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Monday 31 October 2022


 Scotch Whisky Market Report Summaries

Detailed Information By Top Players Diageo Plc, William Grant & Sons, Pernod Ricard, Bacardi Limited, Suntory Holdings, Aceo Ltd., & Others 

UP TO 2018

Scotch whisky is malt or grain whisky made using malted barley and unmalted cereals such as maize or wheat in Scotland. The malt drying process for Scotch whisky production gives it a smoky flavour, thus enticing the consumer to purchase it. The Scotch whisky market is expected to witness robust growth due to the increasing preference of consumers towards premium products. Further, the wide availability of various unique flavours such as malt & honey, dried fruit & nut, elegant & floral, fresh fruit & vanilla, and others in Scotch whisky has also contributed to fuelling its market.

The increase in global export of Scotch whisky, owing to the increasing consumer demand from Asia Pacific and Africa, is majorly driving its market growth. According to the Revenue and Customs (HMRC) reports published by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) the volume of exports increased by 5.6% to almost 558 million bottles in 2018. The export value of Scotch whisky also increased by 10.8% to $ 2.50 billion in 2018. Along with this, the rising demand for organic Scotch whisky has also added to the global market growth.

The soaring popularity of premium spirits owing to the consumer’s evolving taste preferences is a major factor driving the global Scotch whisky market growth. According to Vinexpo, an international brand that creates and develops major events in the wine and spirits sector, the recent trend of drinking less but better will increase the consumption of pure alcohol & leading consumers to shift from wine and beers to whisky. Further, the distinct flavour of Scotch whisky plays a crucial role in boosting its popularity among the millennials, which in turn also fuels the market growth.

The high price of Scotch whisky due to its high production and storage costs is an impeding factor in its market growth. Further, the harmful health effects associated with alcohol consumption have also negatively impacted the market performance of Scotch whisky.

Key Players Covered: The key companies operating in the global Scotch whisky market are, William Grant & Sons, Pernod Ricard, Diageo Plc, Bacardi Limited, Suntory Holdings, Aceo Ltd., Ben Nevis Distillery, Edrington, Louis Vuitton Moet Chandon, Hennessy and Gordon & MacPhail.

The blended Scotch whisky segment accounted for a major share of the market as it is the most consumed variant of whisky due to its quality, authenticity and rich taste. Blended Scotch whisky is a blend of grain and single malt whisky that gives it subtle and refined flavour notes, hence is widely preferred by consumers, whereas, the single malt Scotch whisky segment is expected to grow exponentially in the market owing to the rise in its exports, that increased by 11.3% in 2018.

The off-trade channel is the most preferred sales channel for Scotch whisky worldwide. Consumers usually prefer off-trade channels such as supermarkets and speciality stores for purchasing liquor as it is comparatively cheaper than purchasing it from on-trade channels such as pubs, bars and restaurants. However, the on-trade channel is witnessing significant traction, as consumers in developed economies as they prefer attractive ambience and entertaining environments during liquor consumption. Thus, boosting the sales channel growth.

Regional Analysis:

North America is expected to observe significant growth in the Scotch whisky market due to its growing popularity and liking for it and being its largest global importer. The U.S. is the major importer of single malt whisky in 2019 coupled with this the increasing number of Scotch whisky distilleries has boosted the market growth performance. There is talk about the local scope for production, reducing import dependency, and opportunities in-house as declared by an uneducated lout of a teetotaller and grotesque leader.

Asia Pacific is the fastest-growing market owing to changing lifestyle of consumers and rapid urbanization. The increase in disposable income of the consumers as well as the extensive adoption of westernized culture has led them to switch to such premium spirits. Thus, these factors have cumulatively fuelled the Scotch whisky market growth in the region.

Segmentation By Geography

  • North America (U.S., Canada, and Mexico)
  • Europe (Germany, France, Italy, Spain, U.K., Russia, and the Rest of Europe)
  • Asia Pacific (China, India, Japan, Australia, and the Rest of Asia Pacific)
  • South America (Brazil, Argentina, and the Rest of South America)  
  • Middle East &Africa (South Africa, UAE, and the rest of the ME)

The key companies operating in the global Scotch whisky market are, William Grant & Sons, Pernod Ricard, Diageo Plc, Bacardi Limited, Suntory Holdings, Aceo Ltd., Ben Nevis Distillery, Edrington, LVMH, Hennessy and Gordon & MacPhail

The blended Scotch whisky segment is accounted for a major share of the market as it is the most consumed variant of whisky due to its quality, authenticity and rich taste. Blended Scotch whisky is a blend of grain and single malt whisky that gives it subtle and refined flavour notes, hence is widely preferred by consumers. Whereas, the single malt Scotch whisky segment is expected to grow exponentially in the market owing to the rise in its exports, that increased by 11.3% in 2018. 

The off-trade channel is the most preferred sales channel for Scotch whisky worldwide. Consumers usually prefer off-trade channels such as supermarkets and speciality stores for purchasing liquor as it is comparatively cheaper than purchasing it from on-trade channels such as pubs, bars and restaurants. However, the on-trade channel is witnessing significant traction, as consumers in developed economies as they prefer attractive ambience and entertaining environments during liquor consumption. Thus, boosting the sales channel growth.

Regional Analysis:

In November 2018, William Grant & Sons launched Grant’s Distinction, a new variant in its leading Blended Scotch whisky brand in India. The company aims to cater for the increasing demand for premium spirits in India through the new product launch.

In April 2019, Diageo plc a British multinational beverage company announced a joint venture with Jiangsu Yanghe Distillery in China and inaugurated the partnership by launching a new whisky. The joint venture between the companies will aid in their geographic expansion and also broaden their consumer base.



The Scotch whisky market share is expected to increase by 209.49 million litres from 2021 to 2026, and the market’s growth momentum will accelerate at a CAGR of 4.36%.

This Scotch whisky market research compiled reports of several market vendors, including Aceo Ltd, Allied Blenders and Distillers Pvt. Ltd., Asahi Group Holdings Ltd., Bacardi Ltd., Brown Forman Corp., Constellation Brands Inc., Davide Campari Milano NV, Diageo Plc, G and J Distillers Ltd., Heaven Hill Sales Co., Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd., John Distilleries Pvt. Ltd., LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, Pernod Ricard SA, Sazerac Co. Inc., Speymalt Whisky Distributors Ltd, Suntory Beverage and Food Ltd., Thai Beverage Plc, The Edrington Group Ltd., and William Grant and Sons Ltd among others.


One of the key factors driving growth in the Scotch whisky market is the increased number of marketing and advertising campaigns. One of the major growth drivers for the global Scotch whisky market is the rising number of marketing and advertising campaigns by players to increase the visibility of products and awareness among consumers about the brands available in the market. Investment in advertising and marketing campaigns by players is increasing and is expected to help the market grow during the forecast period. For instance, Diageo Plc (Diageo) increased its marketing expenditure to about $2.64 billion in 2019, an increase of about 8% compared with that in 2018. Marketing expenditure by other players is also increasing and is expected to drive the growth of the global Scotch whisky market during the forecast period.


The increasing demand for Irish whiskey and American bourbon is another factor supporting the Scotch whisky market share growth. Irish whiskey is the fastest-growing spirit category globally, and the increasing demand for Irish whiskey and American bourbon is expected to help the growth of the global whisky market during the forecast period. Its sweet and smooth taste, competitive pricing, investments by major brands, and increase in the demand among young, first-timers, and female whisky consumers are some of the factors that will drive the demand for Irish whiskey. The demand for American Bourbon whiskey, Tennessee whiskey and rye whisky has helped increase the overall sales of spirits. To meet the growing demand for American Bourbon, players are increasing their production capacities, and also new distilleries have been set up.


The increasing competition from other alcoholic beverages will be a major challenge for the Scotch whisky market during the forecast period. The increasing demand for other spirits, such as mezcal, vodka, rum, and tequila, in the US and other American countries, is affecting the sales of whiskey. In APAC, China is the largest market for alcoholic beverages. Most Chinese consumers prefer to consume beer over spirits, which will further affect the growth of the whisky market negatively. India is the largest market for whisky globally, and the increasing demand for other alcoholic drinks is affecting the sales of Scotch whisky products in India. Therefore, it has become important for the manufacturers of Scotch whisky to focus on innovative marketing strategies, better product development, and new strategies to build a customer base to sustain and grow in the highly competitive global Scotch whisky market.


  • Aceo Ltd
  • Allied Blenders and Distillers Pvt. Ltd.
  • Asahi Group Holdings Ltd.
  • Bacardi Ltd.
  • Brown Forman Corp.
  • Constellation Brands Inc.
  • Davide Campari Milano NV
  • Diageo Plc
  • G and J Distillers Ltd.
  • Heaven Hill Sales Co.
  • Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd.
  • John Distilleries Pvt. Ltd.
  • LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE
  • Pernod Ricard SA
  • Sazerac Co. Inc.
  • Speymalt Whisky Distributors Ltd
  • Suntory Beverage and Food Ltd.
  • Thai Beverage Plc
  • The Edrington Group Ltd.
  • William Grant and Sons Ltd

On the basis of product type, Scotch whisky is segmented into single malt, blended malt, blended, single grain, blended grain, and organic whisky. Furthermore, on the basis of the price range, the Scotch whisky market can be segmented into premium, high-end premium, and super premium.


The Scotch whisky market was valued at US$ 4.97 Bn in 2018, and it is expected to reach US$ 7.89 Bn by the end of 2027, exhibiting a CAGR of 5.3% during the forecast period (2019 to 2027).


Several health benefits associated with the consumption of Scotch whisky are expected to drive the market growth during the forecast period. For instance, Scotch whisky contains high levels of elegiac acid, which is an antioxidant compound that prevents the body against cancer. Furthermore, Scotch whisky also reduces the risk of stroke, helps prevent diabetes, and lowers the risk of dementia. These factors are expected to boost demand for Scotch whisky among health-conscious people, globally.


Figure 1: Global Scotch Whisky Market Share (%), By Region, 2018


Stringent government regulations about the production and processing of Scotch whisky are expected to hamper the growth of the global Scotch whisky market over the forecast period. For instance, according to the Government of the U.K., the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 came into force on 23rd November 2009, which includes regulations related to the production, labelling, advertising, and packaging of Scotch whisky.

Furthermore, side effects related to excessive consumption of Scotch whisky are expected to limit demand for Scotch whisky globally. Side effects such as ulcers and nerve damage, among others are a few long-term side effects of overconsumption of alcohol.

Market Opportunities & Trends

The market players within the Scotch whisky market are focussing on the development of single-cask bottling, owing to changes in buying behaviour of customers. Independent bottlers are experimenting with bottling at cask strength, maturing with different kinds of cask types such as rum casks or wine casks. Furthermore, there is an increasing trend of younger distillations bottled as single-cask whisky in the market. The trend is attributed to the fact that independent bottlers are running out of finances, as long-matured whisky is rare and expensive. The players within the market are also willing to offer high-quality bottling at a lower price range.


Diageo Plc.

In November 2019, Diageo launched a new artificial intelligence-based whisky selector, which is helpful in selecting single malt scotch whiskies for consumers based on their individual tastes. This device can be accessed from all smartphones or electronic devices, which are connected to the internet. This mobile application is named “what’s your whisky” and uses innovative FlavorPrint Technology.

Bowmore Distillery

In November 2019, Bowmore Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky became an exclusive spirits partner of Aston Martin Lagonda. These two British luxury brands came into collaboration for creating an exclusive series of outstanding products and experiences by selling Scotch whisky to its customers.

Brown-Forman Corporation

In April 2016, Brown-Forman Corporation acquired BenRiach Distillery Company for around US$ 312 million. With this acquisition, three single malt Scotch whisky brands would be added to the whisky portfolio of the company namely - The GlenDronach, BenRiach, and Glenglassaugh. This acquisition would help the company to re-enter the industry’s growth segment- single malt Scotch whisky.

Scotch Whisky Market to Surpass US$ 7.89 Billion by 2027

The global Scotch whisky market was valued at US$ 4.97 Billion in 2018, according to Scotch Whisky Market Report, by Product Type (Single Malt, Blended Malt, Blended, Single Grain, Blended Grain, and Organic), by Price Range (Premium, High-End Premium, and Super Premium), by Distribution Channel (On Trade (Restaurants & Bars, Liquor Stores, and Others) and Off Trade (Supermarket & Hypermarket, Discount Stores, Online Stores, and Others)), and by Region (North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, and Africa) published by Coherent Market Insights.

Scotch whisky is produced in Scotland, majorly in the regions such as Highland, Islay, Campbeltown, Lowland, and Speyside. The global Scotch whisky market is expected to reach US$ 7.89 Billion by 2027, exhibiting a CAGR of 5.3% during the forecast period (2019-2027).

The Scotch whisky market is majorly driven by changing perceptions of consumers towards Scotch whisky and rising demand for premium whisky by customers. Moreover, the increasing disposable income of consumers across the globe is rising the affordability of premium products among customers. The market is also driven by the changes in regulations provided by the Scotch whisky association. Under the guidelines of new regulations, scotch can also be matured in oak casks, which were previously used for the ageing of beer, wine, spirits, and ale. This has further broadened the variety of casks available to distillers.

However, the growth of the global Scotch whisky market is expected to be hampered by increasing demand for aged Scotch whisky, which has led to rising in price and a shortage of Scotch whisky. Consumers tend to buy aged whisky and the major issue faced is that there is no shortcut to speed up the distillation process.

Key Trends and Analysis of the Scotch Whisky Market

The major trend in the Scotch whisky market is the increasing inclination of consumers towards premium whisky. Consumers are shifting their focus to super-premium products. With increasing disposable income, consumers have started considering whisky as an affordable luxury. Millennials account for only 29% of the drinking-age population, but they over-index on the consumption of all major types of alcohol. Whiskies alone account for 32 per cent of total consumption. This trend is projected to continue as millennials grow older and their purchasing power grows. Millennials are also likely to have influenced market growth in one type of alcohol over another. According to FMI research, millennial consumption patterns have played a significant part in the transition from beer to whisky. Millennials place a premium on quality, originality, and provenance, and are willing to pay more for it. Owing to all these factors, the manufacturers are focussed on launching premium and super-premium products. This is majorly driving the markets of the U.S. and France. A major downturn seems possible due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Key Takeaways of the Market:

Among product types, the blended segment is expected to witness significant growth in the market over the forecast period, owing to the inclination of consumers towards the adoption of premium products for maintaining their social status. This has led whisky manufacturers to focus on providing their products with enhanced features such as quality, age, and authenticity for distinguishing their products from other competitors.

Asia Pacific is expected to experience significant growth in the market over the forecast period, owing to increasing per capita income and rapid urbanization in emerging economies of Asia Pacific such as China and India that are driving the growth of the Scotch whisky market in this region. The population of emerging economies has a higher adoption rate towards western culture and lifestyle. This has led to fuelling demand for Scotch whisky.

Major players operating in the global Scotch whisky market include Diageo Plc., Pernod Ricard, William Grant and Sons Ltd., Bacardi Limited, Bowmore Distillery, Suntory Beverage & Food Limited, Brown-Forman Corporation, LVMH, Isle of Arran Distillery, La Martiniquaise, and The Edrington Group.

Saturday 29 October 2022



The Glenlivet Cipher was a roaring success in 2016, bottled in what was one of the packaging benchmarks of the year. The Glenlivet Cipher was simply stunning. The detailing, the tactility, and the opaque black glass screamed ‘special’ and made a beautiful gift or addition to any whisky cabinet. It was followed by The Glenlivet Code, created in much the same way the next year, primarily headed westwards. The first in the series was way back in 2013, The Glenlivet Alpha. And that's not all. The Glenlivet Enigma followed at cask strength 60.6% ABV. We’ll return to these four expressions later.


The Four Trends in The Scotch Whisky Market Today

In the last weekend of September 2022, whisky fans descended upon the London Whisky Show, showcasing the theme ‘The Future of Whisky’. Through masterclasses, workshops, and talks it became clear that the industry is heading in some new and fascinating directions, which inevitably involves new and (usually) exciting whisky releases. Here are some of the trends to watch out for as a result:


The industry is eager to attract a new generation of drinkers. One result of this is new releases of budget-friendly malt whiskies promoted as ‘accessible’, easy and enjoyable to drink for a beginner while still retaining some degree of complexity. William Grant’s new Aerstone malts are a great example, as well as the new ‘Discover’ selection from the revamped Gordon & Macphail range.


As rye whisky in the United States enjoys a boom, Scotch whisky producers are beginning to experiment with rye whisky in production and maturation. The Glenmorangie Spios was aged entirely in American rye whisky casks, and some Johnnie Walker releases have also featured rye cask maturation. On the production side, a couple of distilleries are trying their hand at working with the notoriously tricky grain. Microdistillery Arbikie recently released a limited edition rye spirit (raising funds for charity), and Islay-based Bruichladdich began producing rye whisky with grain from the island. At the London whisky show, one of the highlights of the festival for me was that you could try for the first time ever the first Scottish rye whisky, made at the Inchdairnie distillery.


Loads of new microdistilleries have been popping up across Scotland, and they are just now beginning to release new products. Though some of these can’t yet be legally called whisky, many of their first single malts will be on the market soon, and the whisky world will be watching their development closely.

For example, the Fife distilleries of Eden Mill and Kingsbarns have seen an enormous demand for their budding young malts, while Ncn’ean and Lindores have produced a new whisky/gin hybrid, infusing their malt spirit with botanicals until their stock ages long enough so it can legally be called ‘whisky’.


Scotch distilleries are incorporating more casks outside of the traditional bourbon or sherry into maturation. With the launch of its Captain’s Reserve a couple of months ago, Glenlivet may be the first Scotch whisky distillery to have a core range bottle involving Cognac maturation.

Whisky aged in wine and port casks is also not too hard to find these days. One interesting recent experiment was the Glenfiddich Winter Storm, aged in Canadian ice wine casks made from French oak. By bringing in new and unusual casks, distilleries are looking to stand out from what is ‘usually done', so these new releases often have a fair amount of promotion behind them too.

The industry certainly isn’t keeping still in any case, and innovation across distillation and maturation will mean that the range of flavours found in whisky will keep expanding. That is certainly something worth celebrating with a dram or few.


The Glenlivet Cipher was a new limited edition single malt from the famous Speyside distillery and one with more than the usual sense of intrigue.  The Cipher was released with virtually no information attached except the legally required alcohol strength of 48% ABV,  similar to the Alpha release of 2013.  There were no tasting notes, no details of cask types or maturation (other than it was a unique combination never used for The Glenlivet before), no age statement and no indication of colour or style due to the striking black opaque bottle. The bottle and packaging gave clues of flavour and aroma but little else. Initially, there were mixed reactions, as could be expected. The naysayers called it another NAS bottling circumscribed by marketing tactics, whereas others praised it handsomely.  

The Glenlivet distillery, a Speysider close to the town of Ballindalloch in the scenic Livet Glen was founded in 1824 by George Smith, whose signature still appears on the labels and packaging.  The distillery was the first in the Speyside region to be granted a distilling license under the Parliamentary Excise Act, which was brought in one year earlier. The Glenlivet is now one of Scotland's largest distilleries with an annual production of 10 million litres and is currently owned by Pernod Ricard, who took control in 2001.  It also became the biggest-selling Scotch single malt in mid-2015, when it finally overtook long-time leader Glenfiddich, only to see Glenfiddich forge ahead the next year. Their rivalry continues unabated, both running neck and neck.

The unique thing about the Cipher release was the interactive digital element connected to it.  This allowed you to determine and create your own tasting notes after sampling the whisky.  Visiting and then creating your own aroma and flavour profiles really got you to analyse the whisky both on the nose and palate.

Once you chose your six aroma and flavour characteristics, the results were collated into a graphic cipher and your selections compared to those of the exact flavour profile Master Distiller Alan Winchester had created to reveal how close you were. You could share across various social media platforms using #TheGlenlivetCipher and @TheGlenlivet.

The Glenlivet Cipher was available from selected specialist retailers across 25 world markets including Canada, Taiwan and the UK. The recommended retail price was £85 or $US120. Harrods marked it at £110.



The colour is deep gold with a hint of amber and the nose expresses a lovely mix of sweet and fruity aromas.  The combination of caramel and honey with fresh green apple and pear is very promising.  This is supported by further aromas of almonds and delicate malted cereals along with hints of treacle, boiled fruit sweets and cinnamon.

On the palate, this whisky feels soft and luxurious.  The obvious sweetness and fruitiness from the nose are immediately evident and again manifest themselves as a mix of honey, caramel and green fruits.  However, these evolve to become more complex - the honey becomes a honeycomb and combines with a hint of chocolate to be reminiscent of Crunchie bars, while the green fruits become more stewed and seasoned with cinnamon and clove-like spices.  Underneath is a further fruitiness with some dried pineapple and apricot present, along with a hint of dark treacle and gingerbread. A late hit of sugary fudge, bitter orange and something nutty round things off.

The finish is long and sweet, then drier and spicier as the sweetness goes.  The caramel and honeycomb fade first, then the green and tropical fruits.  This leaves a distinct malted barley note and the earthy and wood spices, especially the cinnamon and ginger, to linger.


The Cipher was a delicious whisky from The Glenlivet.  It had a lovely softness and richness to it and a good balance of sweet and fruity flavours.  This made it very easy to drink but with plenty of character and depth.  The lack of information only added to the intrigue and natural curiosity that made you try to guess the composition of the casks for maturation. Very nice and very enjoyable.


As a follow-up to its Cipher, Glenlivet introduced The Glenlivet Code, biased primarily towards the USA. Though everyone’s a fan of transparency, whisky drinkers also love a good mystery. The Glenlivet distillery indulged patrons with their new whisky in 2018, The Glenlivet Code, which intentionally kept its composition a secret.

The Glenlivet took whisky enthusiasts on a journey of discovery, while also putting their single malt knowledge to the test with the U.S. launch of limited-edition The Glenlivet Code, a mysterious single malt introduced without cask information or tasting notes. Inspired by the iconic British Code breakers, the latest innovation is a unique combination of flavours that will measure the senses of even the most discerning whisky drinker by entering a digital tasting experience where they will be challenged to “Unlock the Taste” of the mystery whisky.

The global launch for The Glenlivet Code was supported by the innovative digital campaign to cement The Glenlivet’s role as the definitive Speyside single malt, renowned for its heritage as an authority within the single malts category. Maintaining this exceptional quality that The Glenlivet is famed for, The Glenlivet Code embodies the brand’s smooth and fruity tasting notes with some additional twists to unlock. The mystery whisky is crafted from specially selected casks to produce a new, never-before-created single malt scotch whisky.

With The Glenlivet Code, Master Distiller Alan Winchester had a unique opportunity to create a whisky that has never been crafted before, using new casks and techniques to push the boundaries of what people expect from The Glenlivet. The limited edition is a labyrinth of flavours that will test the senses of even the most discerning whisky drinker and consumers worldwide were invited to take on the ultimate challenge by unlocking its mystery taste. The interactive experience will allow whisky enthusiasts at all levels to build their knowledge of the category while also developing a deeper understanding of The Glenlivet.

To begin the decoding challenge, consumers had to scan a code on the back of The Glenlivet Code bottle carton using the Shazam app to enter a virtual underground room. There, they were greeted by a hologram of Winchester, who challenged them to decode the taste of the liquid by selecting four aromas for the nose and four flavours for the palate from several possible combinations.

After decoding the flavours of the new whisky, participants were given a score which they could post on their social channels to see how they ranked against their peers. The official tasting notes were revealed at the end of the year to give consumers the time to discover and enjoy the liquid themselves.

Olfactory systems and palates vary greatly - indeed, some new research suggested that the female olfactory system is developed to such an extent (over that of men) that tulip-shaped glasses were felt to be disadvantageous to them. Breaking Glenlivet Code is not about trying to accurately calculate/guess a correct answer – in essence, you’re simply attempting to match someone else’s (Master Distiller Alan Winchester) interpretation of aromas and flavours. Likewise, the actual options presented when cracking the code are part canny, part frustrating – both apple and pear are presented in the same ‘module’ – you can only pick one, but I detected both. Decisions, decisions. Nevertheless, the experience is quite fun, and, it might get a few usually non-analytical drinkers thinking more about the contents of their glass which would be no bad thing.

Nose: Expressive bright fruitiness - ripe apples and pears dance along with zesty oranges and poached apricots. Toffee, honeyed cereals and high-quality chocolate add both depth and additional sweetness. Running throughout are prominent baking spices – cinnamon and ginger. In the background, delicate charred oak and some floralness from cut garden stems. Dilution heightens the orange component, adding juicy tangerines, whilst also expanding the growing fruit salad to include baked peaches.

Taste: The arrival has body and plenty of fruit-forward character – orange first – juicy and zesty, followed swiftly by fresh apple and spit-roasted pineapple. Everything is bright and zingy, with a great balance between sweetness and sharpness. Once again, fruits are supported by heady spicing – ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. The back palate reveals a more oaky side and has a pleasant progressive dryness. The addition of water turns the spice levels down a notch, highlighting the tropical flavours of banana and mango, whilst revealing some milk chocolate and vanilla cream.

Finish: Medium in length with apple sweetness tempering the drying oak and its ginger/nutmeg spiciness. The reduction here brings out some tart lemon curd and vanilla custard.

The Glenlivet Code, like the previous Cipher, is an intriguing idea and a well-executed one at that. They both allow consumers to interact with a brand in a way that we cannot remember seeing before. The intrigue is added to by the fact that there is no information given which naturally leads to questions being asked. The Glenlivet Code is a well-composed, well-balanced whisky that still retains a discernible level of distillery character. Whilst the actual cask composition remains a fun mystery, from my experience with it, I’d not be surprised if there was a parcel of Madeira cask maturation here (zesty orange aromas/flavours), built on a base of 1st fill ex-bourbon (bright, ripe orchard fruits). But, regardless of any online codebreaking, this bottling stands on its own merits as a tasty extension of the Glenlivet range. Should you choose to take The Glenlivet Code challenge, expect to shell out around $120 for this 48% ABV single malt whisky.

The Glenlivet Code revelation. At the end of 2018, the mysterious mix of barrels behind The Glenlivet Code was finally revealed as a sophisticated Single Malt Scotch Whisky matured in a mixture of America Oak barrels and finished in ex-Canadian first fill Rye barrels.



The Glenlivet had made whisky history in 2013 by releasing a mysterious limited edition expression without an age statement, cask information or tasting notes in a completely opaque bottle, The Glenlivet Alpha. It is the first whisky released without details of age, colour, cask or taste. 

The Glenlivet Alpha was described as a “blank canvas”, a single malt designed to challenge consumers to develop their own perceptions of the whisky without being influenced by age, colour or cask. Just 3,500 bottles of the 50% ABV expression have been released to 15 global markets, including the US, UK, Taiwan and France, targeted predominantly at existing The Glenlivet fans and single malt Scotch enthusiasts.

A teaser campaign ran across social media and digital, aiding consumers to develop their own tasting notes and discover the elements that have formed Alpha. Purchasers of the whisky only had a month, however, until master distiller Alan Winchester revealed all on 3 June via a global broadcast to The Glenlivet fans on the brand’s website and Facebook page.

The only element that will never be revealed is the whisky’s age, which according to Scotch Whisky Association guidelines, can never be disclaimed as it’s not printed on the label. However, Nikki Burgess, international brand director for The Glenlivet, revealed that Alpha contains “some very good whiskies”. They could not talk about the age though it was a good product due to the SWA guidelines; because it wasn’t on the bottle, it couldn’t be revealed afterwards. The ABV was 50%. Subsequent bottles would hold whiskies at 48%.

The new release is more an attempt to communicate the brand’s signature style with consumers, than simply a marketing initiative. It is known that single malt fans are really into The Glenlivet and are dying to know more, so this is a way for the makers being able to have more of a conversation rather than downloading messages. There are only 3,500 bottles worldwide so the objective isn’t a massive revenue gain either; it’s about building more of a relationship with people around the brand.

They did consider the age statement debate and whether to release a statement but in the spirit of the whole campaign, which is about people decoding it for themselves, it would have actually defeated the object of what they were trying to do. Age is important; it’s one of the key important factors in knowing what you’re choosing. A large number of Glenlivet’s products do have an age statement but not everything does because they don’t believe it’s only about that one factor. When it comes to creating a whisky, everything is important.

When consumers come to choosing a whisky, age, colour and branding all play a part, including where it sits on the shelf, whether they’ve heard of the brand before, the packaging, and the story on the back of the pack. The Glenlivet Alpha is a blank canvas; it’s not saying there is another way of judging how you should taste it, it’s giving you a completely blank canvas.

The clever, if somewhat annoying marketing campaign around this “mystery” expression culminated with the mystery behind The Glenlivet Alpha being revealed in a video of Master Distiller Alan Winchester, broadcast 6th June 2013 on It turns out that the “mystery” was that this malt was aged in 2nd fill virgin oak casks – new casks were filled with malt whisky and then used again to age Alpha. In other words, they were casks that had been seasoned with malt whisky rather than the more usual bourbon or even sherry. As the high ABV at 50% and light haze displayed with water also suggested, Alpha was not chill filtered. Sadly, Alan did not reveal the age of this malt and as we all know, “age matters.”

Only circa 3,500 bottles of The Glenlivet Alpha were released worldwide with a price tag of circa £95.


THE Glenlivet Enigma

Enigma: mysterious, puzzling or difficult to understand.

Glenlivet’s Enigma comes in a beautiful matte black bottle with a puzzle display in the front. They encourage you to solve the puzzle and share it with them. It’s a no-age-statement whisky bottled at 60.6% ABV. It’s matured in American Oak barrels and finished in ex-Canadian first-fill Rye barrels. Sadly, it is meant for whisky lovers only in the USA.

Enigma, released in 2019, is the fourth bottle in the distillery’s mystery series, after Alpha (2013), Cipher (2015) and Code (2018). All other information is kept a secret, however, buyers can ‘unlock’ tasting cues by solving a digital crossword puzzle. Completion of the puzzle will also reward buyers with discounted delivery on their next purchase from

Master Distiller Alan Winchester decided to give the hardcore Scotch heads something challenging - and delicious. Does the corn aroma mean it was aged in barrels that used to hold Canadian Whisky? Maybe there's a whiff of Madeira. Or is it Cognac? To be frank, I couldn't tell you more about this Whisky. Become a Scotch sleuth and figure it out.

Some drinkers say Enigma is a bit harsh; I didn’t find that to be the case. Yes, it’s a strong whisky since it’s bottled at cask strength, but harsh is a bit of a stretch. There is a slight burn and sweetness to this whisky that is fantastic. The burn is only momentary and then mellows out to notes of fruit and spices with hints of sweet marshmallows. Truthfully, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this whisky. I had it in my head that I wasn’t going to like it… which isn’t entirely inaccurate because I didn’t just like it, I loved it! I do however think it’s a pricey bottle and this may not be for everyone so, I’d suggest you try it before you buy.

NOSE:  The nose comes in with light notes of lemon, peach, heavy ethanol, and baked green apples.  The overall aroma also brings a smokiness that is quite enjoyable.

PALATE:   Whatever the nose was missing, the palate immediately makes up for it.  An absolute flavour blast of toasted almond, marshmallow, vanilla, lemon and tea.  As the bright flavours dance around your palate a light smoky spice plays hide and seek around your tongue.

FINISH: Long and bold, the smokiness of the palate immediately becomes strong and stronger as the sweets distance themselves.   Along with the smoky spice, hints of creme brulee, cinnamon, and marzipan coat your tongue with an intense spice on your tongue.

VALUE: For ~$110 this bottle is worth every penny.  From start to finish, this bottle is an absolute rollercoaster of heat, spice, and sweets.




Monday 24 October 2022


 Diageo prima and ultima collection

Editions one and two


Diageo has unveiled a new series of collectable single malt Scotch whiskies: the Prima & Ultima Whisky Collection. The eight bottles of Whisky that make up the collection are worth a staggering £20,000 ($24,600 USD).

Prima & Ultima mean the “first and last.” The collection comprises casks chosen from various Diageo distilleries, including Caol Ila, Lagavulin, Mortlach, Port Ellen, and the Singleton of Dufftown. Johnnie Walker's master blender Dr Jim Beveridge OBE chose the eight single vintage malts that make up the new series’ first range.

It’s understandable why some whisky lovers are beginning to feel a little cynical about the recent slew of old and rare releases from some of Scotch whisky’s most venerable distillers, boasting five- or even six-figure price tags. The industry’s current penchant for indulgent packaging and the tendency to see such releases as works of art has become a bone of contention for many, with calls from some quarters for a refocus on whisky as a drink, rather than an asset or investment.

This contemporary context makes it especially pleasing to be presented with a release quite as unquestionably ‘liquid-first’ as Diageo’s Prima & Ultima Collection. Perhaps more so than any other similar Scotch whisky release in recent years, these whiskies have been chosen on the unique merits of the spirit – not just the age statement. Each shines a light on distillery style, the development of and difference between various maturation techniques, and the careers of the industry’s most experienced whisky makers. The packaging, while undeniably premium and attractive, is nevertheless relatively simplistic and functional, playing second fiddle to the liquid inside. Whether it be a cask filled on the first day of distillation, a pioneering experiment, the end of a significant period in a distillery’s history or simply the last drops of something special, each bottle is a snapshot of a unique moment in time; for example, the Cragganmore was the last whisky Diageo ever made on coal-fired stills.


The first Prima & Ultima Whisky Collection includes:

  • Caol Ila 1984 (35 years old, 50.8% ABV, aged in a refill European oak butt, 499 bottles)
  • Clynelish 1993 (26 years old, 49.8% ABV, aged in refill American oak casks, 941 bottles)
  • Cragganmore 1971 (48 years old, 43.7% ABV, aged in a first-fill ex-Sherry butt, 352 bottles)
  • Lagavulin 1991 (28 years old, 50.1% ABV, aged in refill American oak casks, 1,013 bottles)
  • Mortlach 1994 (25 years old, 55.1% ABV, aged in a first-fill Pedro Ximénez cask and oloroso-seasoned European oak butt, 389 bottles)
  • Port Ellen 1979 (40 years old, 51.2% ABV, aged in a refill European oak butt, 436 bottles)
  • Singleton of Dufftown 1988 (30 years old, 48.8% ABV, aged in refill American oak casks, 469 bottles)
  • Talisker 1988 (31 years old, 51.4% ABV, aged in refill American oak casks, 721 bottles)

Only 238 complete sets were available for release via online registration. The first set of the series was auctioned off for charity via Sotheby’s, featuring Beveridge’s signature on each bottle. 


This release consists of eight limited single malt Scotch bottlings from the Auchroisk, Brora, Convalmore, Glendullan, Lagavulin, Linkwood, Mortlach, and Talisker distilleries. 

How limited, exactly? The expression with the largest batch of bottles clocks in at 1081. And the smallest is just a third of that, at 382 bottles. This is a selection of very special Single Malts – some that have never before seen the light of day and others that are the fleeting and final examples of their kind. Each bottling shares a glimpse into the history of Scotch Whisky.

Launched in mid-2020, the first Prima & Ultima Collection was curated by Johnnie Walker master blender Dr Jim Beveridge OBE and comprised eight whiskies which illustrated meaningful periods of the whisky maker’s time in the industry. For 2021, the arduous task of selecting the whiskies fell to 40-year Diageo veteran Maureen Robinson. The third line-up will be chosen by Diageo master blender Dr Craig Wilson. Bottled at natural cask strength, the second year’s whiskies tell the tale of Robinson’s personal journey from trainee to master blender and each is also in some way representative of a beginning or an end.

Today, whisky lovers take descriptors such as ‘green-grassy’, ‘nutty’, ‘fruity’, ‘waxy’ or ‘sulphury’ for granted, but this method for categorising malts is actually a relatively modern innovation – one which Robinson was involved in developing more than 25 years ago. Over the years, her team created different classifications [for spirit styles]. The old classifications used to be ‘first’, ‘second’ or ‘third’ Highlands, or Lowlands – it was all regional. In the early 90s they decided to do something that was more on the flavour spectrum, rather than regional. Take Convalmore’s waxiness: Convalmore is waxy, but you also had Craigellachie as waxy, Aberfeldy was waxy and Clynelish is waxy, but they were in three different regions. As a result, the team began looking at spirit from the perspective of flavour rather than region, and subsequently spent many months at Royal Lochnagar nosing hundreds of samples from different distilleries at different ages – five, eight, 12, and older – trying to find out where they all fit into a new flavour-first framework. The results of that work, which built on methodologies identified by the Scotch Whisky Research Institute in the 1970s, can now be felt industry-wide.

The trials looked at the impact of coastal maturation, new oak and re-charring. However, it’s the ‘ghost’ stock from closed distilleries, such as this second release’s Convalmore 1984, that will perhaps be the focus of collectors’ attention. The finite nature of such liquid makes releases like this particularly special, though in truth it seems Diageo has no immediate shortage of ‘unicorns’. They’ve still got stock of Glen Albyn, some of Glen Mhor, reassuring whisky lovers that Prima & Ultima will not be a short-lived series. The one we’ve probably got the least of is St Magdalene (Linlithgow) –only one cask of that treasure remains.

The chosen casks are actually stocks ringfenced for ‘something special’ over the course of many decades. As a result of this labour of love, the Prima & Ultima Collection has been developed with the whisky lover – perhaps even the geek – in mind. There’s something delightfully nerdy about the details which make each bottling unique, and the level of both historic and technical detail shared shows a clear understanding that the true value of old and rare whisky lies in its flavour, quality and place in whisky history – not in the baubles added into the box to pump up the price.

Indeed, though the cost is still beyond the reach of an average Joe, at a mean price of just under £3,000 per bottle, the collection is noteworthy for the restraint exhibited in setting the RRP. Some companies might have added an extra zero – Diageo didn’t. One can only hope that others might be led by this example, and that the ongoing tug-of-war between whisky lovers and economically motivated opportunists may yet be won by those for whom whisky is, ultimately, a drink to be enjoyed, not a commodity to be traded. Understood at its most basic level, Prima & Ultima has been made for those of us for whom whisky is the first, the last, and everything.


The lineup, with the Primas in green and the Ultima in crimson, included: 

  • Auchroisk 1974 (47 Years Old)
  • Brora 1980 (40 Years Old)
  • Convalmore 1984 (36 Years Old)
  • The Singleton of Glendullan 1992 (28 Years Old)
  • Lagavulin 1992 (28 Years Old)
  • Linkwood 1981 (39 Years Old)
  • Mortlach 1995 (25 Years Old)
  • Talisker 1979 (41 Years Old

Price-wise, a full set of eight bottles cost a cool $39,500. For the remaining bottles that weren’t part of the 376 full sets, some were available to purchase from the Diageo Rare & Exceptional webstore, costing between $1000 to $9000, but went up to five figures for the Auchroisk, Brora and Talisker bottlings.

Set #1 was sold in an online auction hosted by Sotheby’s from 15th to 24th September. All proceeds from that auction went towards CARE International, a humanitarian charity. Each bottle in that first set was signed by Maureen Robinson, a Master Blender at Diageo.

The third set was sold this year and has been dealt with in full detail in my succeeding blog. 

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