Whisky Advocate

Malt Advocate, Inc. joins M. Shanken Communications, Inc.

June 15th, 2010

Well, this is the big news for the day (year? decade?) It’s all very positive–a perfect match.  Please let me know if you have any questions. I’ll be happy to answer them. Details below in the press release.

(That’s Marvin Shanken and me in the picture, earlier today, after I signed what seemed like a million papers. The synergisms have already begun. I’m giving him a bottle of The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1959 vintage, and I went home with a handful of pre-Castro Cuban cigars, also from 1959. Very nice!)


Malt Advocate, Inc. joins M. Shanken Communications, Inc.


 John Hansell stays on as Publisher & Editor; Amy Westlake remains WhiskyFest Director

New York, June 15, 2010:  Malt Advocate, Inc. today announced that it is now a part of M. Shanken Communications, Inc.   Malt Advocate, Inc. includes Malt Advocate magazine, WhiskyFest New York, WhiskyFest Chicago, and WhiskyFest San Francisco.

M. Shanken Communications, Inc.  publishes a variety of consumer and trade publications.  They include Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado, Food Arts, Market Watch, and Impact.  In addition, the company hosts a number of events across the United States including the New York and New World Wine Experiences, Wine Spectator’s Grand Tours and Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smokes. 

John Hansell will remain Malt Advocate magazine’s Publisher & Editor, and Amy Westlake will continue as Director of WhiskyFest events.  Malt Advocate, Inc. operations will remain at their current office in Emmaus, PA.

“Amy and I are very proud of our efforts promoting the whisky industry, both with Malt Advocate, which will be celebrating its 20thAnniversary in 2011, and the 25 WhiskyFest events we have hosted over the past 12 years,” notes John Hansell.

“Our activities dovetail perfectly with those of M. Shanken Communications, Inc. from a publication and events standpoint.  There are definite synergies that will be achieved between the two companies.  The M. Shanken Group will take Malt Advocate magazine and our WhiskyFest events to levels that we could not have achieved on our own.  We are very excited about our future together.”

“John and Amy are pioneers in this industry and highly regarded,” commented Marvin R. Shanken, CEO of M. Shanken Communications, Inc.   “We are proud to have them on board with us.  Their creations—Malt Advocate and WhiskyFest—are benchmarks.”

For additional information, contact Amy Westlake (610. 967.1083 or

No Responses to “Malt Advocate, Inc. joins M. Shanken Communications, Inc.”

  1. John and Amy,

    You’ve had all the right moves for almost 20 years now. It doesn’t surprise me that you’ve been invited to join one of the powerhouse groups in the publishing industry.

    I’m proud to have played a small part in some of your recent successes, and I can’t wait to see where you go from here. Rock on!

  2. Congratulations to you and Amy! You both worked hard over the years and built a very successful business… no wonder you caught the eye of M. Shanken.

  3. sam k says:

    Just like great comedy, timing is everything, and the timing on this couldn’t be better. It fits well in so many ways, and opens up possibilities that never would have existed otherwise. All my best to the “First Couple of Whisky!”

  4. deansheen says:

    Nice work John. Glad to see you expand on the great work you have done so far.

  5. Rick says:

    Now we know why John held back on drinking some of his prize bottles for his 50th! Saving them for this great occasion!!! I’d love to see people’s answer to a question of “What do you think I should drink to celebrate this incredible news”.

  6. Kevin says:

    Wow! Congrats – can’t wait to see what great things come out of this partnership!

  7. David Stewart says:

    Congratulations John and Amy! That is a truly exciting development.

  8. David Dapkewicz says:

    Congratulations to everyone at MA! Looks like a perfect fit.

  9. Lew Bryson says:

    Here we go, folks: Malt Advocate unleashed! Very excited to see what we can do with the solid backing of this publishing powerhouse.

  10. Congratulations! Looking forward to even better issues and events.

  11. Congratulations, Amy and John. Hope it leads to greener pastures while keeping the heart of the magazine and the events the same.

    For the exchange of gifts – though I day to day build my knowledge on the whole whisky sphere, I know way less of cigars. Did Marvin get the better of the deal here? All I can picture of cigars from 1959 are stale cigars that will flake away. Though the pre-Castro thing is pretty cool and worthwhile to collect, I know many of us here are about the enjoyment rather than the collecting of things. So, anyway, someone please educate me about those awesome cigars…

    • sam k says:

      I’d be surprised if they weren’t carefully cared for over the last 50 years. I don’t think Mr. Shanken would settle for anything less, kind of like with Malt Advocate! As long as they were kept in a proper humidor, they would be fine. If they were kept in a cigar factory aging room, they could be incredible! John, what will it take to get just a puff of one of these babies? Great gesture on both your parts!

    • John Hansell says:

      No collecting here. I had my first of my four cigars this evening, and I loved it. (But, between me and you, I think he got the better of the deal. The Cellar Collection 1959 is amazing stuff, and only 400 bottles were made.)

  12. John Hansell says:

    Thanks everyone for your well-wishes. I really appreciate it.

  13. AdamH says:

    Congrats John & Amy and Co.! I raise a glass to your raising the bar.

  14. Congratulations for this deal! Will this result in better worldwide availability of Malt Advocate Magazine? It would be nice to be able to buy it from the shelf here in Germany.

  15. Jock the Boat says:

    An interesting and no doubt long-time-considered move by the guys behind Malt Advocate. Does anyone see any similarity to this deal and a small, independent, distillery owner selling up to the likes of Diageo, Pernod etc? I can just imagine the outcry if it had been a distillery doing the same thing so I struggle to understand everyone – barring those involved of course – being so excited by this.

    Hopefully we won’t see MA lose its spirit of independence and impartiality under the influence of new and existing advertisers who no doubt spend a pretty penny already with Shanken. I’d hate to see the magazine and its associated events become beholden to the big boys with the big bucks.

    Time will tell I guess.

    • John Hansell says:

      Your concerns are understandable, especially coming from someone at a very independent distiller. (Yes, we can tell where the “anonymous” comments come from).

      The advertising arm of Malt Advocate has always been completely independent from the editorial arm, and this will not change.

    • I would regard this more as an analogy to the recent Tuthilltown/Grant deal where independece is said to be guaranteed, just under the umbrella of a big player. In Scotland, distillery takeovers tend to be accompanied by management replacements. If this was the case here, I agree that it would be sad news rather than good news.

  16. B.J. Reed says:

    Congratulations John

  17. DavidG says:

    congratulation to Marvin R. Shanken and his company – you have just acquired an amazing asset. As you are aware MA’s readership is fiercely loyal, and keeping it in guiding hands of John and Amy is both a shrewd business decision and an important step in keeping its editorial and journalistic ethos.
    as an aside:
    Q: How do you ensure that your well thought out gift of rare scotch is not re-gifted?
    A: Well, you sign and date it 😉

    Congratulations to John and the entire MA family for creating a magazine and surrounding culture that is so attractive to ‘the big boys”. A true accomplishment.

    • John Hansell says:

      Thanks! (Actually, my signing and dating the bottle was his idea. I was honored to do so. I didn’t ask him to sign the cigars he gave me, though. Given that they are more than 50 years old, they probably would have fallen apart! 🙂 )

  18. Scribe says:

    John, congrats first and foremost — exciting times!! One question, though: Conspicuous in its absence from the announcement is this blog. Does this become even more your “personal” commentary (although it always has been, to your credit)? Or remains yours but continues to be tightly linked to Malt Advocate given your role there continues? Just curious if there are any impending changes here…congrats again, and good idea not to have any autograph pens puncturing those cigars! 🙂

    • John Hansell says:

      M. Shanken, Inc. puchased everything, including this blog. (It is the official Malt Advocate blog, after all.) But, having said this, nothing has changed. I’m still here doing what I’ve been doing.

  19. Marc Bromfeld says:

    Congrats to John, Amy and the entire MA team. This is a true testament of your efforts put forth through the years as M. Shanken doesn’t acquire without serious due diligence.
    All the best!

  20. Alex says:

    Congratulations John! I sincerely hope this merger helps to evolve Malt Advocate in the way you envision and that you can maintain the editorial standards and voice that we all have come to appreciate.

  21. Brian Bradley (Brian47126) says:

    Congrats John!

    As long as you get to keep creative control, I guess this is a good thing. Greater exposure and larger market distribution is definitely a very good thing.

  22. two-bit cowboy says:

    Congrats, Amy, John, and Marvin.

    I must tell you, though, the headline in the WDJK list gave me a heart-wrenching pang. This evolution seems a natural business process, but I ever lament the loss of yet another independent.

  23. Nabil Mailloux says:


    I would also like to congratulate you, but it would only be fair to call this what it is…a buy-out. Mr. Shaken now owns MA, does he not? I have been impressed with your writing, your layout, your opnions, your engagement with your readers via the blog. What I fear, however, is that although you are making it to the ‘next level’, what this really means is that your interests will draw closer to those of your advertising clients’.

    Congratulations on timing and knowing how to cash in (I mean this in a sincere and positive way!) I guess only time will tell if MA will retain its independence.

    • John Hansell says:

      The editorial in Malt Advocate always has, and always will, remain independent of advertising for as long as I am Publisher and Editor. That’s a promise!

      • stevew says:

        Hi, John. Congratulations to you and Amy, you have certainly earned it. I love Malt Advocate and think you and your team do a terrific job.

        Along the lines of some of the comments regarding remaining independent of advertiser influence… it is hard for me to believe that the acquisition won’t at some point result in greater pressure for increased revenue. As an independent you can choose to remain at whatever size you’re comfortable with, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of growth by your own criteria. However, someone else will now have more say on how much revenue is enough. And I do trust your commitment to remain independent when it comes to editorial, reviews, etc. So, I’d just like to say that I’d be happy to pay more for my Malt Advocate membership before you consider any ways to grow revenue that would jeopardize that independence. Thanks, and keep up the great work!

        • John Hansell says:

          Thank you for the kind words.

          Just so you know: I will never compromise my integrity. I have had conversations with Marvin about this topic, and he completely agrees and supports me.

  24. Joe M says:

    Congratulations, John. Great to see you take the next step. All the best!

  25. Richard says:

    Congratulations John! I can’t wait to see what’s coming down the pipe!

  26. Neil Fusillo says:

    Well, John, I hope this doesn’t mean that the writing content of MA will dwindle in the face of bigger and more ads! Although, I’d be okay with more ads if it meant just adding more pages.

    Congratulations on getting to this point. Out of curiosity, was the buyout an offer initiated by M.Shanken Communications, or was this sought out by you?

    Buyouts like this can be an incredible boon to a small magazine. It gives you access to a world of publishing power you didn’t really have before, allows you to expand your markets drastically, and helps you not have to worry as much about keeping everything afloat, as you’ve an owner with a vested interest in helping you grow your market share. They can ALSO be a negative, dependent on the way things finally shake out. But I trust your judgement in this, so I’ve good hopes to see MA reach amazing new heights.

    Now… if we could just get a WhiskyFest in Atlanta (largest city in the SouthEast!), this whole thing would be golden!

    • John Hansell says:

      Neil, they approached us back in December. We were not looking to sell our business. But, after several meetings with them, both companies realized that the two companies fit perfectly together and the synergisms were too good to pass up.

      No worries, the quality of the writing will remain the same. Our staff, and writers, will not change. And our writers are very excited. More people will read, and appreciate, their work.

      Your request to host a WhiskyFest in Atlanta is duly noted. 🙂

  27. Mark Davis says:

    congratulations John. I hope this helps get wider circulation. more mouths with whiskey in it is good news.

  28. MrTH says:

    I gather that what this means is that Malt Advocate is no longer necessarily synonymous with John Hansell. While that obviously makes a lot of us nervous, it also means that MA will live on after John decides to retire. Change is unsettling, but it’s also a part of the natural order. We all hope that things will go on as usual, but we can take some comfort in knowing that MA’s future is secure. Undoubtedly John’s is, too, in the wake of this deal, and I don’t think any of us would begrudge him that–he’s earned it.

    • John Hansell says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. There’s a lot that went into this decision. Naturally, it makes sense from a business standpoint. M. Shanken Communications will expose our work (which we are very proud of) to a larger audience.

      But, as you eluded to, we will need to decide what happens to our business when we, some day, retire. Our daughter has no interest in taking over the business, which means we would need to sell it at some point. We would rather sell it to a company we respect now, than take our chances later.

      And, like you said, Malt Advocate now has a secure home for years to come, and long after I am gone.

      I understand everyone’s concern and anxiety. Trust me, no one wants the quality and integrity of MA to remain intact more than I do, and I will endeavor to always keep it this way.

  29. Will there be synergies in dual subscription prices?

  30. Gary says:

    Congrats and best wishes John to both you and Amy. Will there be any changes in the WhiskyFests in the future? Or will they continue to run as they have been running?

    • John Hansell says:

      I don’t really see any major changes. The events are already going very well. We might do a fourth event in a new city in the future, though…

  31. H.Diaz says:

    Now, are we likely to see at least 6 issues per year? Maybe more? My suggestion for the suggestion box.

    The blog helps tremendously, but the time/months between the current 4 issues can feel more like years at times.

    I have followed Malt Advocate for nearly 10 years and watched it grow. I can follow for 10 more. Cheers.

  32. Louis says:

    Congratulations John, this is a big step up. Hopefully, you can spend more of your time on whisk(e)y related stuff and less on administrative stuff.



  33. Pearson’s Wine ( and Whisky ) of Atlanta would love to take part in the promotion of WhiskyFest in Atlanta. Feel free to contact me. Congrats BTW. Larry

  34. Mashbill says:

    So does this mean that your palate will only appreciate obvious, over-the-top distillates with no nuance or subtlety? Because that’s how Laube, Suckling, and company rate wines. They also eschew actual reporting in favor of endless reviews without much context.

    This is seriously disturbing, and as I just began subscribing Malt Advocate, I may need to now rescind.

    • John Hansell says:

      Let’s not jump to conclusions. The last time I checked, I’m still me, and no one has told me to be anyone other than me. Marvin and I had discussions about my reviews (and the fact that I give both favorable AND unfavorable reviews), and he told me to just keep doing what I’m doing.

      • Mashbill says:

        That may be, but my conclusions on Shanken and his publications are not a “jump.” They’ve been contributing to the homogenization of wine styles for years, and that’s an observation people have been making for years. When you lay down with dogs…

    • Scott says:

      I’m not steeped enough in the wine world to know one way or another. But, in terms of cigars, I think that Shanken runs a first class publication. Their editorial content is interesting and relevant — and their reviews could hardly be more independent and trustworthy.

      This seems like an obvious “win-win” to me….especially since John will maintain editorial control over MA. I suspect this will not only be good for MA and Whiskyfest, but for whisk(e)y in general as a mainstream hobby of leisure (like wine, cigars, and haute cuisine).

  35. Mark says:

    John, I’m happy for you and wish you and MA the best. I am confident that you will hold your integrity intact. May your vision for MA be as secure. May whatever new complexities arise (seems inevitable that they will) be such that you are able to deal with them within the range of your aims for Malt Advocate. As long as you are E&P, I’ll think we have reason to be confident.

    Best wishes during the transition

  36. JC Skinner says:

    I’m a little concerned. I’ll watch how this pans out with interest. I hope it proves of true benefit to all. I’d hate to see redundancies. I’d hate even more to see the editorial independence of the magazine eroded. But six issues a year might be nice. I’ll assume a watching brief for now, while wishing all concerned all the best for the future.

  37. Scott says:

    Awesome!! As a big fan of both Malt Advocate and a couple of Shanken publications (Cigar Aficianado & Wine Spectator), this seems like a perfect marriage. And I’m doubly glad to see that you will remain in charge of MA.

    I was first “introduced” to Marvin Shanken by renowned cigar aficianado Rush Limbaugh some 15 years ago and I’ve since come to hold him and his outfit in very high esteem. Congratulations, John…and many years of future success!!

  38. […] an amazing two weeks. I turned 50 on June 7th, our daughter turned 18 on June 14th, our company joined the M. Shanken Communications group on June 15th, and now tonight our daughter graduates from High School.  (And this Sunday is […]

  39. Tim P says:

    Good for you John! Congratulations!

  40. Mitch Gurowitz says:

    Congratulations John, it seems like a coincidence, but I just started reading Cigar Aficionado last month, I applaud the bi-monthly idea. Every other month gives me enough time to enjoy the magazine cover to cover, but not memorize them as I have been currently doing.

  41. […] have been enjoying an occasional cigar for nearly 30 years. My new boss wants me to attend his Big Smoke weekend to see how the event is run. (Let’s see…cigars, […]

  42. […] of factors: knee surgery in the spring, lots of travel for business in the fall, the stress of selling our business, rotating beers on tap at home, a slowing metabolism, an endless supply of other great things to […]

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