EXCLUSIVE: ELI GREENBLAT, BEVERAGES Source – Weekend Australian – Business Section 16th Sept 2017. A bottle of whisky isn’t just for Christmas. It’s also not just a lastminute present for Father’s Day, or a retirement gift for that colleague at work nobody really knew that well but everyone thought a whisky sounded like a satisfactory parting gift for. Whisky is weaving its way out of its traditional domicile of presents and wedding receptions to permeate dinner parties and business lunches, at popular ontrend whisky bars and increasingly on restaurant drinks menus. It has become a drink that is starting to replace dessert wines at the end of a meal. A tipple after dinner, a nip of whisky at the end of an exhausting day at work or a wee dram of 18-year-old single malt when the kids have finally gone to sleep and it’s “me time”. Boosted by popular culture, especially the breakout success of the TV show Mad Men — every man thinks he looks like suave actor Jon Hamm when he fondles a tumbler of whisky — and an increasing confidence to experiment with spirits, it means whisky is enjoying a boom time in Australia. While other beverages, such as beer and wine, are achieving only flat growth, sales of scotch single malt whiskies are growing at double-digit rates — posting 12 percent growth over the 12 months to the end of October, and 18 percent over the three months through October. Whisky is now Australia’s top selling spirit, overtaking bourbon in 2016. This hasn’t escaped the nation’s biggest liquor retailers, the supermarkets, and it’s encouraging them to source more varieties so they can offer shoppers something other than just Johnnie Walker. This has helped forge an unlikely relationship between Coles and Scotland’s Loch Lomond distillery, which traces its history back to 1772 and crafts its amber drop on the “bonny banks” of the biggest loch in Britain. It took about 15 months to negotiate an exclusive deal, led by Coles sourcing manager for spirits Greg Lasscock, and a range of eight Loch Lomond whisky products — two blends and six single malts — was launched a few weeks ago. “In the spirit space one of the keys for us is about credibility, heritage, provenance, and it’s very easy just to go and get a made-up name and whack it on a bottle of scotch and say it’s 18 years old but not knowing where it has come from,’’ Mr Lasscock told The Weekend Australian. “So really what we have tried to do in the spirit space with these guys is really go down an exclusive brand route and try to secure supply from guys that want to be true partners and want to invest in each other. “We are not really interested in sourcing from 10 different distilleries and ranging 50 products, it’s very much a partnership, a little bit like ‘fewer, bigger, better’ from a strategy point of view — and certainly not trying to put items on the shelf that just gather dust.” Linking arms with Loch Lomond will give Coles access to that credibility that whisky drinkers are looking for, and a tight portfolio that ranges from an entry level blend to the 18-year old single malt. And at a time when the supermarket price wars are raging, Coles doesn’t have to worry about being undercut as it alone will stock the brand. “I went to a wedding recently and they had a whisky bar at the wedding, so there is an on-trend element to this. And there is also a greater appreciation now that you actually can do cocktails with whisky and be quite experimental with finer whiskies. “And our figures show our single malts are growing at double digit, our blends are lower single digits and all the growth in the whisky market is in that premiumisation. “The old days of dad getting out the Johnnie Walker Blue just on Christmas Day are fading.” (Image: Coles sourcing manager for spirits Greg Lasscock shows a range of the Loch Lomond whisky products the chain sells exclusively in Australia)