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Going with the grain

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Forget ‘Bend it like Beckham’ – now it’s more a case of blending it like him. That’s because Diageo has signed up the former England captain to endorse its whisky Haig Club. The new dram was designed with Chinese drinkers in mind and Diageo’s CEO Ivan Menezes hopes that Haig Club – a single grain whisky – will become a substitute for the Chinese hard liquor normally consumed with meals, a lucrative market that the distiller has found hard to crack.

“The blend was created to match with food and seafood in China and our choice of Beckham as the face of Haig Club was down to the extraordinary name recognition he has in China and across the world,” he said, according to a report in Beverage Daily.

Grain whisky differs from single malts in several respects. It does not use malted barley and is made in a cheaper-to-operate continuous column still (rather than distilled through a pot still, like a malt). A single malt must also be kept in the barrel for 10 years or longer, whereas the aging period for a grain is more arbitrary.

Correspondingly, a single malt is generally regarded as the more flavourful of the two whisky varieties and is marketed as the more premium product by distilleries. That said, Diageo is keen to play up the quality of its newest whisky, as well as Haig’s history of distilling grains that dates back to 1828: “Haig Club has been crafted using a unique process that combines grain whisky from three cask types. This creates a fresh, clean style that showcases butterscotch and toffee for an ultra-smooth taste that the company believes will be enjoyed not only by current whisky drinkers, but also by those who have always wanted to try whisky.”

Adds Kathy Parker, vice president of Haig Club: “Historically single grain whisky has been in the shadow of single malts and blended Scotch, but Haig Club represents a new direction in Scotch whisky, which brings single grain Scotch to the forefront.”

The brand – which comes in a distinctive blue bottle, with no age statement (i.e. the distillery isn’t revealing how many years it has been in the barrel) – will launch in China later this month. As yet pricing details are unavailable but current conditions suggest it makes sense to market the brand at a discount to luxury malts. That would cater better to a market where extravagant nights out on the bottle have given way to a period of austerity owing to President Xi Jinping’s well-publicised crackdown on graft and entertaining.


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