Whisky Advocate

New Diageo whiskies: The Manager’s Choice

September 3rd, 2009

Because of all the rumors, blog postings, etc., (including my own teaser this past week) on this subject (unauthorized, in many instances), Diageo has given me permission to release this information, officially,  one day early.

First, let’s start with the information from the press release:

ManagersChoice_Range_1_LoRes (2)Diageo launches its first ever complete collection of single-cask malt whiskies

Diageo has announced the launch of its first single-cask collection of single malt Scotch whiskies. This is the first time that Scotland’s biggest estate of single malt distilleries has issued a comprehensive series of single-cask bottlings.

Labelled The Managers’ Choice, the rare limited-edition series is aimed at collectors and connoisseurs who will enjoy owning and exploring an unusual expression of their favourite single malt or even a whole anthology of highly individual single malts, chosen to represent each of 27 distilleries’ distinctive but authentic whisky signature.

The releases are being staged in batches over the next year. September 2009 sees the first release of six malts.

Each distillery is represented in The Managers’ Choice by a bottling of its single malt whisky drawn from one single cask, selected after a careful examination of distillery stocks. The cask was nosed, tasted, discussed and finally chosen as the most distinctive expression of that distillery’s single malts by a judging panel of acknowledged experts, including leading maturation experts and the distillery managers themselves.

In many cases, unusual cask woods will have had their influence on the final result. Perfect maturation and spirit quality have been the criteria, resulting in a bottling that delights with original and sometimes unexpected flavours whilst allowing the distillery character to still shine through.

Depending on the size of the cask and the rate of evaporation over the years since it was filled, the volume of bottles obtained can vary between approximately 600 and as little as 200. These are, consequently, extremely rare and distinctive whiskies.

Oban_angledOnce picked, each cask is bottled at its natural cask strength, without chill filtering. Nothing is allowed to affect the natural taste and aromas of the whisky. This means that the liquid the connoisseur pours into his or her glass is exactly as it emerged directly from the cask when it was hand-picked a few months earlier by the experts – it’s as good as a dram drawn from the cask in the warehouse itself.

Diageo whisky specialist Craig Wallace explained the challenge of selecting a single cask for a bottling that will be made available to a discerning and knowledgeable consumer audience:  “When you’re selecting casks for a bigger bottling, you can work with a wider variation of maturity, distillery character and wood influence because you can even it out and aim for consistency.

“But when you are bottling a single cask, you can’t do that: you have to get the balance totally right when selecting the cask. And it’s highly unlikely, whatever single cask you choose this time, that you’d ever be able to replicate that precise flavour profile the next time you look for one.  So finding a single cask with just the right balance is actually very challenging.”

Classic Malts Selection spokesperson Nick Morgan said:  “We have occasionally issued single-cask bottlings of individual single malt whiskies before, for instance for visitors to the annual Islay Festival. And single-cask bottlings of our malts can sometimes be obtained from independent bottlers.

“But this is a much more ambitious venture  -  the most extensive collection we’ve ever released of single cask malt whisky bottlings, from 27 of our operational malt distilleries, involving both the well-known and those whose product isn’t widely available. 

“Each individual distillery cask selected by the experts after an extensive examination has doubly earned its place in The Managers’ Choice, regardless of its age: because it faithfully illuminates that distillery’s individual DNA, and also because it will offer the connoisseur a different, interesting and perhaps unexpected experience of that whisky.”

Full details, including tasting notes, are displayed on the Classic Malts Selection™ website www.malts.com. The new website content includes the story of The Managers’ Choice and the selection process, a “Meet the Managers” page where they talk about The Managers Choice collection & questions related to the world of whisky, whisky tasting notes & audio, Q&A with a Sensory Expert, and details of where to buy the whiskies.

Note: Since this project doesn’t officially kick off until tomorrow, Diageo informed me this morning that the website featuring these whiskies may not be fully operational until then.

Here are the six whiskies in the first release, along with corresponding information on distillation dates, number of bottles, and pricing. (Sadly, these whiskies will NOT be available in the U.S.)

Cardhu™ , distilled 1997,   252 bottles,  £250
Glen Elgin™,  distilled 1998,  534 bottles, £250
Linkwood™,  distilled 1996,  480 bottles, £200
Mortlach™,  distilled 1997,   240 bottles, £250
Oban™,  distilled 2000,  534 bottles, £300
Teaninich™,  distilled 1996,  246 bottles, £200

I spoke with Nick Morgan last week and he was candid with me, telling me that it was very difficult deciding on which cask to pick for each distillery. The nosing team narrowed it down to three different casks for each distillery. Then, the group of nosers, along with the distillery managers and other key individuals, basically debated until coming up with just one pick for each distillery. (I would have liked to been there for that! That would have been fun.)

So, there you have it for now. I WILL be getting review samples of each release, so I’ll let you know my thoughts at that time. If you have any other questions, let me know. I’ll try to get them answered for you.

And please, post up your comments. Diageo is watching…

182 Responses to “New Diageo whiskies: The Manager’s Choice”

  1. Rick Duff says:

    What a great idea (offer single malts from each of their distilleries) and horrible execution. By going with 1 cask.. they artificially limit the market, drive prices way up.. and the end result will be less than 1/2 of these rare bottles ever being opened and enjoyed.. as the value as a collectible will be far too high.
    I am sickened by the thought of producing any whisky that simply isn’t destined to actually be consumed and enjoyed.

  2. Steve says:

    John,

    I agree it would have been fun to listen to the nosing committee and distillery managers debate over which cask from each distillery’s stock is the most “distinctive expression.” Doubly so since no casks could be mingled. One and done.

    Given none of these will be released in the States and the rarity probably puts them outside my price point anyway, I doubt I’ll taste any of these, however I most definately look forward to living vicariously through you and other whisky writers. I’m sure all of you will debate you varying levels of agreement with the committee and managers about these casks being the ultimate taste profile for each distillery. I can hear it now, “I think this has more butterscotch (smokiness, sweetness, sourness, whatever) than I usually associate with Distillery X.”

    I very much hope you, Dave, Serge, et.al. pick these drams apart and let us know if these casks are “the ones,” especially for those less well known or unavailable-over-here distilleries.

    Few will get to taste but I’m betting many will get to enjoy the conversation.

    Thanks,
    Steve

  3. I agree with Rick, it is a brilliant idea, but the price tags are absolutely prohibitive, even if these are the distilleries’ finest casks. 300 quid for a 9yo Oban is just out of this world.

  4. Thanks for this, John.

    But why the secrecy? Makes Diageo look more like the too-big-for-its-britches company I have perceived for a long time. And, in keeping with Monique at the Dell’s terrific comment in the latest issue of MA, how about allocation of these special issues? Obviously none of the first issue will be in 750ml bottles for the U.S. market. Diageo’s secrecy combined with its typical only-in-the-special-markets attitude make me much less interested in the pending releases. Makes it easy to wonder “who cares?”

  5. John Hansell says:

    Steve, I will be getting review samples, so I’ll let you know what I think.

  6. Steve says:

    I understand why Diageo wishes to do this: find the one cask from each distillery that best expresses that distillery. By definition a single cask of each at this quality will produce expensive bottles.

    The next step may be to take those other casks that didn’t quite make it, mingle, and get something out there for those of us with fewer means to enjoy and then debate ourselves from first hand experience.

    I can see Diageo doing this again in ten or so years. Find another set of ultimate casks to compare against the first.

    In order to produce enough to allocate some to each region at a price most could afford these expressions couldn’t be single cask. Mingling defeats the purpose of the release, however I hope a follow on allows the rest of us to join the discussion.

    Steve

  7. John Hansell says:

    Yes guys, you do have a point here. If this is a one-time deal, it’s a pretty exclusive party–one in which most of us will not be part of.

    I can see those collecters out there already, lining up to get one bottle from each distillery, so they can display it on some wall somewhere, unopened. Let’s hope they buy two and share one with friends. And lets hope some of those friends are you!

    Maybe if they did this once a year, alternating 700 and 750ml bottlings. That way, every other year the bottlings go to the U.S. market. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

  8. Chap says:

    No, it wouldn’t be nice; it’s way above the point at which the cost makes the pleasure go away. I don’t make that kind of money, and if I did I’d just go to one of those companies which picks good casks anyway.

    Anticlimax: a bunch of four and five hundred dollar bottles which you can’t get in the states and will mostly show up on the speculator and auction sites, unloved, unopened, out of reach. This is quite a disappointment.

    I thought Glen Wonka was a joke!

  9. Tony says:

    I love cask strength whiskies, but I don’t spend that kind of money on a bottle without tasting it first – which outside of John’s tastings and friends’ collections isn’t easy.

  10. Quentin says:

    We’ve had distiller’s edition, now manager’s choice, so what’s next? Sovereign’s Decree (at 1000 GBP a bottle)?

    But in all seriousness, I can’t begrudge Diageo trying to expand their product line to take advantage of a growing appetite among the well-off to pay more for a more exclusive version of a distillery’s production. It would be completely different if Diageo ceased selling the standard expressions in an attempt to force consumers up the value chain. That would be silly from a business perspective anyway.

  11. ioeverga says:

    I’ve discussed the prizing of these bottles with enthusiasts in Norway and none of them would even consider buying any of these bottlings. The prizes are, well… how should I say it, ridicolous. I bet there is some economist that have found out that the earnings are better when selling low volumes of young whiskies for insance prizes rather than selling a large volume at reasonable prizes.

    I’m not even considering buying any of these bottlings. What is the point of presenting the full range when only a small minority can afford the cost? I believe it is ridicolous and an joke or perhaps an insult to whisky enthusiasts.

  12. Red_Arremer says:

    Anyone who has seen seen an add for the Franklin Mint on the Shopping Channel is familiar with the very tacky, trashy, and nonspecific marketing strategy that Diageo is using.

    It is ironic that all the hot air about selecting absolutely & simply the best and most distinctive casks from a nosing/drinking angle is intended only to inflate the image of the bottles as not-to-be-drunk collectibles.

  13. [...] The prices for the “Manager’s Choice” series will go far beyond that. Here is a list of prices for the fist released batch, taken from What Does John Know?: [...]

  14. gal says:

    sad move. i think too.
    charging 250 GBP for a few hundred bottles will surely make them available only to a very limited audience, and prices will go higher. collection is nice, but one should enjoy whiskey and taste it. and i am also afraid most of them will stay on the shelves of collectors and never be enjoyed.
    all the fuss, and the secrecy for nothing. brilliant campaign by diageo, but one i wont take part in.

  15. B.J. Reed says:

    Well, having just tasted all 26 Flora and Fauna (non cask strength) bottlings at the Dell in August and working with others to do the same with all the Rare Malts Collection I can see some of us, banding together as a collective, buying the entire entire collection and then sampling them together either at The Dell or at Whiskyfest in Chicago. Otherwise, I am with most of the comments – Might by a select bottle here and there but that is about it for me.

  16. René says:

    I agree with all of you, but there’s one thing the inventor(s) of this “fun plan” think(s) and that is that Diageo with it’s(or is it his or her’s) distilleries will sell all these aforementioned bottles to other people then you here above, because they know there will always be people who would like to buy “such an attractive, irresistible offer”.
    Irritating, but very true I think.
    These prices are realy ridiculous!

  17. Chap says:

    Another example of how wonderful a jewel Monique’s Dundee Dell is. If I ever have to return to Omaha, a Dell visit is absolutely required.

  18. Cary says:

    Excellent comments from all the responders! What I would love to see John do when he gets his tasting samples is to compare the expensive single cask to a reasonably priced regular bottling so as to determine if the extra 200 – 300 GBP difference has any real value for consumption as opposed to collecting. My personal feeling is that this whole effort is for publicity and not to satisfy our tastebuds.

  19. Jeff H. says:

    I don’t really have an issue with Diageo doing this. Why wouldn’t they experiment with this type of release to gauge the high-end market and get some publicity? If they’re way off the mark, the open market will make that clear. Like Quentin said, as long as they don’t subtract from their standard collections to fund this one, I’m fine with it.

    Am I disappointed that this big surprise I’ve been waiting to hear about is something i can’t take part in? Yes.

    Do I feel somehow entitled to have access to every whisky offering? No.

    It’s the same with many other “enthusiast” products…cameras, watches, stereo equipment, cars, etc.

    So, I’ll watch the reviews with interest, to see what people have to say about these “best representations” of each distillery. I’m also with Cary in terms of being interested in comparisons to standard products.

    In the mean time, I’ll go buy something more affordable like a Beltramos HP single cask. Lots of options out there…

  20. MrTH says:

    A release that is simply irrelevant to us common folk. I can live with that, but it’s looking like the hype, which Diageo intends to make us all drool, is backfiring. It only seems to highlight how little they care about us peons. After all, they could easily bottle an ongoing series of single-cask whiskies from all of their distilleries, at prices that would reflect the smaller scale of what they were doing, while still being attainable to average enthusiasts; while at the same time encouraging consumption, comparison, and discussion, rather than collection. Wouldn’t it be really cool if someone would do that? Ah wait, someone does–they’re called independent bottlers. Seems to me that’s worthy of support.

  21. Jeff H. says:

    One follow-up comment regarding “hype.” Of course Diageo is going to market the hell out of this stuff. I expect no less. What I WOULD like to see is a measured approach from the journalists.

    Not in any way to disrespect John, as I love his magazine and this blog, but a headline like “Very special news about Diageo’s malt whiskies” can get us common folk pumped up, only to be let down when it turns out to be a limited, super premium collector’s release.

    By all means, cover the release, give us the insider details, and review the samples. Just please dole out the “something special is coming…” teasers cautiously.

    Thanks,
    Jeff

  22. John Hansell says:

    Well Jeff, I feel I must defend myself here. All I said in my previous post was that there was going to be “Special News”. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “special” as “distinguished by some unusual quality.” I never said the news was good or bad. That’s for each of you to decide. But I understand the point you’re trying to make.

  23. Alex says:

    “Oban™, distilled 2000, 534 bottles, £300″

    Really, nine year old whisky for £300. I can understand the high price of a malt which has been aged for a long time, but the fact that the youngest of this bunch, with the most available bottles, is also the most expensive seems strange.

  24. John Hansell says:

    I also posted up this information on my Facebook account and already have many comments. Here are the ones I have so far. I left off the individual names.

    “The price level is insulting. I am now officially boycoting Diageo and all their products. Guess i had my last Guiness”

    “300 pounds for a 9 year old Oban? Really? In this economy, simply insulting.”

    “Indead: ridiculous prices! Diageo apparantly thinks everything with the label “single cask” and “limited or very limited” can be sold at any price. No thanks, Diageo!”

    “Hi John, I would be really interested to know what you think about this. I am not a publisher and only a part-time journalist, but as a drinker, bottler, retailer and a huge fan of whisky I am outraged and quite frankly it is another nail in Diageo’s coffin. Their ignorance, arrogance and contempt for malt whisky drinkers astounds me. I hope to see these bottles on the shelves of the selected few stockists for many years to come, decades in fact, until inflation has brought their price tag in line with their worth. I hope to see bottles from this range on auction sites going for £40 from Diageo employees who pick them up for £15 in staff sales. I hope no-one buys these whiskies and perhaps Diageo will get the message.”

    “well between 200 and 400 bottels of each cask; it will be sold in the World, there are enough people who have the money and are willed to spend it.”

    “Sadly. You are right – although I urge them to go elsewhere for their whisky. There are plenty of independent bottlers (without trying to promoting myself here) that have a much longer history than Diageo in selecting single cask bottlings, and a better track record and are a fifth – no, a tenth of the price.”

    “Concerning the cask selection, well they have a huge stock ;-) and luckly enough I am quite positive that not only the managers have selected the casks, but the skilled people from their lab and blending team. So for sure the quality will be undisputed. Concerning the price I absolutely agree, I will personally prefer to less expensive bottles to one of those. And we will see how the market reacts, in Germany for example the Rare Malts were like lead in (most) shelves…”

    “I guess I will NOT feature these on whiskysamples.eu…too expensive…damn”

    “It would appear that post-Kilmarnock Diageo have decided that nobody likes them anyway and have stopped pretending to care.”

    “Those prices are ridiculous. I love to buy single cask/cask strength whiskies. If you can’t be at the distillery popping out the bung, this is as close as it gets. I paid $80 or so for the Lagavulin 12 year old cask and thought it was an excellent whiskey, but paying $20 more than the 16 year old seemed a bit much, until I tasted it. I am glad I bought it. These? I just can’t see spending that much on those whiskies of that age.”

    “Big Marketing. See a lot of videos at malts.com. Terrible price :-( But … I’m crazy and hot to get a Dram of them…. especially from the Mortlach. Is there nobody who feels nervous about the new Casks ??? I don’t by one. Or do I ? No I don’t. No ! No ! Maybe ? No !”

  25. Louis says:

    For years, we have been hearing that only the official bottlings reflect the true character of the distillery (as opposed to the independent bottlings, many of them single cask). Now Diageo tells us that they have they have looked long and hard to discover single casks that ‘faithfully illuminates that distillery’s individual DNA’. So what about the rest of the casks in the warehouses? And if there are so few of these casks, how do we know that they are right, and the others wrong? Anything to make an extra buck, make that a few hundred quid, I guess.

  26. Steve says:

    All,

    I still see this release as a positive, especially if it primes the pump for future releases of single malts from each of these distilleries is most markets.

    I never get to taste any of the expensive scotch releases outside of something special like WhiskyFest but that’s okay, I’m not entitled to any bottle by any distiller simply because I love whisky. I choose to spend my $350-$500 elsewhere and that’s my choice. The laws of supply and demand apply and Diageo, like any other for-profit distiller, isn’t a charity and has a responsibility to get the best price it can for its limited supplies. As a shareholder I’d be pretty upset if my company was releasing limited stocks on the cheap. As a car enthusiast I wish Ferrari would release a top end car for the price of a Ford Fusion (or even at Ferrari’s manufacturing cost) but I know that won’t happen. I still read auto magazines and enjoy them even though I can’t own or drive these cars, same as I read whisky publications’ reviews of whiskies I’ll never even nose.

    Diageo releasing a 9yo Oban from a single cask doesn’t impact my ability to run down the street and pick up a bottle of standard 14yo. I’d like to taste what comes from the “special” 9yo cask to compare but supplies just won’t allow all of us to do that. I’m not a collector and open and consume all my purchases, but I understand those who may invest. Car collectors realize every mile decreases a car’s value. Some enjoy driving and take the financial hit; others admire without turning the key.

    I’m more into bourbon, which is a fraction of the scotch market, and so I’m able to pick up “expensive” single barrel and limited release bourbons, like Woodford’s limited releases, AH Hirsch, and the BT Antiques, for roughly four to five times what a regular bottle goes for. Same seems to apply here with Diageo’s pricing of these new bottles over standard pricing, but since the starting point is higher than bourbon we get sticker shock over the limited releases.

    As for Diageo artificially limiting this release, I have to disagree. A cask is a cask and a single cask holds only so much liquid. As to the “secrecy,” Diageo hires marketing people who know how to get people talking about something new. We are doing so today so their marketing decision has worked so far. Apple sometimes holds product announcements for its big convention. People love Apple (although some may gripe when Apple drops prices on a gadget after they’ve already purchased). Whisky enthusiasts have some qualms about Diegeo’s power but both companies know how to market and I doubt neither is sinister in its respective campaigns. I look forward to reviews from John and others who will get to sample these casks and will let us know if they really are superior to regular offerings to warrant such pricing.

    Would I buy any of these bottles at these prices if they were available in the States? Likely not, but I still have to applaud Diageo for adding to the whisky universe’s diversity and not impacting my ability to enjoy their more modest offerings. Instead of being disappointed this offering is out of reach, let Diageo know you would support special small batch (to borrow a bourbon phrase) single malt offerings from these distilleries at a smaller premium over the standard offerings. If the market is brisk for today’s announcement it may lead to better selection for the rest of us.

    Steve

  27. Jeff H. says:

    Thanks John. Again, I didn’t mean any disrespect, and it wasn’t an emotional rant against your post or anything. I just took the liberty of using it as an example to make a general point about how I’d like to see this kind of release treated by independent journalists.

    “Special” may technically mean “unusual”, but people tend to use that word to mean something more. “I’m bringing a special dessert to the dinner party” would typically be used to imply that it’s going to be a treat, and some level of extra satisfaction is to be had by the participants. Not just that it’s going to be “different.” :-)

    Regards,
    Jeff

  28. Sleeping Warrior says:

    Nice one Diageo! Arrogant, out of touch, just-for-profit monster. They really should stick to blends only. Proves they are not part of the malt whisky world and ignorant of the single malt enthusiasts.
    Interesting choice for first release; only Talisker and Benrinnes missing from their First Class malts and of course Caol Ila & Lagavulin…
    Can’t wait to see young Dailuaine, Glen Ord and Auchriosk at £200+ or maybe they will only be £100 or £150!?
    They should have released a series of different aged single casks from Talisker, Lagavulin and Oban only at reasonable prices for all markets – now that would be really worth talking about.

  29. MrTH says:

    It’s interesting to watch all of the hostility oozing out here…seems to me it’s all about expectations. After all, this is not the first release of expensive one-off bottlings anyone’s ever produced. I think people resent having something like this waved in front of their noses, when they know they can’t afford it. Yeah, a little more discretion would go a long way. I normally don’t have any problem ignoring things that aren’t really marketed at me, but if they’re going to run these things up the flagpole in such a public way, they oughtn’t to be surprised when the returned salute is largely monodigital.

    Something struck me a little while ago while I was reading the news section of That Other Magazine. A distillery’s latest release (not one of Diageo’s) was touted as being that make’s “oldest and most exclusive”. I see that word, “exclusive”, a lot in the press releases–it’s obviously meant to mean rare and precious. But if you think about it, what it literally means is that it excludes people. Why are we expected to see that as a virtue? Am I supposed to celebrate being excluded?

    I look forward to hearing about some more inclusive whisky. After all, whisky is supposed to be about conviviality and fellowship.

  30. John Hansell says:

    Mr. TH: Well spoken, my friend. As I commented earlier, it would have been nice if they offered this annually (at a lower price), with alternating years going to the U.S. at 750ml. That would make this announcement more embracing, and more “inclusive.”

  31. Neil Fusillo says:

    To be absolutely, perfectly honest, I’m getting used to hearing hype about new whiskies I could never afford.

    This news just falls into the category of “Yet another overpriced whisky.”

    There’s just so much else I could spend my money on from necessities to charities that paying even $200 for a bottle of Scotch is as much the same to me as paying $1000.

    If the big news is that giant Scotch conglomerates are out of touch with their market, then it’s hardly news, now, is it?

  32. I’ve absorbed these posts twice and again.

    Did John let Diageo use him to create the hype?

    You’re right, Neil, news this ain’t.

    And, Steve, bourbon distillers don’t do this. Why would they?

    I go back to my original post: who cares? Clearly many do. But why? Why is the release of limited edition single malt (Scotch) whiskies such an emotional topic? As a drinker, promoter, and educator — not a collector — I’ll never get it. Nor will I ever taste it, not at these prices.

    The best that could happen is for all these bottles to sit, bored and unwanted, in warehouses around the world. Too bad that likely won’t happen.

  33. Sascha says:

    I have to say I don’t see this in a negative light either; I think MrTH summed this up better than I could on my phone right now… Overall, it’s probably a good sign and indication of the healthy (hyped/trendy?) scotch market right now. I’d much rather see more of these announcents than ones pointing towards a decline in the popularity of scotch in the wider market – and the closure of distilleries which would accompany this – and would ultimately impact scotch drinkers of all budgets.
    Granted, this is very expensive for something essentially identical to the offerings of IBs, but it will appeal to someone – just not me. I’d rather get similar bottlings of similar quality from the SMWS for less!

    Slainte!

  34. Chris says:

    I got very excited as I read this announcement until I saw the distillation dates. This is almost as silly as Preiss Imports and their $1500 release of the A.H. Hirsch 16 year.

    Two bit, the reason people take this personally is because a buyer develops a certain relationship with a company whose product he/she is passionate about. We understand they are making a profit but the enjoyment we get from the product makes up for it. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. But trying to sell us a 9 year whiskey for $500 is not mutually beneficial. The deal is so far in their favor we can’t believe they are even offering it. And because they are, it sends the message that they think we’re a bunch of dumb suckers.

  35. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    one question that moves me is: What is the intent of a series like this?

    Some where expecting a follow up for the Rare Malts.

    But what they do is lifting some single cask bottlings, some not even in their early teens to the level of the Special Releases and beyond.

    What does that mean to further pricing of Diageo products it they get away with it?

    They gave some of their distillery managers a nd whisky specialists a few days off to make merry with a few pre-selected casks.

    From their press release:
    Each distillery is represented in The Managers’ Choice by a bottling of its single malt whisky drawn from one single cask, selected after a careful examination of distillery stocks. The cask was nosed, tasted, discussed and finally chosen as the most distinctive expression of that distillery’s single malts by a judging panel of acknowledged experts, including leading maturation experts and the distillery managers themselves.

    In many cases, unusual cask woods will have had their influence on the final result. Perfect maturation and spirit quality have been the criteria, resulting in a bottling that delights with original and sometimes unexpected flavours whilst allowing the distillery character to still shine through.

    Depending on the size of the cask and the rate of evaporation over the years since it was filled, the volume of bottles obtained can vary between approximately 600 and as little as 200.These are, consequently, extremely rare and distinctive whiskies.
    Once picked, each cask is bottled at its natural cask strength. Nothing is allowed to affect the natural taste and aromas of the whisky.
    This means that the liquid the connoisseur pours into his or her glass is exactly as it emerged directly from the cask when it was hand-picked a few months earlier by the experts – it’s as good as a dram drawn from the cask in the warehouse itself.

    I do not care about the single casks and their individual quality as there are thousands more of equal qualitty or better sitting in the warehouses or central whisky belt.

    The one question that intersts me is howm they came to the pricing of the series and why I as a customer should pay for the holidays Diageos whisky expert had???

    The whole thing is ridiculous because the execution contradicts the intent. Showing the distillery charakter of 27 distilleries is a good idea – but showing it to whom?

    Diageo wants to feel out if there is a market for very expensive single cask bottlings of about 10-15 yo? Fine. But without consulting expensive advisors we could have told them that this market is small.

    The whole thing ist as elitist as Macallan Rankin on a little lesser scale, though.
    What Diageo fails to do is to make plausible why the touch of a few managers elevates a single cask from a certain distillery to unknown heights.

    And what about all those casks managers never come to touch – are they all inferior and have to be bottled as blend components???

  36. patrick says:

    I already mentioned on several forums/blogs my opinion regarding the pricing: unless these bottles are fabulous whiskies (e.g., like the Glen Garioch 9YO 1971 Samaroli Cask Strength), the price is not justified in comparison to single cask bottlings by indepedendant bottlers. In addition, at the Feis Ile, single cask lagavulin or Caol Ila are sold for £60-70 by Diageo. As part of the Manager’s choice, single casks from these distilleries will be probably around £200-300? How can the consumer understand the strategy of Diageo?

    Interestingly, as mentioned this morning by Serge at http://www.whiskyfun.com, the new range is limited to Germany, UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Not too suprisingly, since these are good test markets (countries with a high number of Super Permium buyers). If Diageo will not succeed in selling their products in those countries, then they will have to revise their strategy since it will be even more difficult to sell them elswhere.
    Since they are single cask bottlings, they are bottled on special chains and filling bottles both at 70cl and 75cl would have not been convenient.

    I like the idea of Diageo of offering Single Cask bottlings, but why haven’t they started that earlier. However, they should have proposed them at a more decent price. With the current price, a cask of Glen Elgin would then worth about £134,000: liquid gold?

    Diageo is releasing some excellent single malts whiskies,I had always very good contact with the staff working in their distilleries, but in terms of Press Release and communication, they are awful, as demonstrated by this “Manager’s choice” case.

    Since I am free and haven’t received any confidential information from Diageo,I could afford to release the information about the new Manager’s choice earlier than Malt Advocate and whiskyfun.

    I have tried other the last years to contact Diageo Switzerland and UK to receive their PR, but I never received any answer from Diageo.

    Like me, I think that many whisky enthusiasts and consumer are puzzled by the Diageo policy and communication.
    @John, since you are in good terms with Dr N.Morgan, could you please invite him for a chat on your blog to answer questions from the bloggers?

  37. John W says:

    Wow…this has to be THE news item for whisky 2009.

    It’s puzzling, given this new collection from Diageo is of little consequence to its overall profit. Something more fundamental is going on here. Think about it: the total number of bottles (<12,000?) is simply too small, comparable to a single, larger-than-average special release (plus a lot more overhead). Nothing when considering a net profit of $3.2B in 2008 (with an eye-popping ROE of 38%).

    Clearly this is much more about (re?)positioning in a changing market, or, rather, reshaping the market. A cynic might argue Diageo is trying to push the luxury (exclusivity) persona of single malts very hard while banking on larger high-end volume at the same time. If so, it is a rather tricky balancing act. This new series would appeal to collectors and new money from BRIC countries, but it is not marketed word-wide. Although the grumbling from consuming aficionados is already loud with charges of gouging and perceived changes in quality definitions, I suspect a good number of them too will find this irresistible.

    What's new in this case is the speed with which they're pushing a considerable number of distinct bottles onto the market. The notion this would be a "one off" if it turns out to be successful is not credible; hopefully it will not accelerate the trend of ever increasing numbers of “special” “rare” “limited” products swamping the future market. This all raises a lot of question about the medium/long term strategy of large distillery owners (new market creation) and the future of single malts.

    It’ll be really interesting to watch how the market (and secondary market!) behaves and to read the reviews from those lucky enough to sample. Maybe we’ll get some answers then.

  38. John Hansell says:

    Two-bit, Jeff H., I’m afraid I brought a lot of this hype on myself, inadvertantly.

    When Diageo sent me the “embargoed” press release a week ago, they asked me to not post anything until today. I was the one who asked them if I could post a teaser up on my blog ahead of time.

    I did this so we could have a little fun and see if all of you could guess what their new announcement was going to be. What I DIDN”T know, whas that everyone else and their brother was going to leak out the information early. So, instead of a fun “guessing game”, it turned into everyone posting links of the information that was leaked out prematurely.

    I will also say that, while I had all this information for a week, it came to me in several different attachments and I didn’t really take a look at the pricing until yesterday morning, when I was preparing my blog posting. I was just as surprised as all of you with the prices of the whiskies. I expected them to be higher than normal, because of the time and effort put into this by Diageo, but I didn’t expect whiskies that young to be priced that highly.

    I think Diageo learned a valuable lesson here in PR: Embargoed press releases just don’t work. All you need is one person to prematurely leak out the information. When this happens, it spreads like wildfire and suddenly the whole world knows.

    I know that Diageo is reading this blog posting with great interest. I will ask Nick Morgan if he wants jump into the Lion’s Den here and explain Diageo’s logic behind this.

  39. John Lamond says:

    I agree with Mr TH, we need more inclusive bottlings, not exclusive.
    The care taken in the production and presentation of these MAY justify the price, I couldn’t possibly comment!
    The Manager’s Choice is not a new concept. From the old DCL days, each manager was asked to submit a sample of their finest cask to a tasting panel and the winner of this tasting competition was the Manager’s Dram for that year and the cask was bottled for a gift to the managers and for use by the group’s managers’ entertaining. These bottles have started to appear in auctions over the past 20 years and achieve prices surprisingly similar to those given for the latest launch.
    I wonder where Diageo’s marketeers got the idea?

  40. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    the idea is taken form independent bottlers.

    The “Imperial Class” of malt whiskies are the single cask cask strength non chill-filtered natural colour bottlings which are of course all limited editions.

    Cadenhead is very successful with their black-tubed Authentic Collection.

    Diageo being Diageo had to go one up of course with a managerial tasting panel etc.

    It is no secret that the industry is not overly pleased with independent bottlings notwithstanding what they have done for the sector of single malts.

    So Diageo has done everything right. Cask strength, no tampering, singel casks… but where did they get the pricing idea???

  41. patrick says:

    Thank you John H.,
    I think that Diageo should start to be more interactive with their customers. In this respect, they are quite deficient and might learn from their smaller competitors. I hope that Nick will accept the invitation.

  42. Hi John

    An excellent piece. Nice work.

    We’ve put our thoughts here:

    http://caskstrength.blogspot.com/2009/09/choice-fm.html

    For us basically boils down the the fact that we’ll stick with the Lagavulin and Caol Ila Feis Ile bottlings from this years festival, over buying the Managers Choice (even if we did have the money to do so!). For starters, we got to try the Festical Bottlings before we forked out on them, so knew what we were buying was excellent. Secondly, The Caol Ila was a single cask 12 Year Old, hand selected by Billy Stitchell, but was retailing at a sensible price (£70). The Lagavulin continued the fantastic FI Single Cask Bottlings which started in 2007 and also came at a much more affordable price point.

    It seems like the pricing structure of these Managers Choices has been influenced by the old Managers Drams bottlings, which now go for silly money. One wonders, after so much care and attention in choosing the contents; will they ever be opened?

    I totally agree with the comments above: we need more INCLUSIVE whisky not EXCLUSIVE whisky. I do applaud Diageo for their commitment to Festival Bottlings (not withstanding the “hoovers” who turn up and bulk buy in order to flog at huge profit on-line) as it is nice to be rewarded for making the journey to the distilleries and to come away from wonderful events like the Feis Ile with a momento which, at £70ish quid a pop you don’t feel bad at drinking!

    Slainte!

    Joel

  43. DavidG says:

    Just one small note – I noticed that the press release does not specifically state that it is uncolo(u)red – are they coloring it or avoiding the negative pregnant that most of their other bottlings are?

  44. Sleeping Warrior says:

    Joel, at Caskstrength, I am surprised you think £70.00 is a “sensible” price for a 12 yr old Caol Ila single cask at the Festival.
    There are older Independent single casks of Caol Ila available at under £50 and when it comes to Caol Ila you would be hard pressed to find a bad cask.
    Similar argument re new Smokehead 18yr old “super premium”. This is vatted Caol Ila and selling at £80, just for fancy packaging…

  45. Tim F says:

    Sleeping Warrior, FWIW the Caol Ila festival bottle wasn’t just the first official single cask bottling, it was also the first ever official sherried Caol Ila. £70 was more than I had envisioned paying but when I tasted it I couldn’t get my wallet out quick enough, which very rarely happens for me. One of the best bottlings of the festival, and I have to say that I preferred it to the Lagavulin effort (although that was good whisky as well).

    All of which is a roundabout way of saying that beauty (or, in this vase, value) is in the eye of the beholder. As Serge mentioned on whiskyfun, if these really are stunning whiskies they may be worth the money. If they aren’t they won’t sell. Ultimately, the market will decide.

    It would be a brave move for Diageo to risk their rep charging silly money for rubbish young whiskies, my guess is that most of these will be very good or great drams. They simply have to be, as the people who DO fork out for them are not the kind of customers that any company wants to piss off.

  46. Sleeping Warrior says:

    Cheers Tim F, I appreciate your comments. But the mark up could never be justified on quality alone. No very good or great single cask is 6 times better than an average cask. I know this is subjective and as you say demand will prove the point but maybe John’s tasting and score will help with this argument when they are compared to similar Independent casks on the market.

  47. Tim F says:

    Sleeping Warrior, to say that ‘No very good or great single cask is 6 times better than an average cask’ is a controversial assertion to say the least. I have tasted casks (both bottled and in situ at several distilleries) that are many times better than the average cask.

    Of course, as you say, it is all subjective. If an average cask is 65-70/100 than obviously it is impossible for another cask to be 420/100. That is why I don’t use ratings. But there are certain drams I have had (for example, from Port Ellen) that I would say I have definitely enjoyed more than six times more than an average Port Ellen (and, as I’m sure you already know, there are a great many of the latter and very few of the former).

  48. MrTH says:

    In all fairness, it has to be noted that value has nothing to do with age or quality (at least not directly). It’s what the market will bear. Diageo apparently believes that there are at least 534 people out there who will be willing to pay £300 for the Oban, 9 years old or not. They’re probably right, and I really don’t have any problem with that. It simply has nothing to do with me. The dissonance here is that this is being billed as an event of great impact, when in fact it has a very, very narrow scope. The only thing it seems to have done for those in the greater marketplace is p*ss them off. “Let them drink Red.”

    I’ve noted in the past that having a $5,000 bottle of Glen Googly 40yo in the shop gives the customer something to drool over and dream about, whereupon he buys the standard 10yo, a tiny piece of the mystique that he can afford. The 40yo bottle is, in a sense, worth more sitting there unsold than it would be if it were purchased. If that’s what Diageo is aiming at with this line, it would appear they’ve missed the mark.

  49. [...] John Hansell breaks the bad news that these whiskies will not be available in the U.S. (WTF?) [...]

  50. Still enjoying the various thoughts and ideas here.

    I contrast these posts with the wonderful discussion when Willie Tait asked us (malt lovers) to name the 2009 limited editions Jura would bottle. I don’t recall anyone being p*ssed off, and emotionalism showed itself only in the form of excitement.

    I experience the same contrast in my personal communications with Isle of Jura distillery and Diageo. The Jura folks always “answer the mail” and consistently offer terrific information and support materials. Diageo (classicmalts.com) doesn’t have a “contact us” email address, and the young man who answers their “customer service” phone line seems to grudgingly take my question and contact info, but I never hear from anyone.

    Inasmuch as I’d add my invitation to the Diageo guru to chime in here, I’d much rather have ongoing access to the individual Diageo distilleries or at the very least their U.S. regional Master of Malts. Alas, he doesn’t answer the mail, either.

  51. I’m wrong. Diageo’s site does have an email address on their malts.com page. We’ll see whether they answer the email.

  52. Tim F says:

    Mr TH, there is a marketing term for what you describe – the Halo Effect. It’s why, for example, Pernod made a big hoo-hah about Chivas 25yo despite there only being a dozen or so cases for the UK – the hope is that people will see the event, be impressed and trade up from 12yo to 18yo.

  53. sam k says:

    Interesting. Not a word from the marketing geniuses at Diageo in 50 postings. What are they waiting for…a formal invitation?

  54. sam k: didn’t John already issue the invite?

    Come on sam k: “marketing geniuses” “at Diageo”? Isn’t that a dichotomy? Rather like the oft-picked-on phrase, military intelligence.

    Diageo owns great distilleries. The people at those distilleries make terrific whisky. Diageo doesn’t need some glorified marketing geek to sell Lagavulin 16 or Oban 14 or Talisker or …. They don’t need to market their outstanding whiskies; they can’t even supply every market that wants them.

    Diageo’s best ever advertising ploy (marketing scheme) was the two elderly gentlemen continuously saying “Brilliant” in Guiness ads, and they were probably done by an outside-the-company ad agency. Perhaps they should allow the folks who created those ads to weigh-in here. They might still be brilliant.

  55. MrTH says:

    It would surprise me very much if anyone from Diageo was willing to wade into a hostile crowd like this one. Lot o’ torches and pitchforks here. While I can easily understand this release leaving most of us cold, I must say I’m a bit shocked by the outright antipathy, which I don’t think is entirely warranted. The proper reaction, I think, is a shrug. You’re not entitled to this.

    Diageo’s best marketing scheme is the Classic Malts, which is arguably the best and most important marketing scheme in the history of single malt whisky.

  56. patrick says:

    @two bit Cowboys. I am glad that I am not not the only one who got his e-mails unanswered. Hopefully this will change in the future. Bigger the company is, the less reponsive it is.

  57. John Hansell says:

    Hi guys, I just wanted to say that I received an email from Dr. Nick Morgan of Diageo and he informed me that he wanted to wait to see the rest of the comments over the weekend before considering a response.

  58. Chris says:

    One more comment about the pricing. It would appear to me that Diageo may be attempting to capture some of the profit previously gained by some first buyers at auction. I have seen some US importers try to do this in the past. I’m sure Diageo noticed that special releases are often sold for 3 times the original price only months after release. So why not charge that 3 month auction price up front?

    Well, in my experience one of the enjoyable aspects of buying collectible whisky is seeing the value of the bottles rise, even if you have no intention of selling them. If you bought it for a $100 but its worth $300 when you drink it, then you get to feel a little richer than you are. And there’s a certain whisky buyers rationalization that occurs too, in that one thinks…”Well, I should probably spend my money on other things, but this will go up in value, so it’s really an investment, and therefore a better choice to spend my money on.”

    The problem is that by charging this high price up front, these bottles will never be worth much more than the original price, in fact they may go down in value. So now when I go to drink this in 2 years I’ll be thinking…”Here we go, opening that bottle I paid too much for, it better be really good.” And it will never live up to this price, so why bother buying it.

  59. Further to DavidG at Post 41 – I was disappointed to see that these whiskies from exceptional casks have been bottled in what looks like green bottles (similar to the Rare Malts), thereby denying the customer the opportunity to at least see the true colour of the whisky. I have a bottle of the Laphroaig 27yo Oloroso Cask which always amazes people with its colour, thankfully bottled in clear glass as opposed the normal green. Given the age of this whisky, there is no comparison in value for money.

  60. MrTH: I’m unclear what you believe I’m not “entitled to”. My right to my opinion is very much in tact. As is yours.

    The bur in my saddle started when I began ordering Diageo Classic Malt selections (i.e., Lagavulin 16, Oban 14, Clynelish 14, and the 2008 Distiller’s Editions) only to read “NO ALLOCATION FOR (my state)” when my order was canceled. So, MrTH, I’ll simply must disagree with you about the effectiveness of the Classic Malts marketing. I still like the Guinness ads.

    Next Diageo announced a loss of profits for the first half of 2009. (They might not have experienced some of those losses if they’d have included (my state) on their allocation list.)

    Next Diageo announced cutting jobs/facilities, which created the negative uproar that still echos through the pubs and other halls of Scotland.

    Next Diageo sneakily announced its limited Manager’s Selections at prices many on this thread have said are exorbitant.

    For me this latest marketing ruse was the concussion that caused the avalanche of my negativity that’s been building for a couple years.

    I’m eager to read Dr. Morgan’s thoughts.

  61. MrTH says:

    two-bit, I meant that you’re not entitled to the whisky. People sometimes seem to take it as a personal insult when something is priced beyond their ability to pay. There’s an awful lot of whisky out there that I can’t afford–this is just another 28 bottles, which I’m not really very much bothered about. I find it peculiar that people are so riled up about this, and am pondering why. As you quite rightly point out, it seems to be the culmination of a great deal of frustration with Diageo among the whisky-drinking public. It’s an interesting phenomenon. Revolutions have started apparently due to such minor matters, which were the proverbial back-breaking straws.

    The fact that there is no allocation available for your state, and other markets, only shows how effective the marketing has been–there isn’t enough to go around. This has only happened in the past few years. The CM introduced a great many of us to the idea that there was wide variety within the malt category, and the historical success of the campaign, and its impact on the evolution of the market, is unarguable, regardless of what one thinks about Diageo generally.

  62. mars says:

    I must say that I was quite surprise by the price of these whiskies.

    The presentation make me think about the rare malt collection(who is interesting given a correct price for (very)old bottles sometimes from a closed distilery.
    The age and the quality make the price.

    The name make think about the manager’s dram(as some are also saying previously). But the manager’s dram are difficult to find and were not produced to be sell(at least, I think so). The scarcity(and the quality, sometimes) make the price.

    Here, I am sorry to say that I don’t see were is the interest to pay such a price for young malt, even if they are incredibly good. It’s not difficult to find very good young malt at much lower price. And it’s not going to be difficult for diageo to find more cask of the same quality or even better.
    If the whiskies were older, I would have understand as they are less cask who can mature a very long time.

    Anyway, I can afford these bottles, some will say that I have a collector mentality. But they are no way I am going to buy “THIS”. If I do, i will look like a morron.

    MARS

  63. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    when I learned the facts about the Managers Choice line it reminded me of something.

    It is thist discussion we had somewhere else.

    http://inebrio.com/thescotchblog/?p=928

    I am interested to learn if Mr Morgan will argue along the lines his collegue did.

  64. Willie says:

    I find the prices that Diageo have announced for these bottles entirely offensive and I expect that MrTH is correct when he says its because I feel excluded. According to Diageos promotional material the collection is to be released in four lots of 6, 6, 7 and 7 bottles with the following suggested pricing:

    September 2009:
    Linkwood £200
    Glen Elgin £250
    Mortlach £250
    Oban £300
    Teaninich £200
    Cardhu £250

    January 2010:
    Blair Athol £200
    Strathmill £200
    Glen Spey £200
    Cragganmore £250
    Dalwhinnie £250
    Talisker £300

    March 2010:
    Royal Lochnagar £250
    Glenkinchie £250
    Dailuaine £200
    Inchgower £200
    Caol Ila £300
    Glen Ord £250
    Mannochmore £200

    June 2010:
    Glenlossie £200
    Auchroisk £200
    Knockando £250
    Benrinnes £200
    Lagavulin £300
    Clynelish £250
    Glendullan £200

    So over the next 10 months, if you wish to have this undoubtedly interesting collection it will cost you £6,100.

    Of course that will be eased somewhat as, (again according to Diageo), the final release is coincident with Father’s Day. It’s something of a relief to know that the kids can buy that last £1,600 block for me and I only have to find £4,500 for the rest.

    I guess it just irritating that we were hoping for something that would showcase the Diageo distilleries which do not normally get bottled and when it happens it seems that the vast majority of Diageo’s single malt customers (folk like us) weren’t worth considering in the equation. I suppose also that we were hoping for a rare malts replacement series and are disappointed with the reality.

    What wil probably happen is that these bottles will sit on shelves, either of shops or of collectors and will seldom get opened. What we want to see is a Diageo cask strength series for the malt whisky DRINKERS. Perhaps that doesn’t matter too much anymore since folks seem to be so upset with Diageo that an inclusive series may be ignored.

    Whatever happens I think this has been a huge own goal by Diageo. I don’t know anyone in the whisky world that, after hearing about the pricing, is pleased about this announcement.

    Willie

    P.S. The literature claims that 27 distilleries will be bottled but only 26 appear in the releases. Dufftown seems to have been forgotten. What’s happening there?

  65. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    it is probably of interest to note that in their pricing pyramid here

    https://www.lfw.co.uk/diageo/The_Managers_Choice.pdf

    page 8 they have 4 malts in the 300 Pound segment and 10 in the 250 Pound segment.

    That is 14 malts, with the exception of Mortlach that is exactly what they currently call Classic Malt Selection.

    Lagavulin
    Talisker,
    Caol Ila,
    Oban

    Cragganmore, RL,
    Glenkinchie,
    Dalwhinnie, Clynelish
    Cardhu,
    Glen Elgin, Mortlach
    Knockando, Glen Ord

    The 200 Pound segmet consists of

    Benrinnes, Dailuaine, Inchgower,
    Teannich, Glenlossie, Mannochmore,
    Blair Athol Linkwood,Glen Spey,
    Auchroisk, Strathmill, Glendullan.

    Of those there is no regular standard bottling from Diageo.

    Mortlach is the odd one out as there is no standard Diageo bottling either but it is in the next higher price segement anyway. Lets wait for the announcement it has become a classic malt – and buy that then.

    There is method in the madness.

  66. Hello, sorry but the prices for the new bottlings (the botttlings are not really old whiskys) are totaly not acceptable

    :o (

  67. Tim P says:

    Diageo wants a share of the profit that the ebayers/auctioneers see for the new releases. Who can blame them in that regard? As others have pointed out, they are a business and need to maximize profit. However, I believe that Diageo is “rolling the dice” on this one.

    It seems Diageo is willing to price the Manager’s Choice in this way as an experiment. If the bottles fly off the shelves, then a precedent is set that they can charge whatever they want for any “limited this” or “exclusive that” they decide to market.

    If the bottles sit on the shop shelves until discounted, then they have just conducted some invaluable “market research” in the best “test market” available. Future releases will be priced accordingly, and they will win back fans by selling more “affordable” special releases.

    Diageo is essentially the “Microsoft” of the Scotch Whisky Industry, and they will conduct business any way they see fit. Until the bottom line changes drastically enough, it will continue without interruption.

    Do I hate Diageo? NO! I will continue to enjoy the Classic Malts that are affordable, and I won’t lose a night’s sleep over it.

    Grrr…my PC is locking up. Maybe I should switch to a Mac or even linux. :)

  68. John M says:

    Crazy prices. There are so many other malts in the world that it won’t affect me, though. If they never released this stuff, the world would go on just the same.

    These prices are designed for people who like to be seen spending silly money. It’s to separate them from ordinary people like me. Why have all that money if they can’t distinguish themselves from the ordinary man. Diageo are facilitating this.

    The Manager’s Pension Fund Single Cask whiskies is something that I’ll no doubt never get to try. Although I’m sure the managers don’t get to see much of the money.

  69. Douglas says:

    I wonder if Diageo have missed a trick here. If they had launched this as ‘The Reference Collection’ or ‘The Benchmark Series’, then they could charge a high premium and present each as the gold standard for the distillery with every other release being a deviation from that standard. It may not be everyone’s favourite bottling for a distillery but it would be a yardstick for us all.

    Every fan, pundit and reviewer could have spent the rest of their lives comparing each new release to this standard… “this 32 year old has much more wood, vanilla, and tropical fruit than the Benchmark” or “this 7 year old Sherry Cask has more heat, cereal and dried fruit than the Reference”.

    H2H tastings are great fun and I’d have loved to be able to compare an ideal profile to other available bottles for at least some of these distilleries. In principle it’s a great idea – distillery character over age or any other factor. I’m just frustrated that I won’t be able to try them.

    On the prices, well I’ve become heartily sick of the hoovers making it impossible to try more reasonably priced limited editions and taking the Michael on ebay or pseudo-shop websites. So why shouldn’t Diageo cash in themselves? This is a drop in the ocean in terms of their cash flow and profit; it’s all about rarity, distillery excellence, and a great big dose of marketing.

    Diageo are on a hiding to nothing at the moment. The proposed job losses are a tragedy for those affected but the motives of the politicians and some of the other commentators make me uncomfortable too. I hope they thrive and that Nick Morgan can find room for a replacement series to the Rare Malts.

  70. Louis says:

    A few more thoughts. First, the Ferrari analogy mentioned above does not apply here, IMHO. When you buy a Ferrari, you get one of the greatest sports cars ever produced. These releases are more like a fully blueprinted Chevy Cobalt selling for the price of a Corvette Z06. It’s nice to know that you are getting EXACTLY 155 horsepower, but still not worth anywhere nearly as much as the Z06.

    And second, Diageo could have easily gotten the exact OPPPOSITE reaction with one simple move. If they had bottled five casks from each distillery instead of one and charged 20% of the current price, we would all be lining up to buy them. Seriously now, with all of the casks they have in the warehouses and all of the qulity control that exists today, just how hard would that have been?

  71. Patrick says:

    Interesting to read the recommended pricing of some malts. Not too suprisingly, Talisker, Lagavulin and Caol Ila will be priced £300 and should be from a sherry cask?
    But how can Diageo justify £300 for a Manager’s choice for a Lagavulin or a Caol Ila, while the single cask bottlings for the Feis Ile were charged at £70 ?

    Let’s wait and see that Diageo will Answer, if they do it.

    Concerning the price, they are very hefty. If they are truly exceptional, then some will be willing to pay £200 for a bottle. If they are only different, they might have to reconsider their pricing strategy.

  72. Todd says:

    This release has an ironic twist. On hearsay (as I have never attended), for years, the United Distillers/Diageo Managers would gather and sample the best representative casks from each of their distilleries. Then based on voting, the two best casks were bottled at cask strength as the winning Manager’s Dram bottles for that year. These bottles apparently were not intended for the market but were instead distributed as to UD employees and business associates. Some of these bottles made their way to the secondary market and could be found occasionally at specialist retailers such as The WhiskyExchange or Royal Mile. I’ve picked these up in the past for about 150 pounds – that was seven or eight years ago, but I opened them and drank them. I’ve tasted a number of these, including bottles from Clynelish, Oban, and under-rated distilleries such as Glen Elgin, and Dailuaine. Most were in the mid teens for age and were outstanding. It is ironic how Diageo has taken an honorable practice that was generous to their own and have now converted it into a marketing scheme that is clearly offensive to much of their customer base.

    This is a little hilarious. I have been buying high quality single cask whiskies for years from independent bottlers, but not at these prices. So far as I am concerned, anyone who buys a 9 year Oban for 300 pounds is a rube. A rube with money, but still a rube.

  73. The leveller says:

    Some thoughts –
    1. Diageo is unlikely to be doing this for profit – assuming an average of 400 bottles per malt, and 6,100 pounds for the full selection, the total sales cost is around 2.5 million pounds – take away sales and other taxes, duty etc they’re not clearing a huge amount relative to the 8-9 billion pounds the organisation make. It’s probably relatively small even on the scale onf the Malts operation
    2. I sense Dr Nicholas Morgan is tweaking the malt aficionados’ collective tail here, creating these limited volume ‘halo’ whiskies priced out of the majority of people’s reach and in many cases unlikely to be drunk – but they are fully entitled to do so. I would be disappointed, however, if they used this as a ‘halo’ effect to start ramping up the prices of the great malts they make
    3. On balance, this may actually be a neat marketing test to check the waters before Diageo prepares a super-premium / medium volume (in Malt terms anyway) replacement to the Rare Malts. If people out there drank the stuff rather than sat on it, the collector’s market would be a fraction of what it is, malts would be more rated on quality not perceived fnancial rarity in 3-5 years’ time, and prices might be more sensible
    4. These are not ‘Rare’ Malts due to extreme age or closed distillery : Diageo could churn out ‘exceptional’ (in their marketers’ minds, at least) casks every month given the size of their stocks. If they wanted to.

    It will be interesting to see what Nick says…

  74. The leveller says:

    one other thing – if, instead of selling 70cl bottles at 200-300 pounds, what if they had sold 7 cl bottles (i.e. 2 reasonable 3.5cl drams) for 20-30 pounds? That’s not a lot more than some top-end bars sell serious malts and blends… how would people respond then? Still expensive on a per-unit liquid basis, but on an absolute basis arguably more affordable…

  75. Tim F says:

    There’s certainly no doubt that there would be a market for a range of larger-batch well-priced releases from the lesser-known Diageo distilleries. Not necessarily a Rare Malts style thing (not even necessarily cask strength drams) but something pitched into the space between the Flora & Fauna range and the annual Super-premium releases. At present there isn’t that much Diageo stuff for people who want to explore further than the Distiller’s Editions without going over £50-£60.

  76. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    isn`t that whole concept – or what marketing made of it – full of contradictions???

    Like …

    “The cask was nosed, tasted, discussed and finally chosen as the most distinctive expression of that distillery’s single malts by a judging panel of acknowledged experts, including leading maturation experts and the distillery managers themselves.

    In many cases, unusual cask woods will have had their influence on the final result. Perfect maturation and spirit quality have been the criteria, resulting in a bottling that delights with original and sometimes unexpected flavours whilst allowing the distillery character to still shine through.

    Depending on the size of the cask and the rate of evaporation over the years since it was filled, the volume of bottles obtained can vary between approximately 600 and as little as 200.These are, consequently, extremely rare and distinctive whiskies.

    Full details, including tasting notes, are displayed on the Classic Malts SelectionTM website http://www.malts.com. The new website content includes the story of The Managers’ Choice and the selection process, a “Meet the Managers” page where they talk about The Managers Choice collection & questions related to the world of whisky, whisky tasting notes & audio, Q&A with a Sensory Expert, and details of where to buy the whiskies. Whisky enthusiasts registered as Friends of the Classic MaltsTM have been given advance notice of the launch.”

    http://www.talkingretail.com/products/drinks-news/13142-diageos-first-ever-collection-of-single-malts.html

    “The cask was nosed, tasted, discussed and finally chosen as the most distinctive expression of that distillery’s single malts …
    In many cases, unusual cask woods will have had their influence on the final result. ”

    Unusual casks make the most distinctive expression of a distillery`s malt?

    What about the standard OB bottlings?

    For a test they go for a great length in their efforts. Special tasting panel, a brand new web page ….

  77. Tony T. says:

    will NOT be pursuing these bottlings – the prices are ridiculous. Becoming less and less of a Diageo fan with these types of marketing and promotional tactics. I truly believe that the incorrect people are currently making the decisions within that corporation.

  78. Steve Beal says:

    I’ve just come from a huge whisky tasting at the Caledonia Club of San Francisco’s 144th Highland Games this weekend. The serious whisky lovers were a-buzz in anticipation of these new releases and getting in line. Pretty positive about this new line and anxious to hear/taste more. I love these distilleries like my family and can’t wait!

  79. Steffen says:

    @Steve Beal

    “The serious whisky lovers were a-buzz in anticipation of these new releases and getting in line. Pretty positive about this new line and anxious to hear/taste more”

    This must be trolling. No serious whisky-lover can enjoy this release. If you are in LOVE with whisky you want to drink it. You want other people to drink whisky. You don’t want to exclude anyone from drinking whisky.
    Bear in mind, this is young single cask whisky. Diageo have millions of casks. Why this theater ?
    But I guess, if a salary of 200000$ a year it doesnt really matter if a bottle cost 40£ or 250£. For the rest of us it does. And releases like this can have the effect of raising prices from other bottlers as well. Which is not in anyone I knows interest. But then, I don’t know anyone who is member of caledonia club in San francisco.
    Macdeffe

  80. sam k says:

    76 postings and counting! Hellooooooo, Diageo!

  81. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    here

    http://www.frontiermagazine.co.uk/current_buyers_forum.html

    is a feature about Glenmorangie Sonalta. The page is about the estimation of new products for travel retail as I understand it.

    If you click onto “Read more” in the Sonalta description it will lead you to here

    http://www.frontiermagazine.co.uk/judge_results.html?buyers_forum_itemid=243&keepThis=true&TB_iframe=true&height=600&width=750

    Reading the “judges” verdicts I again get the feeling that some in the whisky sector lose their grip on reality. Not only there but as it is about a whisky… Not much of what the judges say is anything outstanding and especially not the exclusiveness to travel retail. But if you move and live in a world where the marketing and monetary value potentials of a new product is everything you have to care for probably you forget to check what you imagine against reality.

    I wonder if somtething similar happened to the Manager’s Choice range. If so welcome to reality.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

  82. John Hansell says:

    Steve Beal, I think in the interest of full disclosure, you should point out that you work for Diageo.

  83. John Hansell says:

    Well, of my 557 blog posts over the past two years, this one is certainly a record regarding the number of comments. The next highest one, “What are the good whisky values?” came in with 67 comments. Diageo has certainly struck a nerve here. Will we get to 100 comments? We just might.

  84. Douglas Telfer says:

    These “Manager’s Choice” whiskies remind me of the “Emperors New Clothes” story.Total overhype,and insulting to whisky lovers.Fortunately,plenty of people seem to be shouting “hang on,it’s only a 9 year old Oban!!”Honestly though,300 pounds is just ridiculous.Manager’s Choice?I know what choice I’ll be making!

  85. The leveller says:

    Just heard Nick Morgan getting thrown some pretty soft balls over on Whiskycast – at one stage he said something like ‘we wanted to give people the opportunity to try these new expressions’… almost dropped my iPod on the train

  86. Tim P says:

    Thanks John! I didn’t want to accuse Steve Beal of working for Diageo, but it sounded a little too obvious with that marketing “fluff” post.

    RMW sent out a email with some of the old Manager Dram’s listed for sale underneath the Manager’s Choice just offered. Of the 8 Manager’s Dram’s, all but one are the same price or less than the Manager’s Choice. Great email RMW!!!

  87. Todd says:

    In response to this, Royal Mile has just offered 8 of the Manager’s Drams, bottled between 1993-2004. The Linkwood is excellent.

    From the RMW site: “Listed below are eight individual, old and very rare bottles from the previous similar series of Manager’s Drams bottlings. These bottles were never commercially released to the public. They were only ever available privately and exclusively to Diageo staff from the late Eighties onwards.” And still mostly better priced than the Manager’s Choice line.

    Maybe Diageo should have released these by giving the bottles to employees who just lost their jobs on the closed bottling line – then these folks could have sold them to the secondary market. It would be a better justification of price.

  88. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    probably I have said enough already and I should shut up lest somebody could get the impression I was adverese to this new gem of whisky marketing.

    But…

    Got to here

    http://www.malts.com/en-gb/Storelocator/managerschoice.htm#top

    click unto “Unique whiskies” and listen closely to what Sarah Burgess says.

    I wish you luck guys.

  89. David Stirk says:

    Finally able to post and it has actually given me time to reflect and make me smile:

    Firstly) I am about to launch my third range of whiskies which are all single cask bottled at 45% (also not available in the US). These range from 9 years to 14 years and will retail from £26 to £32. My range now appears to be the bargain of the century.
    Secondly) It reminds me of a chat I had long ago with a certain Marketing Manager at Diageo. I was working for Cadenhead’s at the time and suggest to this MM that I could make him £1million a year if he let me loose in his warehouses bottling single cask expressions; his response ‘we will never bottle single cask whiskies as it would be detrimental to our existing brands.’
    Finally) it has sparked a great and heated debate and whilst it only ever seems that Scotch (certainly in the UK) only gets press when it is bad press, coverage is coverage.

    All in all, I’m quite glad Diageo have released this new range. Now I’m going to go and buy something between £20 and £30 – perhaps an Aberlour 12yo.

    David

  90. Tim F says:

    I think that it would be best for Diageo if they got their response out sooner rather than later as the longer this goes on the angrier people seem to be getting.

  91. MacArdbeg says:

    This stunt from Diageo is simular to be invited to a party. And upon arrival the host literally is pissing into your face.

    Given the fact, that the company just has reveiled their huge profit, that they are closing an almost 200 yrs old bottling plant along with Port Dundas, and than continue with this stunt, one really has to fear for their influence on the future of scotch whisky.

    As it looks now, Diageo is as positive for scotch whisky, as Mordor was for the Shire…

  92. sam k says:

    John, you say Diageo is watching. Given their reticence to reply over multiple days and 90 postings, are you sure?

    My effort at getting the thread to 100!

  93. B.J. Reed says:

    I go back to my post early in this thread – If these whiskies are worth tasting then form a coop everyone buy one bottle and then set up a tasting and sample them – Otherwise I am unlikely to buy any of these bottlings.

    Diagio has a right to try and market and sell this range of bottlings at whatever price they want. If people buy them they made a wise choice – If not they will rethink the decision.

    I am much more concerned about impacts on the industry and and whether those are positive or negative – Marketing whisky so that more people try their products or someone else’s is a very good thing – Trying to change standards (e.g. Cardow experiment) is not.

  94. redarremer says:

    so… let’s say that I’m a guy who is constantly disturbed, irritated, outraged, etc. by the way Diageo does business… I want to do something about my feelings and opinions regarding The Big D but, for some reason, boycot isn’t an option for me… So what should I do?

  95. Louis says:

    Redarremer, no need to boycott, but you can assign priorities on your want list that may not be present in expressions from big conglomerates.

  96. Red_Arremer says:

    Yes Louis, I’m in complete agreement (it was kind of a rhetorical question). And anyone who is dragged down by Diageo’s practices should do likewise.

  97. butephoto says:

    No more Diageo purchases for me.

  98. Redarremer: The new Springbank 18 yo might be one to seek out (not a single cask, but limited nonetheless). John gave it an 88 in the latest MA. Can’t wait for my order to arrive. And, let’s see, by golly Diageo doesn’t have a presence in Campbeltown.

    No Diageo response here, yet. Not to my email questions, either. Head in the sand??

  99. John Hansell says:

    I was just informed that a response from Nick Morgan of Diageo will be coming very soon. Stay tuned.

  100. Nick Morgan (Diageo) says:

    Entering this Lion’s Den, as John calls it, I’m very conscious that whatever I say won’t convince every critic, or answer every query that has emerged in this long conversation among whisky lovers – a conversation that shows what a passionate and articulate community is assembled around this greatest of drinks.

    In fact, it isn’t our regular custom to promote our own views within the on-line community. But on this occasion, both because I’ve been invited to comment and because of the turn the discussion has taken, I thought we should make an exception; though I’m certainly not committed to maintaining a constant voice in this space, which we believe is generally all the better for not being just another marketing channel for big (or even small) corporates. So here goes …

    The bulk of the comment here, and in one or two other blogs and forums, relates to the price of the bottles just released in The Manager’s Choice. Linked to this is the issue of who these bottles are intended for, and the relationship between price, quality, age and value.

    Well yes, certainly, these are very expensive bottles. And the whiskies are not super-old either. For people convinced that age automatically determines quality and price, this comes as something of a surprise.

    But why? As we have made clear, these are extremely limited edition whiskies – a single cask of malt whisky delivers a bottling run very much smaller than most fine wines that sell for very much more. So they are, to start with, very rare. And by definition can never be replicated.

    On top of that, they have been chosen with immense care, and through a process much longer than is normally devoted to selecting whiskies for bottling. At the start of the lengthy selection process, we issued a brief that the liquid finally chosen should combine the essential distillery character with something unusual, interesting and of course rewarding to the drinker. It is for others to judge whether we have succeeded but we think that these bottles will truly reward those who drink them.

    And there’s the rub, perhaps. I sense that many of the comments reflect frustration that these prices put The Managers’ Choice bottlings out of reach of many deeply committed single malt whisky drinkers. I’m afraid that is true, yes.

    But note … a single cask whisky bottling that delivers a mere 250 bottles (in the case of Cardhu) is a tiny volume, and therefore inherently rarer, compared to the annual output of even the most prestigious and costly clarets (between 15,000 and 20,000 cases rpt cases for the first growth of Ch. Lafite-Rothschild).

    We continue to offer the very finest single malt whiskies, made with great care and attention, and a huge amount of passion, that are within the grasp of any committed whisky drinkers, and in broad distribution. Each year we also release a set of more expensive cask-strength malts that sell well through specialists and are much praised. Our individual distillery bottlings (known to many as the Flora and Fauna range) offer access to our less well-known single malts at a reasonable price. And our single cask bottlings sold at the Islay Festival are positioned, price-wise, to acknowledge the considerable efforts made by whisky aficionados who make the annual pilgrimage to Islay.

    So we are offering consumers a choice. We have often been asked to produce single cask bottlings, and now we have done. We’ve been asked to bring out another collector’s range, and we have done so. We went through a very elaborate selection procedure with the intention of producing a very distinguished series of bottlings. And there will only be between two hundred and six hundred bottles from each of these twenty-seven carefully chosen casks. Of course we hope they will sell well and initial indications from our customers are encouraging. But if, as some people say, we have mis-read the market, then I am sure there will be plenty of people to point this out.

    Nick Morgan, Diageo

  101. The leveller says:

    At the end of the day, they’re entitled to release what they want and charge what they want. From my experience of Nick, he has always wanted to stress the integrity and quality of the malts under his stewardship (his former sparring partner Jonathan Driver of Cardhu/Cardow fame/notoriety always played up more of the luxury/’chateau malts’ angle and the two made a good team). Given that, it’s disappointing that such an interesting concept will be so – to coin another poster – literally exclusive. I guess that disappointment is what has driven the record-breaking comments (right now there are 99 as I type) and some of the somewhat hysterical sentiments expressed here. These are great products wrapped up in some regrettable marketing hype that, given the price, does as much to tantalise and irritate as it does to interest and inform. Hopefully the interest shown in the concept – ‘raw’ versions of some people’s most loved whiskies – will show Diageo that there is an opportunity in the old ‘Rare Malts’ price bracket to highlight the offcuts and interesting byproducts of the Diageo single malt behemoth and they will do somthing about it. If I won the lottery tomorrow I’d be on the phone to Loch Fyne immediately with me 6100 pounds…

  102. butephoto says:

    Nick, that post comes across as treating us like idiots. We know how much a single cask costs and your comment in no way justifies the price.

  103. … and the hottest news on the USA version of the Friends of the Classic Malts home page tells us The Singleton of Glendullan will soon be coming to a store near us.

  104. [...] can go back and follow the thread, and Diageo’s response, here. If you have any comments, please make them on the original posting. We don’t need two [...]

  105. The leveller says:

    butephoto – I second that sentiment : a closer analogy to the first growth concept is the individual Classic Malts themselves, which are of the same ballpark in terms of volumes

  106. bgulien says:

    A cask is a cask (well not entirely of course, wood can differ in quality)) but in this discussion let’s assume that there’s no difference.
    On a routine distillery day, lot’s of casks are filled. They are put in a warehouse and left to mature next to each other.
    Now 10 years later, a very serious Managers Choice person picks one cask and bottle it for the series.
    What is happening with the other casks to the left, right, oboe or underneath the MC casks?
    They are shipped to the blender and wind up in your average Johnny Walker Red bottle.
    So for all the people complaining: Buy a Diageo Blend and you are certain to drink a bit from the sister casks of the MC cask.
    Or do they throw them away, to preserve exclusivity?

  107. Sebastien says:

    I just can’t wait to see the first samples of those bottlings reviewed by independent trusted fellows. It’s going to be fun, I guess.

  108. Rick Duff says:

    Nick,
    Thank you for your response. I do not believe it’s fair to compare Diageo’s whiskey to First Grown Bordeaux. The prices for those are equally outrageous. Does Diageo really want to be aligned with catering toward outrageous, or creating a fantastic product for people to enjoy.
    If you really want to create a rarity, why not pull a really old barrel.. that creates under 100 bottles, and sell it for 5 times the price. You can put the most awful tasting over-wooded whisky in the bottle, and get something back for your investment. It won’t matter, because at those prices no one will actually drink it. That is one difference between wine and whiskey.. wine will NOT age (even first growths) indefinitely.. and at some reasonable point the consumer will ‘consume’ it.
    I think that’s my basic point.. please don’t waste really good whiskey on those bottlings that will never be consumed.
    - And for the sake of disclosure, I am a Diageo share holder.

  109. Leorin says:

    To me Nick Morgans comment sounds like:
    “Damn it! If some wine producers can get away with ripping off their customers like this, than why the hell can’t we do so as well?”
    Well, if I was a manager at Diageo I would probably try to achieve that goal.
    (maybe that’s the deeper meaning behind Manager’s Choice?)

  110. Tanguy says:

    Since these whiskies wont be available in the US, I don’t even see the purpose to talk much about it!!
    As I said before concentrate on US produced whiskies and then we shall have soemthing to talk about!

  111. Chap says:

    Yeah, gotta admit Diageo didn’t blow me away with this explanation–and their social media marketing is lousy.

    Note well: Sockpuppetry and hidden alliances in discussion threads, and they always eventually come out, ruin customer relations in a heartbeat.

    The market they want knows what a cask is and knows how many bottles come from a cask. People like me buy single cask bottlings fairly often, and consider it not a compliment to have that explained to us, especially as a justification to multiply the price by a factor of ten compared to the nice single cask I just bought the other day. What they are missing is that there’s currently no trust as to why these casks are better than, say, that Karuizawa 1971 I couldn’t find and was selling for less than half the price. There’s nothing marketingwise that sufficiently differentiates the product at the chosen price point. What’s so special about this stuff that’s different from other stuff exactly like it costing much less and with less haughty fanfare?

    I have no doubt they’ll sell out. I also have no doubt the lack of understanding of the customer base has hurt Diageo.

  112. Willie says:

    With all the talk of wine I had to double check that the comment was by Nick Morgan and not Mark Reynier.

  113. Elliott N. Fishbein says:

    To Whom It May Concern-Diageo

    I am a retailer in Rhode Island (Town Wine& Spirits),and I can not tell you how fustrating it is each time you do a limited bottling and leave the States out of the loop.You must be aware of the following that you enjoy here in the states,doing these limiting bottling I belive will hurt you if you continue to do these with out including us in your distributation.

  114. This makes all the politics and outrage over the Buffalo Trace Experimentals releases look like nothing by comparison , but whisk(e)y lovers are usually nothing if not passionate.I think there will always be a tug of war in whiskey from the collectors/investors vs. the drinkers.The prices (in general for rare whiskies just not these releases)and the passion shown on this board certainly reflect that.
    I personally hope to go the way Clive Cussler (famous author) has said (paraphrasing a bit),quietly, after I have drunk up the last of my stock and after the bank has just called to say I am $10 overdrawn.

  115. David says:

    Since Diageo is paying attention, I’d like to gripe about a Diageo tasting event in Washington, DC, I went to last year for $90, this was a whisky pairing and we were not given what was promised, and on top of that the Diageo Rep, was arrogant, not friendly and added to the rip off. I have not bought any diageo single malts since then.

  116. WhiskySponge says:

    …On top of that, they have been chosen with immense care, and through a process much longer than is normally devoted to selecting whiskies for bottling. (…)

    Well, as I read that the managers compared 3 samples of each distillery, I had to giggle silently, because its common practice by some bottlers I know personaly, that they often get 20 samples to choose but one of em for a release… at a reasonable price, that is.

    So, the so-called immense care cannot be the key for the pricing of that range.

    Instead of choosing one single cask, I would have tried to find several casks with a similar AND typical distillery character.
    Very often you got a whole sequence of casks (makes from the same day or batch) that taste very similar.

    This strategy, combined with a pricetag like the raremalt range had, would have contributed more to a positive image of Diageo.
    Because its the people who drink your stuff that pay your bills, not 500 collectors scattered arround the globe…
    With this exclusiveness, you literally exclude (and let down) your truest friends and followers.

    kind regards
    Ingo (from Germany)

  117. John Hansell says:

    David, let’s try to keep on topic…Thanks.

  118. Bigsurf27 says:

    PRESS RELEASE: Due to huge public out cry from Malt Advocate readers, Diageo will be releasing a limited number of Scratch and Sniff Manager’s Choice cards. These will be available at a select number of stores, individually numbered and priced to move @ $59.95. Pick one up, give it a scratch and enjoy the some of the finest malts NOT available anywhere. It’s like a vacation to Scotland on a piece of cardboard….ahhhh!

    ACTUAL RESPONSE: This has nothing to do with providing their loyal customer with something unique. This is marketing 101, plain and simple. Small amounts of a rare “desired” product at high prices will sell. Diageo is doing this for revenue ONLY…so why dont’t they just come out and say it…at least a few of us would respect the honesty

  119. Tim D says:

    Given I just picked up an AMAZING 6 year old Caol Ila – hand picked by Brett from Binny’s for $30 that is in the top five things I’ve ever had…

    …And that Laphroaig, in future Cask-strenght roll-outs, and Arberlour’s A’Bundah are “batched” and somewhat exclusive, yet at $50-$70 price points, it’s hard to justify this expense.

    Who cares what they charge? I only care what’s IN THE BOTTLE! I know what I like, and what I can afford – and we’ve all found ways to find “special” and “limited” items we love in price ranges we can afford.

    Ironically, I’d be willing to be that “True Scotch Lovers” (TSL’s) won’t buy these offers – we know better. It’s the brand-name chasers and show-offs who’ll drop the coin, and probably not drink it anyhow… such is their loss.

    Off to enjoy the myriad of single-cask, hand-picked bottles I picked up at $40 or less during Binny’s huge sale last weekend.

  120. borgom says:

    I don’t understand the argument regarding the selection process and bottle numbers dictating these prices. Independant bottlers go through a similar process and still manage to charge relevant prices. The general push to reduce the age while increasing the price (of which Diageo is not the only culprit) is very dissapointing.

  121. Duncan Ross says:

    It is with great interest and wonder that I look at the comments made over the recent days in regard to the Manager’s Choice range from Diageo. For myself, as a Manager of a leading specialist drinks retailer, I find myself stuck in the middle of this scenario and I find I agree with arguments and points on both sides. I firmly believe that the bottles are well out of range for the average man on the street and are aimed at the higher end collectors. I also believe that they will be an exceptional edition of that distilleries character, as mentioned by Dr Nick Morgan. I also believe that many of these lines will be sold out very quickly as there are enough collectors around the globe who will wish to purchase their ‘favorite’ distillery. It is also quite possible that the lesser known distilleries will last a bit longer and be available for a while longer. I know the bottles are out of my price range but as a retailer I have to play on an even field and I am sorry that these bottles will have limited outlay. I hope to get enough to satisfy my customer demands but in the cyber world we live in today I am not holding my breath. This is already a victory for Diageo as we are blogging about it now (Memories of Cardhu).

  122. Neil Fusillo says:

    Nick,

    What I’m curious about is what is so special about these casks? Let’s look at single cask releases from other distilleries… are you saying that, because their managers don’t hand select the best caks, that we’re getting an inferior product, and it’s hardly worth the $100 we pay for it? Considering your whisky is a factor of 10 more expensive, that’s quite a claim. Those other single casks are JUST as rare as your chosen single cask. There’s only one of them as there’s only one of your Manager’s Choice cask. But yours is a factor of 10 more expensive. Is it a factor of 10 better?

    Or are you just counting on the market to buy into the malarkey?

    Also, this focus on your managers finding that one ‘perfect’ cask amongst hundreds makes me wonder what kind of schlock I’m drinking when I buy the regular whisky. Clearly, it’s an inferior product, and I shouldn’t waste my money.

  123. Ralph Biscuits says:

    I found Nick Morgan’s response patronizing to say the least.
    According to Mr. Morgan these whiskies are expensive because they’re rare.
    However they’re only rare because Diageo is saying that they’re rare. They’re each from a cask that’s been chosen with “immense care” according to Mr. Morgan.
    I don’t understand how that makes them rare.
    It’s not like it’s a cask found forgotten in a warehouse somewhere. It’s from their regular stock. How does that qualify as rare? How does that justify the price?

  124. Pat says:

    I think I’m in the minority but I think Mr. Morgan’s explanation is more than satisfactory. These bottlings are NOT for me or others in my income bracket! These bottlings are the equivalent of the new Beatles box Sets: for diehard fans or the wealthy. They are something special, exclusive and I can’t afford them. Too bad for me, surely, but no sour grapes here.

  125. H.Diaz says:

    Where is Talisker 18, Diageo? You know, for your more modest clientele. Haven’t seen it in my market for over a year now. If and when it makes it’s return, please resist the urge for a major price increase, if any.

    Otherwise, I’ll be eye balling and supporting other, more artisanal spirit brands with reasonable prices, versus those from Goliath.

  126. Tex says:

    Well, Nick Morgan did himself and Diageo no favors. Heck, I am used to having a pretty limited range of SMS that I can afford. I am OK with that. If Diageo wants to charge that much fine, go for it. However Morgan showed an arrogance that many already suspect as being prevalent at Diageo by talking down to use here like we were schoolkids. Does he not realize that SMS enthusiasts are the most fanatical and knowledgeable of all drink enthusiasts? How about getting some Talisker 18 to the U.S. and selling Talisker 57 North in the U.S..instead of just “travel retail”..geez I hate that term and online U.K. shops.

  127. Chris says:

    Diageo appears to have confused “unique” with “rare”. Every 10 year-old single cask bottling released is unique. But if you have 10,000 casks of 10 year-old whisky in your warehouse, it is not rare. It’s like telling us that 20 guys spent 10 weeks selecting the shiniest penny out of a pile of 10,000 pennies, and therefore we should pay you 10 cents for it. For those of us who actually drink this stuff, our perceived value of a 10 year-old single cask whisky has been shaped by our experience over many years based on our enjoyment vs. price. Despite the delightful story on the extensive selection process, you have convinced very few of us that this enjoyment will increase commensurate with your price increase.

    I don’t think most of us are frustrated that we cannot afford these (as you have stated), but we are concerned that Diageo would offer what appears to be such a bad value to it’s customers. And targeting the rich doesn’t justify the practice.

    If all these turn out to be superstar whiskies, then you may be vindicated. If not, then I think the damage done to your reputation will far outweigh the additional profit gained.

  128. aw says:

    butephoto has said it best in response to Nick Morgan: we KNOW the price of single cask bottlings! IBs have been producing them for years and we’ve been consuming them for years. It seems that Diageo doesn’t know.

    This seems like Diageo blundering in to strange and unfamiliar territory, producing ridiculous and unintentionally hilarous marketing fluff (see their PDF), and completely misreading the market on price. Hopefully next time they’ll be wiser.

  129. John Lamond says:

    Hi guys,
    Those of you who know me or have read my writings will know that I am NOT an apologist for Diageo, but I must defend their position here.
    Yes, Nick’s comparison with Lafite is specious; our distilleries can produce 24/7, while a wine estate’s annual efforts build up to the autumnal harvest. In the wine’s case, they do not do single cask bottlings, so the rarity of a single cask bottling is completely different.
    Yes, I think that the company has pushed the price level up, but worldwide demand will mean that the release will most certainly be oversold several times over. We all know how collectors overegg auction pricing. The prices are high, but there are higher out there and,as the pinnacle of what each of these distilleries can produce, why not? I have tasted some absolutely FABULOUS young (sub-10 yo) bottlings, demonstrating that the cask is the driver when it comes to the final result.
    It has been several years since I was last able to afford a Diageo bottling anyway.

  130. butephoto says:

    Ralfy has calculated that the first six casks will net Diageo in the region of half a million pounds. That’s scandalous!

    http://whiskystuff.blogspot.com/2009/09/managers-choice-new-rare-malt-selection.html

  131. MacArdbeg says:

    After reading mr. Nick Morgans statement above, it is difficult to find another reason behind this series but greed.

    A summary of his arguments is:

    1. It is Rare.
    2. It has been chosen with immense care, and through a process much longer than is normally devoted to selecting whiskies for bottling.
    3. Those whiskies are so rare and exclusieve that they can be compared with Ch. Lafite-Rothschild.

    1. Well, as mentioned above, they are only rare because Diageo says so.
    2. In wich way is the scelection different from independent bottlers, who dosn’t use this price range for their 9-15 yrs old whiskies?
    3. Looks like whisfull thinking. Diageo whants by this to create a product like Ch. Lafite-Rothschild, by bottling a range of 9-15 yrs old whiskies and claiming that they are very exclusive.

    Well, mr. Morgan: Couldn’t you at least be a little bit more honest and tell us the true – that this is just another step into trying maximizing Diageos profits?! And can you please stop patronizing people wile defending your companys decisions?!

  132. Bernhard Schäfer says:

    I agree insofar comparing one luxury product with another is like comparing apples and pears.
    And in this case it isn’t even necessary

    But why are you all complaining?
    Obviously you’d all like to have those Whiskies, so do I.
    So well done Diageo!
    You can not all get them, why? Well they are exclusive and expensive…bad luck for you. Supply and demand makes the price. Hey isn’t it America that always has forced this principles of the market.
    I am fed up with all these laments.
    Diageo is just acting right (in that case), they are able to deliver the finest Whisky, there have a lot of VERY enthusiastic and knowledgeable people, they have done a lot of whisky for so many years. Now they offer sth exclusive, you talk about it, the liquid will be sold asap with a good margin. I’d say well done.
    Bernhard (Germany)

  133. David Stirk says:

    WOW – a response from Diageo – great. My favourite line is;

    ‘though I’m certainly not committed to maintaining a constant voice in this space’

    In other words, talk to the hand ’cause the face ain’t listening.

    What staggers me is that with the might, muscle and sheer spending power of Diageo, they don’t have a Public Relations team to deal with these sorts of problems. I know of at least 10 people at a rival company half of Diageo’s size that I can call upon for comment and help. I know of no-one at Diageo that I can count on for help and advice.

    Says it all really.

    It is really showing independent bottlers in a new light though!

    David

  134. kallaskander says:

    Dear Mr Morgan,

    thank you for your reply. As a key person in matters whisky in Diageo`s employ you have to take the official point of view of course and I think all that have posted here and many more who have read the posts here and in other blogs do thank you for making your and your employers view clear.

    Alas that makes a ill conceived and ill advised marketing driven ploy not much better. Some time ago your collegues at Pernod Ricard decided in a meeting of a board of directors that their new release of Scapa 16yo was to be a premium malt from now on.

    The Scapa 16yo is the new standard bottling and follow up of the Scapa 14yo which had to be discontinued because of production gaps in former year and the lack of stocks from 14 years ago.

    That decision at a meeting table made the Scapa malt 20 Pounds more expensive per bottle. Just as that. It is two years older but the history and the standing of Scapa does not justify that increase of price.

    Diageo does the same. And takes it 20 levels further. It is of no relevance that some distillery mangers of which I have the greatest respect and stand in awe for what they do and what they know have decreed the casks you finally bottled to be the best there are.

    I do not want to comment on the selection process nor on Diageo`s press releases full of contradictions concerning this new range.

    But let me point out that if the selected casks from each distillery are so exceptional one could asume that their neighbouring casks in the warehouses are probable of equal if not superior quality as well. That would stand to reason considering all I know about whisky.

    And if you look around in the warehouses you would find caks which are even better than the ones selected.

    Those will not be bottled in any of Diageos current series of malts but they will end mostly in standard OB bottlings now or in the future say as in the case of 9yo Oban for example in 5 years time as the 14yo OB.

    Or they will end in one of the many Diageo blends.

    So you would have to admit that the scarcity and rarity lies not in the whiskies or casks themselves but in the fact that they have been brought to the attention of your panel of experts and have been deemed exceptional casks.

    That this should multiply the value of those casks by a factor of 10 or more is something Diageo has yet to prove. Equally that the decision of the marketing department or whoever to lift the prices in such regions is a sound one.

    That proof will not be given in the common whisky market. Diageo has seen to that with the pricing.

    Independent bottlers who have done so much for single malt, much more than the industry itself, must feel very strange at the moment.

    I think that Diageo shows disrespect to them and us common customers with the Manager`s Choice. Not because of the series in itself but because of the marketing stance Diageo takes and with the pricing as a consequence to the marketing idea behind it.
    There is probably a market for the Manger`s Choice. But not among all those posters in all the blogs and forums. To them most probably and to me surely Diageo`s stance leaves a sense of beeing treated with arrogance disregard and being considered as a fool. I have had my intelligence doubted and insulted in former times and was much more amused then.

    I for myself if I were one of the distillery managers and experts involved in the selection of the casks would feel abused if I would read my name on one of the promotion pages or one of the other promotional material Diageo has issued.

    Abused because the expertise skill knowledge standing and position of these people is misused to elevate whiskies which are no doubt good or even exceptional in themselves but not within their production batch to an asumed level of rarity quality and valuation which has no counterpart in reality.

    I feel that some people in your huge company should feel ashamed for what they are trying to do.

  135. Nick Brown says:

    There is a suggestion that we would all want these whiskies, if only we could afford them. For avoidance of doubt, I can’t afford them.

    However, I can afford Flora and Fauna whiskies. Right now, I have one of them open and a couple of others somewhere in my unopened stash. I certainly haven’t felt the urge to own them all – or even taste them all.

    I ask myself whether I would want to try these whiskies ad free pours at a whisky fair. Frankly, if there were other stuff at the festival, I suspect I wouldn’t be detained long trying these youngish whiskies, many from distilleries with less than stellar reputations. It might be interesting to taste what a £300 9yo Oban was actually like. But if it had been labelled with an F&F label or an IB label, I probably wouldn’t bother. It’s only the price that makes it look interesting.

    I’m sure these whiskies have been carefully selected and are very good. But without the hype, I guess most of us would just not be that interested in them.

  136. Maltakias says:

    I think that Mr.Morgan’s explanation made it worse than before.

  137. Somebocy please call the SPCA, we’re beating a dead horse, here.

    Dr. Morgan:

    You and Diageo have received extensive critique from some knowledgeable malt advocates. Your selection process, pricing, and marketing efforts score low in many eyes. For me, it’s your company’s communication practices that have failed. I’m ready to move on, now. I would appreciate seeing this experience help Diageo do better in the future.

    Can you tell us what Diageo’s next special release will be? Last year’s Distiller’s Editions seemed to be popular. Their prices were higher than your standard bottlings, but I didn’t hear an uproar. So what’s coming next? Please give us a preview and a timeline.

    Thanks

  138. Red_Arremer says:

    The fact is, we’re accustomed to buying single cask independent bottlings at values that are competitve with or better than vatted, lower proof Distillery Bottlings. This whole thing will just not wash.

  139. John Hansell says:

    I DO want to thank Nick Morgan for his willingness to respond here (whether it was received well or not.) The easiest thing for him to do was nothing. It took a lot of guts for him to respond here.

    I realise that most of you don’t know Nick, but in all the years that I’ve known him, he has always wanted to put MORE Diageo single malts on the market, not less. He has often told me about his struggles to do so in the Diageo corporate environment. In this regard, he’s on OUR side, fighting for the single malt enthusiast!

    There’s a lot about the Manager’s Choice that I like. I like the idea of single cask bottlings from every distillery. I like the intensive selection process–I imagine that these will be some high-quality whiskies. They have a large pool of whiskies from which to choose from too! Much more than any independent bottler.

    But yes, the program’s exclusivity–both in quantity and price–is unfortunate. And frustrating to many of us.

    Like I mentioned earlier, it would be nice if they would choose a single cask from every distillery every year, one year being 700ml, the next year being 750ml, so the U.S. would get a crack at them every other year.

    How will this all play out? I don’t know. I hope it opens the door to more distillery bottlings by Diageo, rather than closing it. (And the more affordable and accessible they are, the better.)

  140. Steffen Bräuner says:

    Well well

    End of the day I am just one consumer, and Diageo is a producer of malt whisky. They happen to be the biggest one.

    Next time I am gonna buy a standard 12year distillery bottling I have a choice. A choice to buy a standard Diageo product (like Talisker 10year, a wonderful whisky) or maybe I should buy a Glendronach 12year next time ?

    The thing is, Glendronach is also selling a 16year single cask. I just bought that one. Excellent whisky. They must have chosen that cask with great care and skill. Thing is it cost me approx. 66£

    Now tell me, isnt it an easy choice who to support next time I buy a 25-35£ standard bottling. Off course it is. I will support the company that also can supply me with single cask bottlings I can afford

    I understand Diageo has full rights to bottle which cask they want at what prices they want.

    Same way I have my own full rights to buy whisky from what company I want to. And right now that company is not Diageo.

    Macdeffe

    PS I chose Glendronach just as example, as it was my latest purchase. I could as well have written Cadenhead, Bladnoch, Aberlour, Arran or many other whisky producers/bottlers. The list is long

  141. Tex says:

    John, with all due respect. it should not take a lot of guts to respond here. Especially (just gleaning this from what I read here..not from personal experience) since Diageo pretty much ignores it’s customers who try to get information from them through normal channels. The way I look at it, Nick Morgan is no different than the manager of a large physical store. If I have a problem with that store’s pricing, inventory, quality, whatever, I have a right to take my problem to that manager. Surely you aren’t suggesting that if a Wal-Mart manager agrees to come out and talk to a customer that he has “guts”. Just because Morgan exists in the rarefied air of the Scotch industry that does not make him above responding to consumer complaints.especially when he pats us on the head, gives, a penny, and explains to us that we don’t understand how hard it is to select single casks.

  142. JC Skinner says:

    Dear Mr Morgan,
    Please sell Bushmills and Guinness. I fear for their future in your firm’s ownership.

  143. Jimi says:

    Okay I’ll make a couple points. It’s true that a lot of companies like to have a super premium line to show off and we shake our heads at the effort. I don’t have a problem with a flagship line of products. I mean I see them collecting dust all the time, but maybe they could introduce, later on, a similar series of “non single cask” at reasonable prices. Car dealers try this ploy all the time, put the $80,000 sports car in the showroom then sell you something sensible. You still see one in a hundred sports cars on the road.

    Also, this “rare” issue is created by the company controlling the release of particular expressions. I’m not sure just how much stock they can reserve for single malts and how much has to go to blends, but it’s what they choose to release that makes it rare more than the fact that there’s only so much of it. Hoard a product like crude oil and the price sky rockets just because it’s off the market.

    I do know I’d like to see various expressions from these distilleries, but not so limited that they are beyond reason. I think there is a market for four or five different ages/finishes of most single malts. I like to see them at the different age cycles and how a certain barrel influences that.

    Single casks can be a double edged sword. For those who explore for the unique variety it’s great. For me, IB’s have been hit or miss. I like to keep accessible bottles that I can replace. Also I tend to stick to favorite distilleries and keep stock of all their lineup that I like.

    Anyway I hope this release leads to something better down the road. In the meantime I’ll enjoy my sensible single malts all the more for their value and quality.

  144. DaveU says:

    I have to agree with Bernhard Schäfer. In my opinion, this is a pretty clear example of market forces at work. We’ll all know soon enough whether Diageo has priced these bottlings appropriately or not, because consumers will either buy them or not.

    Personally, I would expect a fair number of bottles to be purchased by bars and restaurants that specialize is providing overpriced, rare items to their clientele. I don’t think they’ll have trouble selling a few hundred bottles of each whisky, even at these prices. If anything, I would expect them to get bought up quickly and marked up further by restaurants, resellers, and speculators.

    I don’t see any reason to be upset at Diageo over this.

  145. lawschooldrunk says:

    John,

    Would you consider not posting your tasting notes? I would not dare to suggest that, in the spirit of getting rid of your unavoidable bias, no matter how big or infinitesimally small, that you give your incoming samples to some lucky posters on this site. However, I am interested in the effects it would have on Diageo if you would please withhold your notes.

    If it is indeed worthy, let the whisky’s quality spread by word of mouth, just not the few that taste it free.

  146. The leveller says:

    One question – does anyone know if these have been released in time for Jim Murray’s 2010 book? Given his idiosyncratic and occasionally iconoclastic approach his views could be interesting…

  147. butephoto says:

    Bernhard is so off the mark it’s not true. This isn’t market forces, this is Diageo forces.

  148. John Hansell says:

    LSD, it is my job to review whiskies, regardless of how rare or ubiquitous. And I will ignore your “unavoidable bias” comment.

  149. John Hansell says:

    The leveller, When I was with Jim about 4 weeks ago, Jim told me he just wrapped up his 2010 Whisky Bible. Unless Diageo sent him samples well in advance, you’ll have to wait for another year for the 2011 Bible to (possibly) see a review. That’s the problem with review books. And that’s one reason why blogs like this one are helpful. There’s no lag time.

  150. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    Bernhard is a whisky writer and an independent whisky expert. He does tastings for clients and he has written features for the German pages of http://www.malts.com .

  151. Roger says:

    Yes sir. This is correct. Maybe Diageo sell all their bottles, but Diageo sell more than just these bottles. The market responds not just to the market selling the single cask bottles, but the whole range. May be this will suffer.

    Rog

  152. butephoto says:

    kallaskander, that explains it!

  153. John W says:

    kallaskander, I tried opening the link again with the detailed information on the series: https://www.lfw.co.uk/diageo/The_Managers_Choice.pdf
    , now it doesn’t seem to work anymore….Was this meant for retailers only??. I wonder if anyone had the brains to save a copy (I sure didn’t).

    The numbers remain fascinating to me and my theory now goes like this (sorry a bit long for a blog):

    Consider that the smallest cask bottlings are the limiting factors for the “serious collectors”. Mortlach (240 bts) or Teaninich (246 bts) are such bottlings. Will there be around 240 collectors who will buy the whole lot (all 27 bottles) and quickly so (even if they cannot afford buying all immediately, they will surely target the smaller bottlings first)? If that does not happen, a lot of people on this blog will be feeling pretty smug. This surely must be the minimum first test that Diageo must pass with this series (let’s say the “PR break-even”).

    Now, consider the “left-over” bottles which are not lucky enough to be tucked away in a collector’s display cabinet somewhere. Of course, Lagavulin, Talisker, etc… will all be bought up quickly regardless. However, what about ?300 9-year old Oban or ?250 Glen Elgin (at 534 bottles each) or similar bottles, young and/or from less “elite” distilleries. Will there really be +/-290 die-hard aficionados that will shell out that kind of money for Oban or Glen Elgin? I don’t think a new rich from China or Russia, for example will go for the distillery most of his friends will have no clue about, when he can have a 25-year old Macallen for the same price (i.e. Diageo is taking some risk here). If these “left-over” bottles also turn out to disappear quickly from primary retailers (and can demand much higher after-sale prices on the auctions), then Diageo can rightly claim it scored big with BOTH collectors and aficionados. It can then also claim a significant victory in defining not only what constitutes “extraordinary” in the world of single malts, but also in terms of shifting the premium market to a higher price level. If the “left-overs” remain stuck at the retailers for a long period of time, then this series cannot be considered an aficionado success and Diageo will have to reconsider how to deal with this group. The “left-overs” constitute a second test and it is a more significant one than the first, in my view.

    The third and last test: Tasting scores from prominent independent experts. Extraordinary scores would be icing on the cake, but if test one and two are passed, it will probably not concern Diageo that much (especially if scores are less than extraordinary). However, if the second test remains a “fail” even if scores are through the roof, it surely means the series was an aficionado dud. If scores are much less than “extraordinary” on average and some speculative collectors decide to cut loose after 12/24 months, we may see bottles becoming more affordable or at least not appreciate in value.

    So much for the theory; reality will probably be a lot more complicated.

  154. Jon says:

    I am absolutely floored with the response / anger that this has dredged up. So what if Diageo is coming out with an ultra limited release for wealthy enthusiasts. Like it or not, the collectors market plays a significant role in the whisky marketplace and these bottles are aimed at them.

    I doubt I’ll have the opportunity to taste a single bottle – but I’m not going to be drinking a black Bowmore either.

  155. Steffen Bräuner says:

    @Jon

    Well Jon, the difference is that Black Bowmore is from 1964 and Bowmore bottles single cask whisky at fairer prices. The problem is not what Diageo is doing but what they aren’t doing

    Macdeffe

  156. Todd says:

    This reminds me of the recent controversy over ticket sales for a run of Bruce Springsteen concerts in the New York/New Jersey area. The Boss attempted to arrange a very large block of tickets to his fans at a very reasonable price, and for many reasons, many fans were not able to get these tickets and Ticketmaster was the lighting rod of the fury of both the fans and the Boss.

    Diageo seriously dropped the ball on this release. They could played the role of The Boss and instead they elected to play the role of evil, heartless Ticketmaster. Honestly, how much money is to be made on a limited number of bottles like this? It seems to me that this type of release would have vastly served the marketing interests of the company better had they released this broadly to many distributors worldwide at reasonable. Bruuuuuucccccccccce, we would have yelled at these drams! Or something like that. The loyal fans would have loved it, instead of feeling excluded. Sorry Nick, the good-will ball was dropped in a very big way. Your explanation doesn’t wash – you guys make your money selling a gazillion cases of Johnny Walker……. BTW, I haven’t attended a giant arena concert since tickets went north of $25 – a very, very long time ago. And I can live without over-priced whisky too.

  157. John,

    I’d like to say I am shocked by the debate which has ensued surrounding your posting, but frankly I have been hearing increasing grumbling about Diageo pricing on my end (the retail side of things).

    By and large I like the whiskies released by Diageo, even though we don’t see enough variation from individual distilleries, on average their standard and special edition releases are of excellent quality. That said, I have to agree that these prices are ridiculous, I deal with a lot of collectors, and can say that most of them would not consider these bottles a good investment at the proposed prices. A sentiment I would have to agree with.

    That said, we live in a capitalist market (US, Europe and Canada) and it is Diageo’s right to price their products as they see fit and take as much profit as the market will let them get away with. To that end if our store in Calgary, Canada, were offered the opportunity to carry these products (which we wouldn’t be in forgotten Canada) at the proposed prices we wouldn’t. No serious collector that I know would buy a single cask nine year old Oban for £300 when they could have a 29 year old Port Ellen for £210!

    Slainte!

    Andrew Ferguson

  158. Oboe says:

    If I buy a bottle, which Diageo-closed distillery will be put back into production?

  159. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    to all and for John W

    the age verification process does interfere.

    Go to http://www.malts.com verify your age and select a country. I chose United Kingdom because if I chose Germany the language switches to German.

    From here you can click through to the feature I meant “Unique Whiskies” or to what else interests you.

  160. MacArdbeg says:

    I think most of the people now have given their opinion, and yet it might be an idea to give some general remarks about those matters.

    This controversy in the debate tells me, that Diago has made a serious mistake in relation to a core segment: The dedicated whiskylovers. The corporate is by this – and other resent initiatives – about to become a bad brand among whiskyconnoisseurs, and in the long run I am sure that this will develop into a problem for Diageo. Because this segment spread the word, and by that the negatieve brand.

    One can easily imagine a lot of situations were the consumer chose not to buy a Diaego product, like buyuing Absolute vodka instead of Smirnoff, Famos Grouse instead of Johnnie Walker etc.

    At the moment Diageo doesn’t care at all. Their main focus is cost efficiency and thats it. But they really should be worried. This self sufficient mentality was seen in the american car industry in the 60′ies and 70′ies and look what has happened to it!? And look at the beer industry – like Carlsberg in Denmark. They were about to have 80% of the marked by pushing other producers out of the marked, until the reaction came with a lot of micro breweries.

    From my point of view Diageo will run into concidereable problems in the future, if they don’t change their strategy on whisky production. Maybe it not will happen tomorrow or next year, but in the long run any buisiness that is negligent on its consumers will run into problems. I just sincerely don’t hope that Diageo won’t destroy the scottish whisky industry by going trough this proces. After all, they own 27 distilleries – all potential of being closed and demolished like in the 80′ies…

  161. René says:

    I think all has to do with communicating, John. Try (in this case – a multi-national)- in a rather early stage – to explain to your customers, what you are intending to do in the next 6/8/12 months regarding the release(in this circumstance) of new whiskies, to avoid the difficulties you could get if you don’t act directly. But what did we get now, a board with members writing in anger, but especially misunderstanding and hostility. There are two parties here, one who wants to sell and the other who likes to buy(maybe)? All required essentials have been met, so, create an atmosphere in which both parties feel comfortable and like to do business, on a equal base.

    What I’m telling is, Diageo would have done better if they had examined the market for this Manager’s Choice,(or better!) than they did so far.

    This is definitely a case of underestimating, thinking that we Diageo, TWGWS(the world’s greatest whisky supplier!), rule the (Whisky) World!

    That’s not completely right, imo.

  162. Collector57 says:

    Jon says:
    September 11, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    “I am absolutely floored with the response / anger that this has dredged up. So what if Diageo is coming out with an ultra limited release for wealthy enthusiasts. Like it or not, the collectors market plays a significant role in the whisky marketplace and these bottles are aimed at them.”

    And a few others said something similar.
    I am a collector. I would (will) NOT collect these. They are a rip-off. Diageo is treating collectors with derision here as well as drinkers.

    BTW, I’m a drinker too, and I find plenty of single cask, cask strength whiskies that are exceptional and quite cheap.

    So, I’ll get my examples of these distilleries from SMWS et al thanks.

  163. [...] whisky drinkers and collectors worldwide regarding Diageo’s latest products on a blog called Malt Advocate. This entry was posted on Monday, September 14th, 2009 at 4:27 pm. You can follow any responses [...]

  164. Red_Arremer says:

    We could blame Diageo for this, but really we shouldn’t because Diageo is a big corporation and [insert whatever outrageous nonsense Diageo has recently perpetrated] is exactly what big corporations are supposed to do. The moment when Diageo could have been pressured to do or be something other than it is was long ago, when it was still forming. But, since we didn’t speak out then, we ought now to forever hold our peace. The sacred union of consumer and corporation has been consecrated and cannot be broken. It is not an equal union and this must be accepted. The consumer is, rather, the helpmate of Diageo and should have the psychological endurance to bear that position. The consumer doesn’t alwasy have to agree with Diageo or feel good about it as long as it is faithful and good mannered at all times.

  165. Red_Arremer says:

    I used the word “it” confusingly in that last sentence. The first “it” refers to Diageo and the second to the consumer.

  166. It’s not too late. We can all send them a message by not buying their products!

  167. John W says:

    Thanks, kallaskander, but what I am after is the PDF file with detailed information including on the pricing pyramid. I can’t locate it anywhere anymore, including on the main http://www.themanagerschoice.com website.

    By the way, interesting to note that WE is discounting the bottles from 6 to 15 percent from the RRP. Late to market or reading the market??

  168. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    hello John W

    the pdf you are looking for …

    I had found it here

    https://www.lfw.co.uk/diageo/The_Managers_Choice.pdf

    but it is no longer there.

    It seems Loch Fyne Whiskies was the only site to put up that link to that pdf file which was not meant for the public it would appear.

    If you contact me via pm at Whisky Magazine forum or the whiskwhiskwhisky forum I could help you out.

  169. I guess Diageo’s 2008 marketing strategy wasn’t as good as they thought. Last year when I ordered the Distiller’s Editions, the word I got back was, “NO ALLOCATION FOR (my state).”

    I found out last week that (my state) will receive ten cases each of three of the 2008 Distiller’s Editions. Guess they didn’t sell as well in the major markets as Diageo planned, eh?

    Does this mean that next year (my state) will receive allocations for all the Manager’s Choice whiskies that Diageo couldn’t pawn off elsewhere? Not likely, but hey, it could happen.

  170. mars says:

    Bad news for us and good news for diageo, 3 manager’s choice are sold out on the whisky exchange. :-(
    (but maybe they had only one bottle of each)

    MARS

  171. H.Diaz says:

    It says it right there, in the 3rd paragraph of Diageo’s press release, “the rare limited-edition series is aimed at collectors and connoisseurs….”.

    These releases are not aimed for you, the regular/average Scotch drinker.

    Just like that new fire engine red Ferrari is not aimed at you either.

  172. Steffen Bräuner says:

    @Diaz

    Well I would rather say that Diageo is producing a Fiat 500 and selling it at ferrari prices.

    I am still boycoting all Diageo’s products and supporting suppliers who bottle stuff like this at affordable prices. Loads of distilleries can bottle single cask whisky at affordable prices. Use your power as consumer, Cause that’s what we are, and even thou I like Talisker 10 and the likes I can find plenty of good whisky from others

    A lot here is supporting Diageo’s right to produce expensive releases and comparing them to wine industry

    Noone of you is commenting on the fact that Diageo has millions of casks.. more than anyone else and could with ease bottle single casks at same prices as everyone else. But they don’t. Again the problem is not what Diageo is doing as much what they aren’t.

    Macdeffe

  173. [...] lately – both for closing the Johnnie Walker bottling plant in Kilmarnock, as well as their super high-end single cask releases, which caused an uproar in the whisky blogosphere.  But the parent company of Johnnie Walker seems [...]

  174. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    Serge has done a head to head of the first six releases of the MC.

    http://www.whiskyfun.com/

    The feature will wonder off the starting page with time.

  175. [...] back announcing these whiskies–and the whopping 174 comments about them–please go HERE first to get the background on these highly controversial [...]

  176. [...] To get the full perspective, before you proceed, you really should read my blog post (and record-breaking 175 comments) on Round 1 here. [...]

  177. nicolas vaughn says:

    I think the people that complain about the prices don’t buy the whiskies! It is simple as that! There are plenty of whiskies for every budget and maybe, just maybe diageo is not after the common whisky drinker here with these releases. I am not worried about because i have better things to do with my money than spend 200-300 pounds on these release so i will find something that will fall within my budget.

  178. MaltMartyr says:

    Bowmore, Deageo, Whyte & Mackay, etc. run the real risk of filling up a few distributors and retailers basements, who may have to sit on too much stock until the Highland Coos come home. This is not how you win friends & influence distributors. If and when they clear out with deep discounts, after a five to ten year sentence, I may look back at this ordeal differently. Moo

    Bottles that are overpriced should be overlooked for a while by those retailers who want to keep their best buys and in demand stock moving off the shelves and in the public eye. These sit in the locked displays as retailer curios and museum pieces.

    Distillers cannot create as much interest in the best distilleries ‘to the drinking public’ if they refuse to promote the dream bottles to the right crowd. This can only mothball and elminate them.

    I have spent the equivalent or above. Howeever, If I can’t taste it, I rarely consider it unless it is a legendary bottling with a deep discount. Perhaps, then I can feel comfortable enough to open the bottle over one of the next fifteen years.

  179. [...] you recall, when I first announced The Manager’s Choice here last year in September, it created quite a commotion. My blog posting alone received 178 comments, [...]

  180. Chris says:

    This month a few of these came up at auction and sold for $60 less than the original retail price. Not a big surprise.

  181. Matt Richter says:

    So what? They came out with an expensive bottle. Did the price of the standard issue go up? I read a lot of bitching about how this is outrageous. I really like OBAN and had been given a bottle of the 32 year old 1969 by my wife. It wasn’t cheap but it was good! I’d nursed that sucker for about 4 years when my Dad drank the final 2.5 inches out of it while I was out. When I got back? “Matthew, that was a very nice Scotch!” What can I say? He put up with my teen years, so I’m happy he enjoyed it.

    Most of my drinks are more the garden veriety, but then, they don’t last for years and years on the shelf. These have now been out for a couple years and some have very favorable reviews. I found the OBAN Managers Choice for 217 Pounds, down quite a bit from the 300 issue price (but I don’t know if that included VAT or not). Anyway, I also found many a review that say it’s an excellent Whisky! I’m hoping it is, cause this one won’t stay closed when I get my hands on it….

    I just have to hide it from my Dad! ;)

    Matt

  182. Charles says:

    Why don’t you all learn that WHISKY made in Scotland is spelt WHISKY and not Whiskey before moaning about the price! After all you could drink old JD multi-filtered over priced rotgut that they don’t even print the age on the label….

© Copyright 2014. Whisky Advocate. All rights reserved.