grande Champagne Cognac

3. Louis XIII de Rémy Martin Black Pearl Grande Champagne Cognac The Louis XIII range is expensive even at the entry level ($2840 average price), but with up to 1200 eaux-de-vie from Grande Champagne going into it, that’s to be expected. Add on Baccarat bottles and you start really pushing the boat out. The Rare Cask bottling was put together by previous cellarmaster Pierre Trichet and has an average price of $27,404, while the Black Pearl (again in a Baccarat decanter) will set you back $23,644 on average.

4. Hine 250th Anniversary Cognac With a history stretching back to 1763, it’s unsurprising that Hine has plenty of old stocks of Cognac in its vaults. This was released to mark the company’s 250th anniversary (obviously) and is a vintage 1953 Cognac and it’s in a specially designed decanter. All of which goes some way towards justifying the $15,994 average price tag.

5. A. Hardy Le Printemps Cognac

6. A. Hardy l’Ete Cognac

7. A. Hardy Privilege Caryota Cognac The Hardy name has been part of the Cognac tapestry since 1863, when an Englishman of that name relocated to the Charente. The first two of these Cognacs are part of a four seasons series, with the Printemps (Spring) bottling – in a Lalique decanter, naturally – hitting an average price of $15,830. The other bottling (Summer) is also clad in Lalique and costs $15,024. The Privilege bottling (also in Lalique) is made from pre-1014 eaux-de-vie and carries an average price of $13,327.

8. Pierre Chabanneau Fine Champagne Cognac Originally an independent producer and shipper of vintage Cognacs, Chabanneau later became part of the Camus Cognac house. These vintage bottlings date back to the 19th Century, explaining the $13,326 average price tag. At least they don’t come dressed up in a fancy bottle, though.

9. Martell Premier Voyage Cognac Released for the company’s 300th anniversary in 2015, the older eaux-de-vie in this bottling are from 1868, so it’s certainly got rarity value. It also has a swish decanter and a wooden stand. Only 300 were released, so that extra rarity boosts the price to $12,021.

10. Hennessy Timeless Cognac This one ticks all the boxes, really. It’s from a run of 2000 bottles and it’s a blend of the 11 best vintages of the 20th Century. Released in time for the Millennium frenzy, it – almost inevitably – arrives in a Baccarat crystal decanter.

An article from Wine Searcher