It's (still) a man's world

Malt whisky may be seeing an upturn, but pigeon-holing punters won't help

It's cheering to see some recovery in the malt whisky sector in the year to August, as covered in our 2007 Spirits Report (page 26). It's always seemed to me that people are fascinated by drinks from exotic climates when there's an exciting and diverse world of spirits to be explored on our doorsteps.

At this year's London International Wine & Spirits Fair, Whisky Shop owner Ian Bankier said the time was right for a malt revival. Well, he would say that, but it appears it's starting to happen, courtesy of above-the-line campaigns from the likes of Glenfiddich, plus an increasing consumer interest in food and local sourcing, which fits well with malts.

A bit of a rethink is needed in the way whisky is targeted, though. Last year, a retailer was talking me through his range of Islay malts - a personal favourite of mine - and described them as for "alpha males", even though he'd earlier explained how they'd tried to make the shop female-friendly. I did wonder whether this pigeon-holing would affect his sales technique with female customers. Would he ask them questions about their preferences or just steer them towards something light and honeyed with a pink label? Or simply assume they'd come in to ask directions to the nearest shoe shop?

It was pretty clear to me at that point that whisky marketing and retailing not only need to appeal more to younger drinkers, but female drinkers too.

Involuntary reaction

The Home Office has given Cheshire authorities the go-ahead for a scheme that will see those arrested for alcohol-related offences made to attend a counselling session before release. In theory, it's a good idea.

While boozed-up brawling is probably just a weekend hobby for the majority of those who participate, there could be some drinkers with underlying problems that need to be addressed. But the wording of the press release that landed on OLN's newsdesk is odd - it says drinkers will be "forced to attend" a counselling session.

Why present counselling as a punishment rather than as a sensible way of addressing the problem?

Come on you reds

The Rugby World Cup, kicking off this weekend, could provide a much-needed boost for beer sales after the summer we've had. It might not draw the same level of interest as its football equivalent, but the tournament does seem to gain more momentum each time it's staged.

I'll be opening a bottle or two of Brains or maybe having a snifter of Penderyn whisky in the hope that Gareth Thomas and the boys from Wales can go all the way and beat the All Blacks in the final. And - perhaps more realistically - I hope September brings a steady stream of punters through drinks shop doors.

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