Checkers rocks Whisky Live

When Africa’s largest retailer, Shoprite Checkers, offers SA spirit sippers an imported 12 year old single malt Scotch for less than R250 a bottle, around half the price of the local 12 year old Van Ryn’s brandy, the triumph of the Scots in SA comes as no surprise. Here is Marsh Middleton brandishing the evidence, looking like Braveheart of the bottle. Who needs Mel Gibson when you have Marsh?

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Whisky Live, which finished last night at the Cape Sun, was a curate’s egg – good in parts. Famous Brands was conspicuous by the absence of many of the great and groovy Diageo brands from the show, with Distell dominating – as they did at Brandy Fusion.

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Andy Watts (above) and his Three Ships phenomenon were located in prime position by the door and as he commented, SA consumers are becoming more sophisticated, wanting to chat about whisky rather than simply have a dop.

Andy’s pleased as a dog with two tails as he waits for his ship full of Sherry casks to come in. There are great things in store for this brand and with a couple of craft beer brewers opening up in Wellington, surely not long now before we see an Ola Dubh equivalent – craft beer aged in whisky casks.

As Distell’s focus turns towards Africa, it surely can’t be long before a green fields distillery is opened on the Reef. For it makes little sense to concentrate local whisky production in the Western Cape when the mielies are grown in the Free State and the stuff is drunk in Sandton. As Cecil John Rhodes reminded us a century ago “Africa is your hinterland.”

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The demise of Diageo at Whisky Live is probably a reaction to the hike in stand costs since Prime Media took over the show. Or is it perhaps an example of Responsible Drinking which sees local incarnation Famous Brands fund the Responsible Drinking Media Awards.

Nice touch from Warwick CEO Mike Ratcliffe last week to wish Joanne Gibson (below) best of luck on FaceBook (above) with a disruptive photo conflating a baby bottle with booze. Mike is making a subtle reference to Joanne’s anti-Warwick First Lady Mother’s Day trashing in Sunday Times Food Weekly. The same edition where Mike did a reader give-away of product. Oops! Mike’s post in support of mother’s little helper shows how easily the noble intentions of Famous Brands is undermined by witty marketers.

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Since Joanne proposed herself for the prize, let’s hope she wins, as it will expose the cynical nature of a competition that is doing wonders to encourage consumption of both hard tack and hair conditioner. Joanne Gibson, the Mel Gibson of Scotch.