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by Dominic Roskrow
Drinks giant Diageo is set to start 2005 with a three-pronged campaign in support of its key whisky brands.
Just months after the company's reputation was under a cloud due to the launch of a vatted version of Cardhu and its subsequent climbdown, Diageo is firmly demonstrating its commitment to the premium whisky sector.
The most important development from a whisky enthusiast's point of view is the launch of a new expression of Talisker – an 18 year old. It is the first time that an older expression of the Skye malt has been bottled on a regular basis and it was greeted with enthusiasm by journalists from all over Europe at a launch in London.
The extra years have rounded off the characteristic taste of Talisker and given it a depth that the standard 10 year old doesn't have. The heady combination of spices and smoke combined with a new chewy sweet toffee dimension will prompt comparisons with its cousin on Islay and with Ardbeg down the road, and not unfavourable ones either.
The new whisky will be available in limited quantities across the world and will have a recommended price in the United Kingdom of £38 a bottle. And the whole range has been repackaged to give it a
more more modern and stylish appearance.
The second development is also in the malts sector. Diageo has been quietly supporting Caol Ila, and it appears that this and the company's other Islay malt, Lagavulin, will be promoted alongside Talisker as important components in the company's overall portfolio.
And finally the company is investing heavily behind Johnnie Walker Green Label, a repackaged vatted whisky that will fill the hole that Cardhu Pure was planned to occupy. Experts believe that the move and the association with the highly respected Johnnie Walker label is part of a longer term campaign by Diageo to make up for falling sales in the standard brown spirit category by growing the more premium category of vatted malts.
In a separate move the company has announced that it has teamed up with Scottish Native Woods and will be investing £100,000 over the next three years to help establish native woods close to four prime Speyside rivers. The project, called Living Rivers, will improve the quality of the water and ultimately boost fish stocks.
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