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Glenlivet 12 Discontinued In Key Markets – Age Doesn’t Matter So Much Anymore For Chivas

by Oliver Klimek on February 8, 2015

Another sobering piece of whisky news has just hit my RSS feed. In his blog Words of Whisky Thijs Klaverstijn reports that Pernod Ricard has confirmed that Glenlivet 12 will be discontinued in a number of markets. It will be replaced by the recently introduced Founder’s Reserve

This news comes only six weeks after Pernod Ricard had announced plans for an expansion of the Glenlivet distillery that would allow production to be tripled from the current level.

It is not entirely clear yet what countries will be affected by the withdrawal of the Glenlivet 12, but the UK and Germany seem to be confirmed. Here is a quote from the statement Pernod Ricard made:

“Founder’s Reserve will roll out in countries where whisky knowledge is strong, consumers are becoming more familiar with new concepts, are by far the most developed in their tastes and have the greater thirst for new products.

Whilst not all countries will stock both and some countries may stock one or the other, this is about us having an opportunity to explore The Glenlivet with a new expression that focuses on a key element of the brand and its heritage. We feel that the time is right to bring something brand new to our consumers.”

Looking at how the whisky market has presented itself in recent years, it is doubtful that shortages in aged stock have not contributed to this step.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, so they say. But maybe it is. So far Pernod Ricard has been rather reluctant to jump onto the No Age Statement bandwagon that has already become pretty crowded with their competitors. But Glenlivet 12, along with Glenfiddich 12, is one of the largest selling single malt whiskies worldwide, so the decision to remove it from a number of markets is indeed a small earthquake.

The above statement cites strong whisky knowledge as a key factor for the introduction of a whisky without an age statement. But for several years now, Pernod Ricard has been running the Age Matters campaign to educate whisky drinkers about the importance of age statements which the company has been relying heavily upon so far. Now they have themselves cornered. This will be a tricky one to get out of.

Pernod Ricard’s rivals from Diageo in contrary have been actively embracing NAS whisky for quite a while. They have done a lot of PR work designed to increase NAS acceptance like for example their “Blind Truth About Whisky Aging” event at Tales of the Cocktail 2014. With Talisker they have pulled the plug completely now. After “Storm”, “Dark Storm” and “Port Ruighe” they have now released “Skye” as the fourth NAS expression in only two years. And not too long before the “57° North” had been introduced as well.

More than anything else, this move from Pernod Ricard shows us what whisky PR is all about. It is not about education. Not a single bit. It is about making you want to buy their products with whatever means possible, even – to quote the Alcohol Professor report about the “Blind Truth” event – if it requires them to say “We have always been at war with Eastasia.”

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Diego February 8, 2015 at 10:39 am

It will be interesting to see which countries get which treatment. Not because I particularly care about Glenlivet 12, but because it may tell us a little more about how whisky companies are talking to/among themselves:
What aspects of their PR/Marketing/Bullshit do they think are working, and in which countries?
What parts of this stuff are they actually telling – and believing – themselves?
Is any of it based on research/fact?

Because If I were a vile, greedy, amoral spirits’ company head honcho, I’d want to be pretty certain that in those established markets from which the 12 was to be removed (eg UK and Germany) people were actually believing PR crap and behaving in ways to support dross like “where whisky knowledge is strong, consumers are becoming more familiar with new concepts” etc etc.

It seems like quite a big risk to take, replacing a best-seller with a new, inferior product (assuming of course that it is inferior – I’ve not tried it, nor, to be honest, have I had the 12 for quite a while) in some of your key markets, while leaving that same best-seller to battle it out in other smaller or developing markets – who, the inference is, are too dumb, stubborn or drunk on some other liquor to listen to all your bright shiny words.

I’m also really keen to find out how developed in my tastes I am.

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two-bit cowboy February 8, 2015 at 4:53 pm

More of a continuation or expansion than a new concept for Pernod Ricard. Last year their Nadurra Oloroso set the stage for this, although as far as I know it didn’t replace the 16 yo bourbon cask matured favorite. Pernod will also have another Nadurra coming soon, if it’s not already in some markets. I can’t recall the name, but it’s virgin oak. And didn’t I just try a new 14 yo, or was that the other big Glen?

We still get Macallan 12 in the USA, and The ‘livet 12 sells very well here so it’ll be interesting to see whether Pernod thinks all those buyers have that “greater thirst.”

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Thijs @ Words of Whisky February 10, 2015 at 4:11 pm

As far as I know the 16yo bourbon cask Nadurra is currently being replaced by a NAS version. And no, I don’t mean the Nadurra Oloroso, I mean a bourbon cask matured NAS.

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two-bit cowboy February 9, 2015 at 12:05 am

Back home now… Yes, I tried a Glenlivet 14 yo Cask Strength (59.5%) OB about three weeks ago in Victoria. I didn’t ask the person pouring if it was slated to replace anything. I scored it equal to the first 16 yo Nadurra I had (Batch 1007D, 57.7%). Although I never fell out of love with Nadurra 16, I never thought any of the subsequent batches I was able to try lived up to 1007D.

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Lawrence February 9, 2015 at 5:10 am

It will be withdrawn from those markets where they make the least money from it and kept in those markets where they make the most from it.

It’s quite simple.

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kallaskander February 9, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Hi there,

could be the markets with least profits. In German Super Markets you could get the Glenlivet 12yo for less than 25.- € . For years on end.

It is probably much easier to withdraw the bottling and to offer a new much more expensive one than to explain why the 12yo should now cost more than 30.- € or whatever.

Greetings
kallaskander

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Thomas W February 9, 2015 at 2:55 pm

I wonder if the “key markets” indicated here are still actually that, key markets. Could it really have been an unexpected increase of sales in Europe that have now forced Chivas to re-think their long term strategy?

I find it more likely that the “old whisky world” markets simply are not that important anymore. The new markets however are relatively less critical and less accustomed to “aged” malts. They might indeed not care if The Glenlivet they find on the shelves is 12yo or NAS. And they just might be the customers that matter to Chivas (and potentially its share holders).

The PR stunt us Europeans (and Americans) are about to witness is probably merely something that happens ungracefully – in a terrain that is no longer very important, and far aside the path of the new master plan.

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Josh February 12, 2015 at 9:20 pm

I’m getting really frustrated with this obfuscation in the whisky industry. I understand that producers need to make money, and that as demand increases, they need to find ways to cut costs as they increase production.

I recognize that this necessitates releasing a greater proportion of younger whiskies, and I’m not bothered by that – there are plenty of nuanced, enjoyable young spirits out there. What bothers me is the perceived need to hide a whisky’s youth behind a catchy name and a flashy label. This is compounded by the tendency to to charge premium prices for these young expressions. I love whisky, and I don’t mind fresh young releases, but this practice leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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Jeff February 13, 2015 at 3:30 pm

If you’re frustrated by obfuscation, take a stand for production information and boycott NAS.

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Josh February 14, 2015 at 1:38 am

It’s becoming increasingly temping.

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Josh February 14, 2015 at 1:38 am

It’s becoming increasingly tempting.

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the whisky lady February 17, 2015 at 10:32 pm

Great article, as usual !

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two-bit cowboy February 24, 2015 at 4:25 pm

Is it double-speak or simply a change in direction? Pernod Ricard announced a new NAS blend: Chivas Regal Extra.

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Garthc September 14, 2015 at 8:04 pm

I am gutted to see the end of the 12 yo as it was one of my staples. I tried a bottle of Founder’s Reserve and found it initially pleasant on the first taste but bland and completely lacking in any depth. Glenlivet you’ve just lost a customer and I suspect not the last…….

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Dave K July 10, 2016 at 7:14 am

I Too Love the Glenlivet 12. Drank it everyday . Now cant find it. Tried the founders reserved twice its not nearly as good.
VERY disappointing. Based in Australia
Forced me to look for new brands. Must say I,m enjoying Glenmorangie.

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