Yesterday I came across a news article in French about Rémy Cointreau’s plans for the newly acquired Bruichladdich distillery. The headline reads “Launch of the world’s most expensive malt” which of course ignited my interest to read on.
In the article, Rémy Cointreau CEO Jean-Marie Laborde is quoted:
Dans ce registre, Rémy Cointreau a acquis la distillerie de Bruichladdich fondée en 1881 sur l’île d’Islay, au large de l’Ecosse, avec la volonté d’y produire «le malt le plus cher du monde», a expliqué Jean-Marie Laborde, directeur général, exprimant une «ambition sans limite sur cette affaire», évaluée à 72,8 millions d’euros.
This essentially translates into “We have a limitless ambition to produce the world’s most expensive malt at Bruichladdich.”
If this article isn’t a case of sloppy journalism putting statements in between double quotes that a person never has said or meant this way (and we know such things do happen in journalism), this is explosive news indeed.
It seems Mr. Laborde is destined to Dalmorize Bruichladdich, moving away from the Progressive Hebridean Distillers niche to the glitzy world of ‘luxury’ bottlings and crystal decanters we have come to be flooded with recently. Keeping in mind that from 1996 to 2003 Jean-Marie Laborde was CEO of Moët & Chandon belonging to LVMH, this move is hardly a surprise.
Evidently, such a change of direction is not in the spirit in which the previous owners, and Mark Reynier in particular, had run the distillery. And I am almost 100% sure that Jean-Marie Laborde did not mention such plans during the takeover talks. Rather the owners (naively?) believed that apart from the intriguing prospect of doubling the production nothing would change for the time being. L’argent fait tout.
Another question of course is how exactly Bruichaddich wants to fulfill this
threatpromise. World’s most expensive whisky better be old. Do they still have high quality old stock to create bottlings on eye level with the most expensive 50+ year old Macallans, Glenfiddichs and Dalmores? I don’t think Mr. Laborde wants to wait 40 more years until the new stock has come to that age. He is already over 60 and I am sure that he wants to taste the fruits of his limitless ambition while still alive.
Additional Reflections (Update)
The term “world’s most expensive malt” can of course mean two things. The more I think about it, the less I believe Rémy Cointreau is merely trying to compete with the one-off £100+k bottlings. If there is a grain of truth in what the CEO stated, “malt” may also stand for the entire Bruichladdich brand. They may intend to lift the entire Bruichladdich product range to a luxury price level, to turn it into the first proper (in their view) luxury Scotch single malt brand.
This of course would mean that Dalmore is not a very fitting example of where they are heading to. Dalmore is cheap but quiet at the bottom end of the range, and expensive but loud at the top end. Maybe they have something like “Macallan plus” in mind, especially now that the former Rolls Royce of whisky has lost much of its luxury appeal after taking the NAS route for their entry level bottlings.
Update 29th November
The source of Mr. Laborde’s statmeent was not given in the original article. The statement is from the 27th November press conference of Rémy Cointreau where the latest earnings figures were presented. – Another source quoting Mr. Laborde on the “world’s most expensive malt”