I'm quite lucky that I often get the opportunity to speak with not only important people within the whisky industry but interesting people. It is with great pleasure that I bring you an interview with Ewan Lacey, MD of the International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC). Basically the IWSC are behind some of the most prestigious awards for spirits in the world.
Their website states:
The original aim of the IWSC was to award excellence to wines and spirits worldwide. This remains the aim today, with the Competition now in its 45th year, encouraging consumer and trade recognition for quality products.
The IWSC receives entries from nearly 90 countries worldwide (green countries below). No matter where the entry originates, whether it is youthful or aged, it is judged according to its class and treated with respect and consideration.
The Competition has the support of many of the world’s top wine and spirit producers, setting the international benchmark for quality. The unique combination of detailed technical analysis and specialist judging panels means that gaining an IWSC ‘Competition Award’ is an exceptional achievement.
GreatDrams: I guess it would be handy for readers to understand what your role and day to day responsibilities are the MD for International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC)?
Varies enormously, I divide my time between our commercial office in London, our tasting centre in Surrey and meetings with producers and key industry figures around the world.My role is to help make everyone’s life a little easier from the consumer in the bottle shop to the producer keen to test the merits of their work against the world’s best.
GreatDrams: I’m keen to speak to you about emerging whisky nations such as South Korea, Switzerland and South Africa so before we get into brands, what do you think is driving this emergence?
You can add Australia, India and Scandinavia, to that list too.There are many factors I’m sure. One of them has to be that whisky mirrors its place: where it was made and matured.
Leading on from this is that the range of styles is broadening all the time and also the appeal of a locally produced whisky is becoming available to more and more (you said it first) middle class people.
Finally, everyone in the drinks industry is aware of the success enjoyed by the Scotch industry in recent decades and will be keen to emulate it.
GreatDrams: How are consumers being inducted into the ways of whisky in these territories?
The trail has been blazed by the scotch – historically through the regiments, embassies, and grocers. Then in recent times by brand ambassadors hosting tastings in clubs, venues and at whisky shows, again backed up by good local retail availability.
GreatDrams: What are the key emotional drivers for consumers?
This is not my area of specialism, but I would say as always it’s driven by the marketing: aspirational, sophisticated and so on.
GreatDrams: Are there any interesting tasting rituals that are emerging?
People seem to be much more relaxed about adding water.
Blends or single malt?
Single malt and premium whiskies are always winning on spend, but the less heralded blended whiskies are those that are winning on volume.
GreatDrams: What brands are making waves?
The major players in the scotch industry continue to play at a high level and are important worldwide as are the large American whiskies. Besides that Kavalan, South Korea; Macmyra Sweden; Starward, Australia are making waves as are some smaller craft distilled whiskies.
How is travel retail helping? Or is it?
I think it’s a ready testing ground, particularly for whiskies finished in unusual ways so consumers are able to widen their tastes as they travel.
Where do you see the future of whisky in these nations?
I think Japan is probably a meaningful parallel and that these nations will be producing sufficient quantities of top quality whiskies in a relatively short period of time.
What about the future of whisky in the traditional territories of Scotland, Ireland, England and America?
A mature market which will develop in different ways – there are the premium, no age stated offering from the scotch producers which will satisfy demand from one section of the market, whilst the burgeoning craft distilling movement will satisfy another.