My review of the whisky year 2013

2013 has been very busy; at least to the same extend as 2012, if not more. In addition, I have published this year my first book: Glengarioch: The Manson distillery, for which I received many excellent feedback. Therefore, I started to work on a second one.

Whisky-news.com 2014 Figures:
The first 9 months have been steady, with the number of visitors increasing from October onwards, resulting in a yearly number of visitors of almost 300'000. Thank you to all of you and I hope you will continue to appreciate the content of this website.

I am pretty happy with these figures, considering that I was only able to taste a limited number of "hot" whiskies (e.g. I could not taste most of the special releases 2014 from Diageo, the new Balvenie 50 YO or the latest rare Bowmore).

(By the way, I am always looking for whisky samples to taste. Feel free to contact me here if you want to send me samples. This will be much appreciated.)

Business trends

In my previous annual reviews, I expressed my concerns about overproduction, with all distillers increasing their production, while the global economic situation was difficult. Figures for 2013 confirmed a slowdown in Asia, a trend for an increase in volume in Europe, while values were slightly declining. The US Market was more promising. Still, based on the Scotch Whisky Association 2013 report, the volume of malt whisky produced in 2013 was 274'784'185 LPA, or about 20 mio more litres of pure alcohol than 2012.

The different figures published mid-2014 by Diageo and Chivas were disappointing, with decreases in sales. As a result of this decline, several projects have been put on hold, with, e.g., Diageo stopping the extension of their Teaninich distillery.

This does not prevent the construction of "craft" distilleries such as Gartrbeck distillery on Islay, the completion of the new distillery at Caron by Chivas brothers replacing the old silent distillery of Imperial, or the Annandale distillery by Adelphi Ltd, with other plans, such as the Glasgow distillery. For more details, please consult the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2015.

In terms of single malt marketing and pricing, the growth of non-aged statement whiskies is continuing and prices for the premium single malts are still going up, maybe sometimes too fast and too high. For instance, last year, the Special Releases from Diageo (e.g., Brora and Port Ellen) were restricted in many shops at 1 bottle per person or associated with the purchase of other product) and sold out within a day. This year, since the prices for these bottles have increased of at least 50%, all these restrictions were removed and bottles can be easily found. William Grants and Sons have launched their single grain from Givran distillery at prices similar to premium single malts, while independent bottling from this distillery can be found at a fraction of this price. While prices for the core range seems to be relatively stable, companies are finding other ways to increase their margins. For instance, the Ardmore Traditional Cask which was bottled at 46% is now replaced by the Ardmore legacy, basically the same whisky but reduced to 40% and sold at the same price. Edrington released the Origin, with the same base as for the 12 YO, but with an increased proportion of sherry cask and a new packaging, for a final price 50% higher than the 12 YO. There are many other examples like these ones. Prices for many whiskies may appear high, but even so, prices might still be too low. For instance, even though prices have increased by 50 to 100% in two years, the Yamazaki 18 and 25 YO sold out almost everywhere, the Karuizawa continue to sell out with 1 hour, whenever a bottle appears, or the last Hanyu Joker reaching prices of several thousand euros at auctions. This seems crazy and how long will this last? For old bottles, prices continue to raise, as stocks are drying up.

I wrote mainly about Scotch single malts and Japanese whiskies, but the same applies to bourbon. A few years ago, with the exception of the Stagg, it was rather easy to find most bottles of the Buffalo Trace antique collection in shops a few months after their launch. Today, you need to preorder them and you might be lucky if you could even get one. For the sought whiskies such as the Pappy Van Winkle or the 1974 Hirsch, prices are now over $1’000.

Prices is one important element, but what about quality? In this respect, the quality is in general very high. I might have tasted whiskies which were not to my liking, but the quality in general is high to very high, regardless of the distillery. For instance, I was impressed by the quality of the new Ledaig 10 YO or several limited releases from Tomatin distillery, distilleries which were not highly regarded by whisky enthusiasts 5 years ago. For some distilleries, such as Caol Ila or Laphroaig, the consistency in their production is impressive. When you compare several independent bottling of these distillery from the same vintage, the differences are often minimal. The whisky offer is huge. This is needed to capture the attention of the consumers who always want to try something new or different, but for the newcomer, he/she might easily be lost and confused. Fortunately, there are many websites around, with tasting notes, which can help them to make their choices and the number of whisky fairs seems to grow every year. This makes the whisky more accessible.

For 2015, whisky-news.com will continue trying to review as many whiskies as possible. Therefore, I am continuously looking for whisky samples, since the costs associated with the purchase of samples is high.

During this year, I will also do my first trip to Japan and visit Yamazaki and Yoichi distilleries, whisky bars in Kyoto and Tokyo, followed by my annual visits at the Whisky Schiff in Lucerne, Switzerland, maybe some Japanese distilleries and whisky bars, the Limburg Whisky Fair in Germany, Malts and More in Lausanne (Switzerland), The Whisky Exchange Whisky Fair in London (UK) and finally the Whisky Schiff in Zürich (Switzerland). This year will remain very busy, and after the completion of my first book on Glen Garioch distillery (I still do have copies available if interested), I have started to work on my second book about a Nothern Highland distillery.

And the quality of my articles seems to be much appreciated, since some of my articles will event be referenced in an article to be published in a peer-reviews scientific journal!

Slainthe and have fun in 2015!