Oranges, limes...and tequila

26 Jun 2014

Oranges, limes, and tropical fruits might feature in a whisky tasting note but they are not what you expect to find at a Scotch Whisky distillery in Scotland.  But, as I discovered when visiting Mexico earlier this month, they are to be found at a typical tequila distillery, La Herradura in Jalisco State, and they contribute very much to a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

I and a colleague from the SWA, Alan Park, were in Mexico as the guests of the Consejo Regulador del Tequila, the CRT, part of our worldwide family of spirits drinks organisations.  We were there because I was signing, on behalf of the SWA, a cooperation agreement between our two bodies, the first we have ever signed.  The CRT could not have been more hospitable and we were made to feel extremely welcome throughout our short time there.

I am excited by the possibilities this agreement can deliver for us.  Why?

When we operate in emerging markets, we regularly face two kinds of problems.  First, it is not always straightforward to work within another country's regulatory system.  To resolve problems it is important to know which is the right government body to deal with, at national or state level, and often to be able to identify individual officials to whom we can put our case.  Second, and sadly, there is sometimes fraudulent or fake whisky available in the market, but it is not always easy for us at the Association several thousand miles away to spot this and do something about it.  In both cases you often need a helping hand.  Company representatives and British Embassies worldwide are a vital part of this, but they can't be everywhere, so we often work with other organisations because of our common interest in resolving this kind of problem.

Our agreement with the CRT formalises this collaboration for the first time.  Through it, we commit ourselves to helping each other to navigate through our respective governmental systems, to identifying problems of fraud or fakes on each other's behalf, and to generally exchanging information on matters of mutual interest, including on promoting responsible drinking in both our countries.   I am convinced this will make a real difference.

And this really matters to Scotch Whisky.  Mexico may not be thought of as a traditional whisky drinking country, but it is our ninth biggest overseas market.  Exports grew by 20% last year and indeed have quadrupled over the last decade, twice as fast as the growth of Scotch Whisky overall.   Whilst Scotch is one of the UK's fastest growing exports to Mexico,  we still have only a small share of the overall market and the possibilities are exciting. 

Our colleagues overseas recognise this too.   In Mexico there were representatives of many other spirits drinks associations across the globe.  Many of them said to me "We want to do what you in Scotch Whisky have already done" - that is, be a successful exporter with a world-renowned product.   We welcome these aspirations.  All competition is good for our industry in the long run, and the more people that drink spirits the better.  But we are confident that Scotch Whisky has the strengths, the taste, and the quality to remain in the lead!

David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive