When I look at the Scottish whisky industry, I see a long history of tradition and reinvention. I know that is kind of a contradiction, but we all know that most have been in business for over a hundred years or more. Every distillery still in business has had to change in some way, to evolve with the changing face of the industry and at the same time keep its heritage. At times this must be a very challenging process to manage, even more so now with we live in a 24/7 society. Where what was fashionable and the product to own can within 24hrs be cast a side for the next big thing.
Now I know we who love whisky will always take the time to enjoy it and when we find that malt we love, well it’s generally with us for the rest of our lives. So how do the distilleries manage this balance of change and tradition, while connecting with the future generations of whisky drinkers and pleasing loyal customers.
Now when it comes to the distillery I will use as an example of managing this balancing act, I’ve got a bit of a soft spot. Tomatin was the first single malt I discovered on my own that I loved, it’s also the very first distillery I ever visited. So yes from my first dram to this day I’ve loved it and for that reason,any changes they make are important to me.
Tomatin have recently announced that they will be giving their core range a new look, this rebranding will launch in March 2016. That in its self is nothing new most major brands have a face-lift at some point in their lives, what has peaked my interest more is the way it’s been marketed.
Tomatin has gone for a quite elegant look for the core range. The incorporation of the Monadhliath mountains that surround the distillery in a modern stylish way, across the bottom of the cartons and the new style bottles. Combined with the deep rich earthy colours and the keeping of the recognisable Tomatin logo, I feel this is a good balance of tradition and modern making it a winning combination. Something I feel will appeal to loyal customers and the next generation of customers.
Combine the new packaging with the marketing, which focuses on the people that make the malt and the quality that is both put in and produced in the distillery. Highlighting the softer side of the highlands makes me feel that they are trying to evolve with the changing face of the industry, but not forget about its past and heritage.
I also like the fact that they have evolved the core range but not at the expense of tradition, it would have been easy to incorporate a peated Tomatin malt into this core range. Instead they started another range under a different Tomatin brand to pursue this avenue of expansion. Deciding to keep the Tomatin range separate from the Cu Bocan range including a different design and style for the range.
There is one more point that I would like to say about Tomatin that I feel the next generation of whisky lovers will appreciate, is that they will try and be as transparent as they possible can with what they do. As an example there has been a bit of a furore about labeling and what information is allowed to be displayed. It was in my opinion a valid gesture from a great distillery that wants to change with the times, a distillery that believes it’s customers have a right to know what they are purchasing. One that also has complete faith in the quality of its products that stood there and asked the SWA, to lobby for the right to allow this information to be provide on the label of the product if the producer wishes to.
I also feel that we, the consumers, have a big part to play in the balancing act the distilleries have keep. We have to give them the opportunity to evolve and change with the times, I know that this can sometimes not always be for the better. That is when we as the loyal fans have to let them know it’s not working. What we must not do is automatically think that change means things will be for the worse. I’ve seen some blogs and posts on social media, about the New World Whisky distillery in Australia. They have caught the attention of Diageo, who has bought a minority share in the company. Now not all the posts have been negative but some are complaining that a multinational company will take over and swamp the character of the distillery. I think that as long as what brought them to the attention of such a large company is nurtured and allowed to grow, then the support from such a big company can only be a good thing. Giving them the chance to expand and experiment, with out the fear of jeopardising what they have already achieved.
I suppose as long as we as consumers keep our standards and at the same time give the distilleries the opportunity to grow and change, then we always be able to enjoy and pass on to future generations a quality product.