Nomad Whisky by Gonzales Byass – Not So Unique After All

by Oliver Klimek on July 5, 2014

Last week the famous sherry producer Gonzales Byass presented their new Nomad Whisky in Taipeh. It is a blended Scotch whisky – created by Richard Paterson – that underwent a finish in Gonzales Byass PX sherry butts in Spain. According to an article in Drinks International, Gonzales Byass International Spirits Manager Peter Allison “speculated that Nomad could be the start of a new whisky category. “

But the story of the Nomad rings a bell. It was the very same Richard Paterson who also created the Sheep Dip Amoroso Oloroso in 2012. This blended malt was finished in Amoroso casks in Jerez, not at Gonzales Byass but at Bodegas Romate. I asked Peter Allison on Twitter if he was aware of the Sheep Dip, and he was kind enough to respond:

“We are calling it an Outland Whisky as the category. The work that Sheep Dip did in 12 was a great touchstone for us. We aren’t saying that Nomad is a completely unthought of concept, but developing a category around it is. Sorry for any confusion.”

While this statement indeed acknowledges the Sheep Dip Amoroso Oloroso as a “touchstone” that led Gonzales Byass to have their own version made by Richard Paterson, I don’t find the explanation about “developing a category” very satisfying, in fact it really is confusing.

I have read comments along the lines of “Who cares as long as the whisky is good”, also by people working for other whisky producers. But I beg to disagree. Already a few days after the launch there are many articles with headlines like “Gonzales Byass unveil new whisky category”. Everything you can read about Nomad creates the impression that Gonzales Byass were the first ever to age whisky in a different country than the one where it has been distilled. Be it intentional or not, this gives them a credit they have not deserved but which is likely to increase their exposure in the market.

The general concept of moving whisky to a different place for at least part of the maturation time is even older than the Sheep Dip Amoroso Oloroso. The late Michel Couvreuer had been maturing Scotch in France for many years. Another example are the two Amrut expressions Two Continents and Herald which enjoyed the final time of their maturation in Europe after ageing in India. I am sure there have been more experiments in this direction.

This isn’t to say that Gonzales Byass’s idea is to be condemned. The whisky is probably quite tasty. And experiments in whisky making are always welcome even if the results sometimes make you wonder. But it is definitively not them who deserve to be lauded as innovators of whisky for opening up a whole new category. The “Outland” category as they call it has been defined by the pioneers that came before the Nomad. So far Gonzales Byass have only added this whisky to it. In another article Paul Allison is quoted saying that any further expressions could take “10 to 15 years” and would depend on the success of the Nomad. To me this does not look very much like “developing a category”, even though now they might wish to say “we made it possible”, if other whisky producers did something similar.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Bernhard Rems July 5, 2014 at 3:09 pm

I beg to differ somehow. First of all, psychologically they are indeed creating the new category by explicitly naming and communicating it. That’s what happens in marketing and advertising all the time. And even with real inventors :-) – look at Edison, who didn’t really invent the light bulb at all. And they will only be remembered for creating this category if they are successful. So lets wait and see.

Their saying that it could take 1o to 15 years to create a further expressions is – in my opinion – a tactical announcement, to make their product more desireable for the customers and to shy away competitors in some way. They want to stay alone in the category for some time, to be recognized as the innovators.

So, while Sheep Dip remained rather silent about what it was, maybe not to alienate customers, Nomad has some sort of “coming out” and, if successful, may carry the medal of creating a category quite rightfully then.

Reply

Oliver Klimek July 5, 2014 at 3:19 pm

To me this is very much like the official recent Girvan single grains. They too called it opening up a new category http://www.thespiritsbusiness.com/2013/10/william-grant-pioneers-new-scotch-category-with-girvan-single-grain/ Of course the category was there before. The difference here is that they invented a nifty name, but they did not create the category.

Reply

Oliver Klimek July 5, 2014 at 3:32 pm

And my primary gripe is that – as you said with Edison – the way they communicate it makes it look as if they were the true inventors. If this was intentional, then it was also insincere.

Reply

Pieter July 6, 2014 at 7:53 am

Can it be called scotch when it didn’t spend it’s entire maturation in Scotland?

Reply

Oliver Klimek July 6, 2014 at 7:55 am

It cannot be and it is not called Scotch.

Reply

Pieter July 7, 2014 at 8:27 am

Because in the beginning of the article you are talking about blended scotch… Don’t want to nitpick, but I just was curious myself if scotch could be matured elsewhere for a certain period.

Reply

Oliver Klimek July 7, 2014 at 8:32 am

Well, it was blended Scotch when it was sent to Spain.

Reply

kallaskander July 7, 2014 at 11:14 am

Hi there,

reminds me of a few things… Amrut Helgoland, ah sorry Herald it is of course. Indian malt matured on the German Island of Helgoland. Now India does not have this issue with “terroir” as Scotland seems to have…

The Kurizawas… the reminder bought up by a European company and matured further where? Is Japanese whisky bottled outside of Japan Outlander whisky as well – or can the name by SWA rule only be applied to Scotch?

Which would be a neat trick by the way. First you forbid the useage of the term Scotch for whisky which is made but not matured and bottled in Scotland entirely. Than you come up with a new “category” and claim the name you invented for this category as being reserved for Scotch whisky migrated to the Outland as being genuine Scottsih as well…

Linie Aquvavit – no seriously, whisky barrels were used as ballast in sailing ships in times gone by and travalled half round the world. These barrels were nomads.

Compass Box… somehow it reminds me of Compass Box and that short lived company which die the same with whiskies sourced from Glenfiddich… what was the name again?
No matter in the begining of the ne era of blended malts wasn’t there talk about a new category of whisky as well…?

Greetings
kallaskander

Reply

niels July 9, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Hi kallaskander,

The Karuizawa whisky is all warehoused in Japan at Chichibu distillery.

Cheers,

Niels

Reply

tanstaafl2 July 7, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Oliver notes: Well, it was blended Scotch when it was sent to Spain.

Was it three years old when it was sent to Spain? I am asking because I don’t know the answer. Doesn’t it have to be to be called Scotch? If not then is it truly Blended Scotch whisky? Or are the rules different for a blend?

And hasn’t Michel Couvreur been doing something like this in France for years with varying degrees of success? There must be others as well in addition to what is noted above. Not sure I can give them much credit for “inventing” a category of whisky.

Reply

Oliver Klimek July 7, 2014 at 5:50 pm

I have mentioned Michel Couvreur in the article. And the details about the blend can be found in the second linked article (near the bottom)

Reply

tanstaafl2 July 7, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Ah, so you did! My oversight for not noting you gave credit to Couvreur whisky already. In any case, I agree with you that crediting them with a “new” category of whisky seems generous indeed and is instead a calculated marketing ploy than anything else. That said I suppose I might still give it a try if the opportunity presents itself although at that rather bland low proof I probably won’t unless it comes with a fairly bland low price.

Reply

Frank Murphy July 15, 2014 at 6:16 pm

To add to this is the Kelt Tour du Monde blended malt by Invergordon Dsitillers, a part of Whyte & Mackay, which was put into casks that were, as with the akvavit, put on board a ship and sailed around the world. It would appear that the ‘Tache has been playing around with this idea for some time now.

With regards to the Sheep Dip Amoroso Oloroso, as far as I know the whisky was indeed over three years old before being sent to Spanish boarding school.

Reply

Bob Taylor September 4, 2014 at 11:53 pm

My understanding of the Sheep Dip Amoroso Oloroso saga is that after 3 years in cask in Scotland it was sent to Jerez with the intention of it spending 9 MONTHS in sherry casks before being bottled and sold on the Spanish market. FORTUNATELY the broker went out of business and the casks stayed in the warehouse in Jerez for 9 YEARS … It was at this point that Richard Paterson came on the scene and tasted the nectar – he immediately snapped it up on behalf of the Spencerfield Spirit Company.

On a personal note I’ve got to say that it’s one of the finest whiskies I’ve ever tasted ;)

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: