Scotch Whisky road trip

30 Jun 2014

Twelve Scotch Whisky distilleries, an archive, a cooperage and a maltings - not to mention a bird of prey demonstration and a traditional woollen mill - were all on the busy itinerary for 15 journalists visiting Scotland from the USA this month.

The USA is by far the biggest market in terms of value for Scotch Whisky. Last year, exports of Scotland's national drink reached a record £818 million, up 8% on 2012. It's vital that the industry continues to promote Scotch effectively to consumers in North America and differentiates itself from competitors.

One way to demonstrate the unique attraction of Scotch is to invite journalists to the country so they can witness Scotch Whisky production first hand and learn all about its history and the reasons for its ongoing success. That's exactly what the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and its members, with the support of the SWA, have been doing since 2002.

Arriving in Glasgow Airport around 8am on a sunny June morning, the group, fuelled by some much-needed coffee, were whisked off to Diageo's new archive in Menstrie. This archive houses bottles spanning many decades and is an in-house resource providing inspiration for new product development.

Next stop was a cooperage to learn how modern techniques and traditional skills are combined to ensure a supply of quality casks to meet increasing demand from distilleries.

Then the whirlwind of distillery tours across Scotland began. The group were fortunate enough to visit the Scotch producing regions of: Highland; Speyside; Lowland and Islay. Distillery managers and brand ambassadors explained what makes each brand of Scotch different and the defining characteristics of their Single Malts.

In just under a week our guests were welcomed at: The Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret; Dewar's of Aberfeldy; Aberlour; The Glenlivet; Royal Brackla; Glenmorangie; Mortlach; Auchentoshan, Ardbeg; Bruichladdich; Bowmore and Laphroaig, travelling by bus and boat across Scotland.

I joined the group on part of their visit and it was a reminder of what makes Scotch Whisky, and Scotland, special. The group marvelled at the rugged scenery, the long Scottish evenings with their late sunsets and, above all, the passion of those working in the industry.

I'm sure they will spread the word about Scotch Whisky to consumers in the USA who are new to the product as well as those who have enjoyed a dram for years. Some may also return in the future to visit the plethora of new distilleries currently being planned and built.

Rosemary Gallagher, Scotch Whisky Association communications manager