I bet Richard Rushton, the new CEO of Distell, wishes he could sell his wine division and put all his attention into whisky. After a life as the golden boy of SAMiller, Dick is adept at managing malt, so single malts are the obvious next step up the spirit ladder. Dick is more golden than Ferrero Rocher as after he turned down the Pioneer Foods job that went to Phil Roux, he was parachuted into the La-Z-Boy recliner at Aan-de-Wagenweg so quickly, no one in Distell even knew what he looked like. This is Stalinist succession planning at its best.
Meanwhile the whisky stocks of Distell continue to go from strength to strength under new management. The latest coup is a listing as the first of five whiskies recommended by the Guardian “to get you started.”
“It’s a myth that blends aren’t as good as malts. Whiskies are blended to create consistency while malts vary with each barrell (sic), so if you want to sell a whisky that always tastes the same you have to blend it to create the flavour you want. Black Bottle is a mix of many different whiskies. The key notes are salt, mild smoke and mild spice. It’s lightly sweet and very smooth.”
Black Bottle is a Distell product that should surely be marketed more forcibly in Soweto and Gugulethu. The rest of the piece on “learn how to drink whisky” is strange indeed. There is an expert called Garry at the Whiski Rooms in Edinburgh asking “Can you smell that it’s sweet?” Duh! Is this a trick question as sweet has no smell. But no, “I’m getting icing sugar,” says Garry. Which confirms the Su Birch rule-of-thumb, beware people and institutions with groovy spelling. Run a mile.
Or drive away in a Black Bottle Bus (above). I proposed a Richelieu Brandy Bus staffed by Ladyboys to the design “experts” at this month’s Design Indaba. The brief was a mobile brandy bar but a Combi was judged “too mobile.” Looking at the winners, I think the designers confused “mobile” with “modular.” So if any brandy producer wants to boost their sales I have a killer business plan in the garage. Dave? Peadar?