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Feast to Famine

過量還是不足

Greetings from Isle of Islay! It’s been four years since I paid homage to the island home to eight infamous distilleries. Every time I visit or even to any other distillery for that matter, it reignites my passion and deepens the love affair with the water of life! It’s amazing what has been fermenting over the past four months since my last visit to Scotland. Gossip in the glens surrounding acquisitions, headaches over the shortage of warehousing to mature stocks, and the increased struggle for independent bottlers to acquire single casks from distilleries!

Since my last visit, drinks giant Diageo formally announced their intent to open another three distilleries in the highlands. For those fans of the Singleton of Glen Ord, increase in production capacity has also been approved.  Diageo’s rival Pernod Ricard have also forecast further requirements for investment in supply with confirmation that a new distillery will be built on the grounds of the mothballed distillery Imperial. With other distillers including Ardbeg set to increase production from five days to seven, the whole industry remains quietly optimistic priming for future success.

One piece of news in particular that has been discussed at great lengths has been the sale of Bruicladdich to Remy Martin. Writing this in front of a roaring fire with a glass of the Bruichladdich Ten Year Old at the distillery is a remarkable example of how the industry has evolved. The recent history of Bruichladdich witnessed closure during the 1980’s; its sale in 2001 by Whyte and Mackay (owners of Dalmore and Jura) for £6million to an independent consortium and eleven years later having successfully released  a standard 10 year old  sold again for a staggering £58million to Remy. To place such amount into context, the sale of GlenDronach distillery in 2008 by Pernod Ricard to a consortium led by a gentleman called Mr Billy Walker was £15 Million. Such price tag included a significant amount of older and expensive stocks dating back to the 1960’s in contrast to that of the younger stocks inherited by Remy Martin. This not only shows the desire of conglomerates that lack single malts within their portfolio to enter the market but also the expense of membership to enter the exclusive distillery owners club! 

Today, the Scotch whisky industry is enjoying a feast of growth in demand. It is however still fresh in many seasoned members of industry minds of the reminiscent 1960’s expansions. During this period, many distilleries including Macallan increased production capacity along with new distilleries being commissioned such as Tormore, Tomintoul, Braeval and Ladyburn to supply the emerging US whisky market. Very few however forecast the established markets of Europe to have such an aggressive decline in consumption during the late 1970’s recession. In stark contrast to the present day climate, Glenlivet reduced production to a three day week with many distilleries including Glenlochy, Inverleven, & Port Ellen being consigned to the history books as a result of oversupply. Could we see history once again repeat itself?

The emerging market drivers now fall on the shoulders of China, Brazil and India. The internet has not only made information more accessible it has also made the globe a smaller place whilst creating a new sales channel not previously enjoyed. The establishment of a standalone single malt category that previously did not exist until the early 1990’s has and will continue to play strategically important role in category development.

Despite the difference in eras, future forecasting remains a challenging task today as much as back then. History has shown us the ramifications of oversupply. Equally not having sufficient stocks can also have severe ramifications on individual brands or distilleries and throughout their global distribution. Preventing a feast turning into a famine is a category wide issue that takes the blend of skills all the way through the supply chain, marketing and consumption. Applying this philosophy only demonstrates further such an important role you all have!

 

已經4年沒有拜訪艾雷島了!每次我回到這裡,總再次燃起及深化我對於生命之水的熱愛。過去幾個月關於威士忌行業的話題不絕於耳,譬如收購蒸餾廠的消息、倉庫短缺引起的窖藏問題、以及獨立裝瓶廠對單一木桶威士忌的渴求等。

自從上次探訪,酒業巨擘帝亞吉歐正式宣佈有意在Highlands興建三家新的蒸餾廠,而Singleton of Glen Ord亦宣佈增產;對手保樂力加預計增加投資,並計劃於已關閉的Imperial Distillery 原址興建新廠;與此同時Ardbeg打算將工作日由5天增至7天。整個行業對前景似乎依然審慎樂觀。

一則街知巷聞的消息是Remy Martin 將Bruicladdich收歸旗下。過去數十年Bruichladdich的命運幾經起伏,八十年代蒸餾廠一度面臨關閉,2001年Whyte and Mackay (亦擁有Dalmore及Jura) 以600百萬歐羅將Bruichladdich出售予一家獨立財團;經歷11年,其間推出一款Bruichladdich10年,酒廠再易手予新東家Remy,交易價達5,800萬歐羅。2008年另一烈酒界巨擘保樂力加將旗下GlenDronach出售,買家是名為Mr. Billy Walker的商人及旗下財團,出價1,500萬歐羅,當中包括大量由1960年代陳年的窖藏酒。這些舉動在在反映,一些原本缺乏單一純麥的企業或財團逐鹿行業的決心,同時亦顯示其不菲代價。

今天,市場對蘇格蘭威士忌的需求正不斷增長,然而很多傳統蒸餾廠對於60年代的那一段光景仍歷歷在目。當時很多蒸餾廠為應付急速上升的需求而大幅擴充業務,例如Macallan;也有不少新星乘著美國對威士忌的需求而冒起,如Tormore、Tomintoul、Braeval 及Ladyburn等。只有少數蒸餾廠預期到歐洲接著的衰退,如Glenlivet就將每周工作日減少了3天。相反,一些現已作古的蒸餾廠包括Glenlochy、Inverleven及Port Ellen等卻因為當時錯誤地過量供應而付出沉重代價。歷史會重演嗎?

當今帶動市場需求的火車頭主要在中國、巴西及印度。互聯網不但讓所有資訊更流通,也為市場創造了前所未有的銷售渠道。90年代才興起的單一麥芽將繼續扮演市場重要角色。

時代變遷,但預測市場趨勢依然困難。歷史告訴我們供應過剩可能帶來的後果;但是一旦窖藏不足,對於個別品牌的全球供應造成危機。如何避免由產量過剩一面倒逆轉至供應不足,是蒸餾廠必需面對的核心問題,並透過控制混調方式對供應鍊、營銷及消耗量作出應對。這是市場生存必要的哲學。