Greg Dillon is an award-winning writer and blogger, whose whisky and spirits focused website GreatDrams.com was awarded Best Food & Drink Blog of the Year at the UK Blog Awards 2017, and named in the Top Five Whisky Blogs in the World by the International Whisky Competition in 2015.
Greg’s background is in brand strategy and he has consulted with major design agencies and brands all over the world for over a decade, specialising in whisky brands and other premium spirits. He regularly writes and contributes for a range of media outlets, including: Whisky Quarterly, Whisky Magazine, Drinks Report, Liquor.com and the Evening Standard.
Do you have any ideas for whisky and food pairings, savoury and sweet?
Whisky and food pairings will also become increasingly relevant to the in-home drinker as people swap dining out for dinner parties to stretch their budget further. On a social level, this provides an opportunity for us all to re-learn the art of hosting and put on a good show for our friends. One pairing that I always love is punchy bourbon-glazed pulled pork that has become my wife’s signature dish when we have people round. My tip is to pick a bourbon with more alcohol – around 50% ABV – and go wild marinating the meat. Later use the delicious cooking juices as a base for your own BBQ sauce.
We are starting to see more international whiskies on shop shelves particularly from Japan, India and Taiwan. How do you think they compare to Scotch whisky, and given the fierce competition for shelf space, how do you think the Scottish distilleries are reacting to these newcomers?
International whiskies are phenomenal and are only going to gain more popularity as consumers look to try new flavours and experiences from their drinks. Paul John Indian Single Malt is one that is particularly impressive in how they are connecting with consumers and attending lots of whisky shows and festivals to get their product in front of new people. Scotch distillers are increasingly innovating with new cask finishes, new maturation techniques and the creation of new brands that have interesting stories to tell.
Recently we have seen more distilleries experimenting with various cask finishes (Pedro Ximenez sherry, cider, bourbon, beer) as well as releasing more non-age statement whiskies (for example The Glenlivet Nàdurra range). What do you think will be the next trends in Scotch whisky?
For me the next trend is in flavour and breaking down barriers between brands and consumers through an increased focus on education and understanding – new ways to create interesting and consumer-centric flavours will be devised, all within SWA rules, in order that Scotch becomes even more relevant and revered.
What impact do you think Brexit will have on the Scotch Whisky industry, and what’s the current mood at distilleries?
Most distillers seem to be taking it in their stride currently until the landscape becomes clear. The thing for me with Brexit is that the government needs to help and cut taxes across industry sectors to generate more of an uplift in trade going forward. Scotch exports up 4% in 2016 to just over £4billion, equating to a bottle volume of 1.25 billion exported along with Scotch contributing around £5billion to the UK economy, and currently supports around 40,000 jobs, to the 79% tax on the average bottle of blended Scotch feels very unfair and prohibitive to ensuring there are no shock impacts following March 2019.
What’s your view on the emergence of whisky as an investment vehicle, the risks involved, and its impact on the industry?
Whisky is a great investment as bottles very rarely lose value, so the worst that could happen is that you still have your investment value, or you open the bottles! The key is to look for limited editions and bottles that are hard to obtain as these are the ones that will grow in value over the years.
How many open bottles of whisky do you have at home, and what’s the most you’ve paid for a bottle?
Open? Probably around fifty, some get used at whisk tastings, others I just want to try and some are shared amongst friends so we don’t always have to buy full bottles ourselves. The most I’ve paid is just over a grand, was a present from me to me when we moved house at the end of 2016, a bottle of single cask 32 year old Port Ellen. Some of my favourites, like Aberlour A’bunadh and Laphroaig 10 are in the £30 – 50 mark though, then there’s our ‘house favourite’ Craigellachie 23 at £385, what a whisky! We always try to have that one in…
Greg Dillon is the author of The GreatDrams of Scotland – A conversational meander through the rich history of Scotch whisky (published by RedDoor in hardback, £19.99). Visit http://www.greatdrams.com/product/greatdrams-scotland-book-greg-dillon/ to purchase your copy.
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