Monday, September 25, 2006

Why(te) fix it if it ain't broke?

At the pub, it can go down beautifully as a part of a nip and a half, but late in the night I have heard it accused of smelling like sour grain whisky, baby sick, and even cheap tequila.
I, nonetheless, hold it in my top 5 standard blends.

The company itself, which owns The Dalmore, Isle of Jura, and Fettercairn Single Malts has had the benefit of Richard Paterson's blending skill and passionate charm for 30 years.
About a year ago it was announced that W&M intended to invest over 100million pounds into relaunching their range, and now a year later, having tasted what i could afford in this new range, i have to ask "why?"

W&M answers:
To capture the original brand essence whilst incorporating the traditional and stylish aspects that Glasgow has become renowned for."
So why rebrand? Well, the company has shifted hands several times in the 21st century, from Fortune Brands to 'Kyndal' to German investment bank, WestLB, to Vivien Immerman who have "
embarked on a long term investment programme to ensure the continued international success of Whyte & Mackay."
Who wouldn't want to continue the success? They have made huge gains in India and the UK, have seen stability in North America, and have been awarded some of the industry's top nods for a few of their products over the past 5 years.
Of note to this drinker is that "
Whyte & Mackay 12 years old has won Gold in the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) twice, once in 2002 and the other in 2004." And for around £16, there was no tastier blend available than the Whyte & Mackay 12 year Old Premium Reserve. I have been an advocate of it for over a year and shared it with friends, colleagues, and tasting guests on countless occasions.
I felt duped when I saw the W&M12yr at a supermarket in Fort William and upon drinking it and nearly choking on the oral dissonance noticed it was labeled
Whyte & Mackay 12yr Old Masters Reserve. Not the same at all and clearly no winner of awards. Just out to confuse the drinker(The tasty and award winning 21 year old is called the Master's Reserve). That is no way to earn consumer trust.
Whyte & Mackay 'The Thirteen' is even worse than the offensive 12yr Master's Reserve with notes of sulphur and fresh wood in a completely uncharacterful and disharmonious blend.

And beyond being offended as a drinker and loyal W&M customer, I find it painfully small minded to push a product into the 20th century with lines like, "
Whyte & Mackay went 'back to the future' to rediscover its proud Glasgow roots in stylish, masculine packaging" and "when the traditional masculine values of pride, integrity and style are often forfeited in favour of profit, expediency and celebrity, Whyte & Mackay Blended Scotch Whisky remains the No.1 choice of Scots, who appreciate its rich, smooth flavour, achieved by maintaining the time-honoured Double Marriage Blending process, something that all Scotch whisky distillers did before accountants took over the world." Accountants, and apparently women. Masculine? What they hell does this all mean? I cannot bring myself to comment right now... leave it to you.

During 2006, in a dramatic display of confidence, Whyte & Mackay was relaunched with a new look inspired by its proud Glasgow heritage." Confidence? This type of re-branding usually coincides with attempts to reassure investors and an introduction of a cheaper product to justify the marketing costs and this has certainly been the case in the demise of the Whyte & Mackay 12 year old Premium Reserve.

CONCLUSION- An award winning whisky of great value and rich flavour to a stylish package that fails to keep the W&M customer of yesterday loyal and fails to deliver animpressivee drink to new ones. Send me a case of the 12yr Premium Reserve before they vanish into a Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed chasm.