By Dominic Roskrow
Diageo today sensationally announced that it is to withdraw its
controversial Cardhu Pure vatted malt and replace it once more with Cardhu 12 year old single malt by the end of the year.
And although the company denies that the move marks a U-turn, it accepts that its decision is to a great extent due to the huge opposition from the public to the company’s repackaging of a single malt as a vatted one.
The pure version will be phased out by the end of the year and the single malt will be made available in selected territories including Spain, where it is the leading malt brand.
Diageo says that it is responding to public will but is also pre-empting an announcement on labelling in general. It has been in talks with the Scotch whisky Association and is supporting a move to clear up definitions to make it clearer for consumers. Among the proposals is a ban on the use of an existing distillery name for anything except a single malt from that distillery.
Such a move would ‘outlaw’ Cardu Pure.
Announcing the changes Dr Nicholas Morgan, marketing director for Classic Malts at Diageo, said he was very proud that the company had worked as a team over Cardhu, been big enough to listen to the industry and whisky drinkers, and acted accordingly.
“Some people may see it as a u turn and others may try and claim credit for this change,” he said. “But we are in a different place from when this all blew up last year. We have moved on and no-one made this decision except ourselves.
“The only mistake we made was to underestimate how strong feeling among the public would be. We’re very sorry we caused so much upset and we apologise for offending people over the issue.
“But we believe that we are acting in the interest of everyone by taking this decision.”
Diageo does not rule out other innovative moves in the malt sector in the future, and Dr Morgan hinted that a new vatted product would be launched in a period of about a year from now and that the company intended to be at the forefront of a sector which it believes could be massively instrumental in bringing new drinkers to the Scotch malt whisky market.
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I'm glad to hear that Cardhu maintains its status as a single malt, but is there something I don't see? A hidden agenda perhaps?
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As for the Annual release Port Ellens first there was 6000 bottles, then 12,000 and god knows how much of the third there will be!!! Also I have heard that althougth this was to be the last 3 bottlings of Port Ellen Diageo have plans to release "several" more casks. Yes following I would agree - following on the fact that they sold heaps on the back of confusing collectors.
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Anyway, I'm glad Diageo came up with the idea to put out Rare Malts Selection. It introduced me into a few very good new insights.
Diageo made a decision to change Cardhu from a Single Malt to a Pure Malt because they were in the enviable position of demand exceeding supply.
They informed the relevant people and organizations as to their intentions.
And people got hysterical.
Then Diageo agreed to alter packaging of their product.
And people were still hysterical.
Then Diageo announce that Cardhu Pure Malt will disappear and Cardhu Single Malt will return (albeit only in certain markets)
And people are hysterical.
First things first.
Cardhu is a brand – it is also a distillery, it is also a whisky, but in the big picture it is a brand – and it is the owner’s right to do what it will with its own brand.
To the best of my knowledge, Pure and Single Malt and the differences between them are not enshrined in law, certainly not in International law, but are generally accepted, terms. If consumers do not fully understand the differences between and the subtleties of these terms, then that is the consumer’s problem (with a huge deal of responsibility lying with the Industry who actively exploits the lack of clear and defined label regulations). It is not Diageo’s problem.
It appears that the Mediterranean markets where Cardhu is most popular don’t care a fig for the differences between Single and Pure Malt. They’re buying a product and buying into a brand image. So long as it tastes good with cola or ginger ale it’s O.K..
The people who do care a fig for the differences between Pure & Single Malts know the difference, are surely aware that the change has take place, and can choose from hundreds of other Single Malts, if they only want the single malt experience. So what’s the big deal?
For those that suggest that this was just a large promotional exercise – why? Cardhu Single could not be supplied in sufficient quantities, Cardhu Pure is to disappear and Cardhu Single when it returns will not return to many markets. Where do Diageo get a benefit?
For those that suggest that if Diageo had not reversed their decision to sell Cardhu Pure that it was the end of the whisky industry, or at least the Single Malt category – why?
Will someone give one good reason why and how this could happen.
And if you have a good argument think about these points:
Are distilleries not allowed to change anything to do with their Single Malts? What about water source (Bunnahabhainn), what about barrels (pretty much all distilleries)?, what about bottling location? What about distilleries themselves (Clynlish)? Take Ardbeg as an example. General consensus is that recent bottlings of Ardbeg have lost the pungency of old Ardbegs. Should Glenmorangie/Ardbeg be made to sell these Ardbegs under a different name?
And what about MacPhails? Lovely whisky, but produced at a secret location!!
Here’s another question. Blended Whiskies. Are all the components exactly the same in every batch? I think not. Does that impact on the blended whisky market? I think not.
To summarise – what’s the big deal.
There are perceptions to do with whisky held by large numbers of people that are totally without basis. The “Industry” is happy to exploit this for its benefit. Is it fair to criticize one organization for bathing in the murky waters?
Diageo own Cardhu. It is their baby. They should be able to do with it what they will.
If you don’t like it don’t buy it!
No doubt, some people will see the return of Cardhu Single as a victory for the consumer – the small man in the street. I don’t believe that this is the case at all.
There’s something bigger going on. Organizations were projecting one side of the story to the exclusion of all else.
WM particularly, seemed to enjoy the “incident” swiftly suggesting new labeling schemes, and trumpeting the return of Cardhu Single.
Why were Diageo not given the opportunity to address their side of the argument in any of the issues? (Macallan have in relation to the “fakes” issue)
Yet hardly any negative comment about Glenmorangie buying the SMWS, and indeed celebrating the fact in the most recent issue – that’s also a significant impact on the Malt Whisky sector.
Surely a “Cardhu Challenge” would have been on the cards – let the experts see if they could tell the difference between the two versions.
Regularly, the theme crops up in WM that more needs to be done to introduce young people to whisk(e)y. Where was that theme in the Cardhu debate? Now Cardhu, a typical “Beginner’s Malt” is no longer available in most of Europe!
It was suggested in a newspaper article that PR companies were hired to shoot down Diageo’s ideas (Thanks Iain). Who did this? Why? Does nobody else think that this is sinister?
I think Diageo did not adequately explain its position when the hubbub first began. It was taken aback clearly by the furor and decided finally to retrench and "move on": fair enough, it is the brand owner and the final resolution is its call. My point is, some whisky enthusiasts, who know not a little about whisky and care for its quality no less than those who disagreed with Diageo's initial decisions, thought there was nothing wrong at all about changing Cardhu Single Malt into Cardhu Pure Malt.
"Pure Malt" is a term that has come to mean a "collection of malt whiskies, not necessarily from the one distillery"
Diageo are exploiting that for their (and their main Cardhu consumers') benefit.
To roundly condemn them for that (and to further mock and belittle them when they have the good grace to .......reconsider is unfair.
That's the point.
Other distilleries have altered what some people consider to be fundamentals and where are the public outries on these?
Yes, when you buy a coke you expect a coke. A Pepsi in Coca Cola packaging is illegal under (pretty much) any country's laws.
What Diageo have done is not.
By all means clear up the grey areas.
Educate the consumer.
Educate the retailers.
Then let the market decide.
I find it highly ironic, that at a time when Diageo have released a "contraption" of some sort to identify "fake" whisk(e)y, that they are hounded in the press and specialist comment for damaging the future of Scottish Whisky. To my mind, fake products in a market such as whisky are far more important in the long run than the composition of Cardhu.
And to conclude, Shane, there are limits to where it stops.
Single Malt, Pure/Vatted Malt and blend are all standard, if slightly vague terms. If Diageo depart from these standards, then they will deserve the retribution currently being showered upon them.
I was particularly struck by this: "When I buy Macallan I expect a Macallan NOT a Tamdhu, When I buy Springbank I expect Springbank not a Glen Scotia, When I buy a Big Mac I expect a Big Mac NOT a Whopper thats had a name change and is wrapped in Big Mac packaging. When I buy Coca Cola I expect Coca Cola and not Pepsi in the Coca Cola Packaging. There is no Limits to where it stops.Get the point."
I agree with these views from Shane - but the point of my postuing below is that many others are playing a confusing, misleading and cynical game.
Thanks to list members who replied to my earlier question about Stronachie and Octomore. I look forward to reading the promised article about these 'new' old distilleries.
In the meantime, having thought a little more about this, and spoken to a friend who was all set to buy a bottle of Stronachie, having read about this rediscovered distillery in the Scotsman, I have to express a concern, and so also raise a question.
Isn't the use of such names just misleading and cynical marketing, transparent perhaps to the 400 or so well-informed souls on this list, but not so to the generality of malt whisky buyers and collectors. Why can't Stronachie be 'Benrinnes' - if that's what it is - and Octomore 'heavily peated Bruichladdich' (like peated Bladnoch)?
I have a feeling this is nothing more than the sort of jerrymandering and hucksterism that UD were recently so rightly taken to task for over Cardhu/Cardow/Cardon't. And equally deserving of criticism.
Maltman (Farquhar Miller)
Six months ago I put aside a bottle of Cardhu Single Malt, thinking it would be a rare collectible one day. Now it seems I will have to go out and buy a bottle of Cardhu Pure and put IT away as a collectible instead!
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