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Can Three Singletons Become The World’s Best Selling Single Malt?

by Oliver Klimek on November 17, 2015

Last week Diageo announced its plans to bring their Singleton brand to the top of the sales statistics. Currently they are on fifth place. Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and Macallan currently hold the leading positions in global Scotch single malt sales.

This feat is supposed to be achieved by the combination of increased promotion, including selling all three Singletons – Dufftown, Glendullan and Glen Ord – in all markets, and the recently expanded production capacity of Glen Ord. So far, Dufftwon has only been available in Europe, Glendullan in America and Glen Ord in Asia.

Of course Diageo knows that the combined output of three distilleries can technically not be compared to a single malt in the true sense like Glenlivet or Glenfiddich. A single malt is defined as malt whisky from a single distillery. So this could only ever be a brand to brand comparison, or apples to oranges if you prefer.

Needless to say that this is obfuscated by the cunning “Singleton” brand name that somehow suggests true single-maltness even though the three distilleries produce three different malt whiskies. And people who don’t care too much about whisky regulations – probably the majority of the target audience – may not even notice this.

Diageo and its predecessors have always owned a lot of distilleries, but none of them were big enough to match the competitors’ flagships on their own. Only now, after building Roseisle and expanding Glen Ord, they have distilleries that are on eye level in terms of capacity. But logically the increased volume will only be ready for bottling after years of maturation.

So the only way to start the way to the top now and not in a few years is to promote the Singleton umbrella brand in a way that it will gain world-wide visibility. But in the end it remains an artificially constructed brand opposed to single distilleries that have gained international reputation over many decades.

And should the Tripletons really make it to the top one day, Pernod Ricard could easily fight back by creating their own umbrella brand. Let’s suppose they call it “Elixir”, so “Elixir of Glenlivet”, “Elixir of Strathisla”, “Elixir of Scapa” and so on could easily win back the crown. After all it’s just a matter of branding.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Steffen November 17, 2015 at 1:01 pm

What about the singleton of Auchroaisk ?

In bridge, the word singleton is used for holding 1 Card of a suit, doubleton for holding two Card in a suit. Tripleton is rarely used (at least in Danish) so it’s now a Diageo term ?

Steffen

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Oliver Klimek November 17, 2015 at 1:18 pm

No, it’s my own 😉 The correct sequence is of course singleton, twin and triplet.

The Singleton of Auchroisk has been discontinued, so I didn’t bother to mention it.

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Jeff November 17, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Sort of like you don’t bother to mention that NAS is a complete lie about the nature of whisky itself – the influence of age simply can’t be label dependent, mattering here but not there and varying with marketing.

It’s difficult to be concerned with Diageo’s plans, or whether they come to fruition, when the people who know whisky best don’t seem to care if the majority of whisky consumers are being misled on the most fundamental points about whisky. Quite frankly, the latter is a much bigger story. People are so “cunning” in their comments about this and that tree… any chance of acknowledging the forest?

Does age matter to whisky or not? If not, to which whiskies does it supposedly not matter and which of those wouldn’t be significantly different in character at either half or twice their present (disclosed or undisclosed) age?

“And people who don’t care about too much whisky regulations – probably the majority of the target audience – may not even notice this.” – talking about OTHER people’s “blindness” is hilarious in this context, Oliver. Where IS the supposed value of “expertise” and “industry-independent commentary” here? Is the problem that you didn’t recognize that NAS is a lie before anyone else, so without being able to take credit for “the revelation”, you simply ignore the issue?

I know I go on about this, but somebody should because the silence about NAS is a major issue – maybe, evidently, too big to be dealt with in this blog, which is very interesting in itself – and the people who read what I write know it isn’t spam; it’s just a can of worms they don’t want to touch for whatever reason (whisky/industry/blogger/insider politics, who knows, but who really cares?). It’s very disappointing that experts can’t acknowledge what they know about age and NAS, and instead choose to help the industry with marketing through their silence.

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Oliver Klimek November 17, 2015 at 2:49 pm

I find it somehow fascinating how in each and every comment you try to turn the discussion towards NAS whisky, regardless of the topic. I have stated my opinion about it more often than enough and I see no need to repeat it time and time again. Why not discuss the topic itself?

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Jeff November 17, 2015 at 2:55 pm

So, it’s your opinion that NAS IS a lie about the nature of age maturation? I don’t remember reading that anywhere, only that the main issue with NAS whiskies was quality. Does age matter to whisky or not and, if it does, how is its importance magically suspended through NAS labels?

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Ol' Jas November 21, 2015 at 6:26 am

Please stop attaching big NAS rants to unrelated articles.

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Jeff November 21, 2015 at 2:45 pm

Again, where/when are these points going to be discussed? To be quite honest, I don’t care as much about the popularity of what I’m saying as the substance of it (and I wish that would catch on, particularly in whisky) – and little flip opinions aren’t going to change that, especially from those who can’t answer these questions either.

Got no opinion as to whether NAS is a lie about the nature of whisky? No surprise to me. I don’t tell you to stop making fluff comments, so why do you have a problem with substantive points you can’t answer?

Ol' Jas November 22, 2015 at 11:04 pm

Jeff, I don’t know if you’re talking to me directly, but my point is that there are plenty of articles on whisky websites—this one included—about NAS whisky. This isn’t one of them.

Any of those other articles would be fine places to post your opinions.

Jeff November 22, 2015 at 11:43 pm

I am talking to you directly, Jas, and I did raise these same points in the articles cited below, and they were completely ignored, as they have been here as well (and previously). As far as I’m concerned, the entire issues’ ABOUT what people want to ignore – and that’s my point.

If you have some insight, either into what I’ve said or about Diageo’s plans for Singleton, just say it, whatever it is; I’m not really interested in opinions about whether my comments are “appropriate” in terms of placement when no one will deal with the substance of them in any case.

Ol' Jas November 23, 2015 at 2:19 am

Jeff, am I right in guessing that you’re the same “Jeff” who posts on All Things Whisky? Don’t your NAS comments get plenty of response over there? (And aren’t some of them even attached to relevant NAS articles, like “Sins of Omission”?)

And regardless, if your comments about NAS whisky that are attached to articles about NAS whisky fail to elicit the response you’re looking for, why do you think the same will fare better if attached to UNRELATED articles?

Also, it’s just weird. I’m not out to get you or anything, but I’ve seen you do it enough times that I thought you should know.

You asked for my opinions:

•NAS whisky. I think I agree with most everything you say. Of all the often-omitted info that I want about the bottles I buy, it’s #1. I mostly buy aged-stated malts. I always applaud a company honestly stating low ages, like Glendronach with their 8 YO and most indies. I like the gimmick of reviewers calling all NAS whisky “three years old.”

•Singleton as the world’s biggest single malt: Seems like a joke. But also, it’s only mildly interesting. I’d spin it as “Diageo Plans to Make Three Unloved Malts the Next Glenlivet 12.” I don’t care about the Tripletons and I don’t care about Glenlivet 12. The main appeal of a topic like this is the (hopefully) amusing commentary from fellow whisky drinkers.

Jeff November 23, 2015 at 8:49 am

To be honest, Jas, I don’t really care about others’ ideas of “propriety” here, or if or where others think my ideas “get a fair shake” elsewhere. I’m talking about the points I’ve made HERE, on THIS site, both now AND previously (and repeatedly) – and they’re VERY valid points. NAS is sheer deception because the importance of age, if it has any importance to the character of whisky at all (a question most, including yourself, Oliver, and MargareteMarie don’t really answer), CAN’T be label dependent, mattering here but not there with the whims of marketing. It’s not a case, you see, of just whether people “would like” age information or find it “often lacking” on what they buy or not; it’s a case of the very foundations of NAS being based on a lie. Beyond that first point is the second point that whisky “experts” are universally silent UPON the first point, which undercuts the idea of them being experts to say the least.

Put frankly, it again boils down to the questions I asked earlier –

Again, does age matter to whisky or not? If not, to which whiskies does it supposedly not matter and which of those wouldn’t be significantly different in character at either half or twice their present (disclosed or undisclosed) age? If age does matter, how is its importance magically suspended through NAS labels?

If people, let alone experts, REALLY “don’t know” whether age matters to the character of whisky, then figuring that out should take clear precedence over worrying about a Diageo press release. If people DO know that age matters to whisky but support the deception of NAS anyway… well, that’s a much bigger issue too, isn’t it? Feet held to the fire, Oliver and many others simply won’t acknowledge my arguments, which certainly says as much about them as me. If Oliver HAD actually dealt with the points I raised previously, I wouldn’t feel the need to raise them again, but he’s avoiding the issue – and that’s an issue in itself.

The problem for MarareteMarie is that (s)he can’t follow what I’m saying and so, for her/him, it all reverts to the far more comfortable issue of philosophical perspective, and truth “being in the eye of the beholder”, when things are a good deal more clear than that it this case.

MargareteMarie November 23, 2015 at 1:26 am

Jeff, the problem is that you are not discussing whisky, you are discussing philosophy. What is truth? You imply, that there is a universal concept of truth. But that is a wrong assumtion. Your concept of truth might be very different to my concept of truth.
And yes, it is very impolite to fish in Oliver’s water for audience. Write your own posts. I’m sure, if you have anything of relevance to say, you will find your audience.

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kallaskander November 17, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Hi there,

well Jeff, you know I am with you for most of the stretch of this NAS-ty thing. Or if you didn’t know now you do.

But as important as the subject is the whisky world does no revolve on an axis that is called NAS alone imo.
There are other issues as well and one is the paradox that Diageo seems to have found out that it is not amongs the contestants for the title of best selling single malt whisky in the world – and wants to go about it with a brand name under which three different single malts are sold.

A subject wich is much closer to your and my heart concerning NAS whiskies and age is this one I think.

http://www.thespiritsbusiness.com/2015/11/diageo-aims-to-kill-bs-in-scotch-whisky/

Quote: Diageo believes it must combat the “erosion” of consumer trust in big institutions, calling Johnnie Walker the world’s “largest craft whisky brand”. Unquote.

Consumer trust Jeff, that is our element!

Which is to be seen in combination with

http://www.thespiritsbusiness.com/2015/11/diageo-creates-experimental-craft-whisky-arm/

a Diageo notion which is coming from the US I would believe – if I believed it.

So come on, give Oliver a break. He really has blogged against NAS whiskies more – even if not enough in your eyes.

Greetings
kallaskander

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Jeff November 17, 2015 at 5:28 pm

Thanks for the response, and I also wish we could move on – I just never knew that anyone thought the contradictions of NAS would go away by ignoring them (although it is consistent with the marketing itself).

If the issue is silence on a topic, when is “the appropriate time” to bring it up? After I’m done worrying about what Diageo just announced? OK… I’m done. It’s not a case of whether anyone “blogs enough” about NAS, however, but what is said ABOUT it, and I DID raise these points at the time, and there was no response –

http://www.dramming.com/2015/03/25/blind-tasting-project-nas-vs-age-statement/

http://www.dramming.com/2015/06/21/photo-finish-between-age-statement-and-nas-whisky-in-big-blind-tasting/

Just what is Oliver’s position? “My own stance on this should be known by now. I don’t condemn NAS whisky in principle but more often than not I have the impression that NAS whiskies don’t compare favourably to age statement whiskies that have a similar or even lower price” – and I’d LOVE to know just what are the “principles of NAS” that he has no problem with.

Oliver’s main concern is with quality and value, admirable in itself, but no matter how extensive or nuanced, that position is completely irrelevant to the points I’m making if it doesn’t answer them. Is quality an issue with some NAS releases? Maybe, but it’s an issue with some age statements as well – and a label won’t change that – but that’s a completely different thing than endorsing, through silence, the utterly ridiculous notion that age isn’t a contributor TO whisky character or that its effects can be “erased” by failing to discuss age on NAS labels – “age matters here, but not there, depending on what the marketing boys say is best for sales”. As I did say before, and repeatedly, the problems with NAS are more FUNDAMENTAL than whether anyone thinks this or that one is very good or is a good buy – but all to no avail or acknowledgement.

Again, does age matter to whisky or not? If not, to which whiskies does it supposedly not matter and which of those wouldn’t be significantly different in character at either half or twice their present (disclosed or undisclosed) age? If age does matter, how is its importance magically suspended through NAS labels?

Consumer trust in the industry is an issue? So, frankly, is trust in experts, until people start telling the truth about NAS. Give Oliver a break? Give the consumer a break – (s)he’s the one supporting this website through readership (which is why ads CAN be sold). If I’m somehow “beating up on Oliver” just by making points he continually can’t or won’t answer, I’m not sure the problem is so much with my attitude as with his position.

In truth, I don’t really blame Oliver for not putting up a fight here; I couldn’t either, arguing the other side of this, because age DOES matter to whisky and, in not acknowledging that simple truth, NAS marketing IS a COMPLETE and OBVIOUS lie about the nature of age maturation and whisky itself. Oliver can’t make NAS make sense, but that’s ABSOLUTELY no fault of his because no one can, but that doesn’t mean that he, and others, can’t or shouldn’t denounce it as false – not in what it says about business, but in what it says about whisky. I thought he might finally acknowledge the truth… I hoped so but, if not, I guess we’ll continue to worry about what this or that distillery is doing… and what other people don’t know about whisky that experts supposedly do.

All the above said, I do respect what Oliver does and his writing – but the blind spot here is staggering if not intentional, and it is one shared by most whisky writers.

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Jeff November 18, 2015 at 10:52 am

And, of course…. once again…. cue the crickets. No silence on these point here – what was I thinking?

I’ll give Oliver full credit for his belief in free speech but, judging from the questions I ask that, apparently, have no answers (from anyone), does anybody still think that I’m not on to something here?

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MargareteMarie November 18, 2015 at 12:11 am

Thanks for the “Tripleton”. I like it. :-))

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kallaskander December 24, 2015 at 9:20 am

Hi there,

in order to reach their questionable goal to become world wide market leader in the single malt category with a conglomerate brand under the heading “The Singleton” Diageo decided to turn down the self errected barriers in the distribution of said conglomerate brand as a first step.
The first bottles of the 12yo The Singleton of Glen Ord have arrived in Germany.

Greetings
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

kallaskander

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