November 2011

Masters of Whisk(e)y

by Lance Mayhew

Pernod Ricard has had a highly successful history in the world of whisk(e)y since acquiring Irish Distillers in the late 1980s: This was the company that revived the Irish whiskey category.
Known for its hands-on, artisan approach to spirits, the company has nonetheless built some of the largest whiskey brands in the world, including Jameson Irish whiskey, The Glenlivet single malt scotch and Chivas Regal blended scotch. Innovative marketing, consumer outreach and education have played an important role in protecting and enhancing the legacy of these iconic brands as well as marques such as Aberlour, Redbreast and Royal Salute.  

Jameson Irish Whiskey, The Glenlivet single malt scotch and Redbreast are key components in the powerhouse Pernod Ricard whisk(e)y portfolio. At Arterra restaurant in the San Diego Marriott Del Mar, Director of Restaurants Scott Winant helps his customers find the Pernod whisk(e)y that best suits his or her needs.

From premium whiskies that dominate their market category to bespoke $200,000 bottles of Royal Salute Tribute to Honor, Pernod Ricard has built a dynamic whisk(e)y portfolio like no other. “Ultimately, our goal is to find the right niche for each consumer,” says J. C. Iglesias, Director of Marketing, Scotch Whisky and Cognac for Pernod Ricard.

The Trailblazer: Jameson

Jameson has been a stunning success within the Irish whiskey category and dominates its market, with over 70% of the segment. Wayne Hartunian, VP of Marketing for Whiskies and Cognacs for Pernod Ricard, notes that Jameson’s success has been “primarily the passion that consumers and bartenders have for the brand. Bartenders refer to Jameson as ‘their’ brand. Jameson is the fastest growing premium brand in the United States, with a strong formula for success. The bottom line is that there is still so much more potential for this brand, even at over one million cases a year, there is a huge upside.”

With the Irish whiskey category more than doubling in size over the last five years (source: Nielsen Total U.S. F/D/L 52 weeks ending 6/25/11) and a projected 8.9% annual compound growth over the next five years, Jameson is poised to become an even bigger success. In 2010, Jameson accounted for 82% of the growth in the Irish whiskey category (source: 2011 Beverage Information Group Advance). Innovative marketing concepts have helped drive that growth including a television campaign labeled “Taste Above All Else.”


At American Farmhouse Tavern in Manhattan Beach, CA, Beverage Manager Blake Donaldson has created the Smokin’ Irish cocktail; combining 2 ounces of Jameson with peach nectar and elderflower liqueur, he adds a bacon-wrapped sugarcane garnish and finishes off the drink with a spritz of Glenlivet.

The advertising concept is designed to be reminiscent of an epic film, with the third spot in the Effie award–winning series having just launched nationwide. Additionally, unique and different events such as the well attended Bartenders Ball, held in various key markets around the country, have helped to increase brand loyalty and awareness with the ever-burgeoning bartending community.

Pernod Ricard continues to focus on category management initiatives such as “Tipping Point” for both on- and off -premise sales teams in order to further leverage the phenomenal growth of Jameson whiskey. “We want to offer suggestions to our sales force to educate the trade on how to leverage this successful brand,” Hartunian tells THE TASTING PANEL. In the end, as consumers become more interested in the whiskey category, education and bartender recommendations are the key to Jameson’s success, as evidenced by consumer consumption of Irish whiskey transitioning to a year-round pattern. New and innovative cocktails featuring Jameson, such as the Jameson and Ginger and the Pickleback, are not just growing in popularity, they are de rigueur at Jameson-centric bars.

“Taste is fundamental to Jameson’s success; it is a very smooth and accessible whiskey,” Hartunian notes, adding point to the Irish whiskey’s reputation as easy-drinking and eminently mixable has made it one of the top distilled spirit brands in the world.

Extending the Range: Redbreast

While Jameson is the dominant premium Irish whiskey, Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey is helping to extend Pernod Ricard’s dominance of the Irish whiskey category even further by capturing the emerging super-premium Irish whiskey drinker. With a new website recently launched ( and numerous accolades such as Gold Medals for the 12 and 15 year expressions at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Pernod Ricard is educating both bartenders and consumers about this classic style of Irish whiskey.

Triple-distilled in copper pot stills, and made with a mash of both malted and unmalted barley, single pot still Irish whiskey has a creamy, rich mouthfeel and a fuller and more complex flavor profile than blended Irish whiskies. By resurrecting and promoting this style, Pernod Ricard offers whiskey enthusiasts an opportunity to trade up into the super-premium category and further explore the world of Irish whiskies.

Single Malt Champion: The Glenlivet

With The Glenlivet, Pernod Ricard has the best-selling single malt Scotch whisky in the United States. J. C. Iglesias, notes that single malts are the second fastest-growing market category behind Irish whiskey. “Single malt scotch is still an affordable luxury that consumers can enjoy,” he remarks. “It is our job to bring people into the category and make things accessible and easier for consumers.”
Pernod Ricard has initiated that accessibility through the Glenlivet Guardians program. Registered users on the Glenlivet website ( have access to an online whisky school, attend exclusive VIP events, keep up to date on new additions to the Glenlivet portfolio, and can also participate in virtual tastings via Twitter.

Additions to the Glenlivet line such as the Nádurra range, a revived whisky style from the 19th century with a fuller, richer mouthfeel, have allowed for enthusiasts to explore The Glenlivet’s house style more completely. Traditionally made by double distilling in copper pot stills, The Glenlivet shows the classic Speyside flavor profile with a house signature pineapple note. An aggressive expansion of the Glenlivet distillery completed last year will allow for increased production. This will position the brand to take advantage of the opportunities within the single malt category and achieve even higher growth and sales success.

Ultimate Luxury: Royal Salute

Royal Salute is the only exclusive luxury blended scotch brand in the world. With a select focus on the luxury market and using only the finest and oldest Scotch whiskies in its blends, Royal Salute is the drink of choice for those for whom price is no object.

Fans of Jameson Irish Whiskey take their drink of choice seriously: Here, one Jameson-lover sports his permanent adoration in a “Sine Metu” tattoo, Latin for “Without Fear,” and the motto emblazoned on the Jameson label.

This dynamic luxury brand goes to market with an SRP ranging from $175 to $4,000. Royal Salute 62 Gun Salute, the finest whisky in the regular Royal Salute lineup, uses whiskies aged a minimum of 40 years for the blend. Bottled in stunning decanters hand-crafted by Dartington Crystal of Devon, England, 62 Gun Salute is decorated with 18 carat gold and topped with a crystal stopper for a truly elegant expression of whisky, both in the glass and on the bar.

Royal Salute continues to raise the bar for luxury whiskies with a release of a mere 21 bottles of the most expensive blended Scotch whisky ever produced. Royal Salute Tribute to Honor, which features a diamond-encrusted bottle designed by the jeweler to the Royal House, retails for $200,000. Royal Salute may be about exclusivity and luxury, but under Pernod Ricard’s guidance, the brand is experiencing phenomenal growth and carries a cachet in the luxury blended whisky market that no competitor can match.

The Gem: Aberlour

Aberlour claims the honor of being the best-selling single malt whisky in France. This classic Highland distillery offers a range of whiskies ranging from 10 to 18 years, as well as the no-age-statement A’bunadh. These rich, complex whiskies are generally aged in a combination of sherry butts and bourbon barrels before being blended together. The result of this double casking is a unique style of single malt whisky that has won a slew of Gold and Double Gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, including a Double Gold for the Aberlour 18 this year.

Aberlour fills the boutique whisky niche in the Pernod Ricard portfolio, with a near cult-like following among its devotees. The brand has experienced strong growth within its category and with the numerous awards and positive reviews it regularly receives, Aberlour is destined to become yet another runaway success story for Pernod Ricard.

With such a successful lineup of whiskey brands in its portfolio, it would be easy for Pernod Ricard to rest on its laurels. Instead, with innovative consumer outreach, education and marketing campaigns, the company is poised to take its whisk(e)y brands to even greater heights.

The commitment to supporting and growing their brands is what lies at the heart of Pernod Ricard’s success story. As Iglesias remarks, “We kept investing in the brands when the economy pulled back. Our portfolio mix has been the key to the overall success of our brands.”

The Jameson First Shot Competition

Jameson launched of a short film competition with actor Kevin Spacey and his company, Trigger Street Productions. Designed to discover talented screenwriters and directors from Russia, South Africa and the U.S., Jameson First Shot comes with an incredible prize where one winner from each country will have his or her script made into a short film starring Spacey.

Kevin Spacey.

“I want to give talented people out there a shot at reaching their goals for the first time,” explains Spacey.  “If one person gets a break, then the competition has been successful.”

Talented filmmakers looking for their big break are invited to submit a script up to seven pages long on the theme of a legendary, humorous or very tall tale. The shortlist will be picked by an expert team including Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti, President of Trigger Street Productions (The Social Network and 21).

Wayne Hartunian, Vice President Whiskies, Pernod Ricard USA comments, “First Shot reinforces Jameson’s long-standing support of independent film, both globally and in the U.S., where we sponsor the Film Independent Spirits Awards held annually in Santa Monica.”  —L. M.

For complete information, go to

Surf and Turf

In the greater San Diego area, the Brigantine Family of Restaurants has been a culinary force to be reckoned with since 1969, but for the past decade, the group’s fine dining concept, The Steakhouse at Azul La Jolla, has really upped the ante. With a spectacular offering of classic truf-bred fare rounded out by fresh seafood options, Azul is one of Southern California’s most picturesque steakhouses, situated along a stretch of gorgeous coastline.
Steve Floyd, Executive Chef at The Steakhouse at Azul La Jolla, enjoys a classic Glenlivet neat while overlooking magnificent views of the Pacific.

But Azul’s got the substance to back up its stellar style, and with a beefed-up beverage program that features traditional and classic cocktails, brown spirits are in the spotlight. “We have over 50 whiskies,” explains John Azevedo, District Manager for the Brigantine Family of Restaurants, “and Jameson and the Glenlivet 12 Year Old are among the most popular.”

While the Glenlivet is a neat call at Azul, Jameson is seeing success in the cocktail arena, says Azevedo. “It’s a very mixable spirit, and they’re appealing to a younger generation with their excellent marketing of the product. Although brands like Glenlivet and Chivas have been category leaders for years, this younger demographic is helping bring these other brands to light.”

Azevedo and Azul’s barstaff have also gotten behind Jameson’s Irish Whiskey sister, Redbreast, which is popular among the staff and makes a handy upsell. “If someone is a Jameson fan, you can definitely get them into Redbreast,” says Azevedo.—Rachel Burkons

Success for All Seasons

Arterra Executive Chef Tony Miller loves The Glenlivet so much that he’s incorporated it into his cooking as well, with a Glenlivet glaze on the delicious braised Kurobota pork loin that’s part of the restaurant’s seasonal menu.

When the Glenlivet Ambassador led the team at Arterra at the Marriott in Del Mar, CA thorough an educational tasting, it was love at first sip among the staff. Months later, the restaurant boasts the full lineup of Glenlivet products and even features a Glenlivet glaze on the popular braised Kurobota pork loin dish that’s a current star on the restaurant’s seasonal menu.

With a farm-to-table focus extending to the restaurant’s cocktail program, Director of Restaurants Scott Winant always has one spirit on his rotating seasonal cocktail menu: Jameson. “It just flies off the menu,” says Winant of the brand, the restaurant’s number-one call for whiskey. “I will always have a Jameson cocktail planned for each season—it’s just that popular.”

Jameson in particular is proving to be a popular call in new demographics: “Working in this business, you used to think that whiskies were a guy’s drink,” explains Winant, “but we’re seeing so many women come in and ordering it, and they want to try new things that are different than your average vodka cocktail.” —R. B.

Luck o’ the Irish
■    1¼ oz. Jameson 12 Year Old
■    1¼ oz. Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
■    ¾ oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
■    Splash of soda water

Rim glass with Jameson and lemon zest powder. Garnish with basil sprig.

The Chivas Brotherhood is personified by Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills and the Chivas products they pour. “When you’re enjoying a quality meal with friends,” says Chivas Brand Ambassador Richard Varga, “you want to look at the backbar and know they’re pouring spirits of equal quality.” Left to right: Rob Roy made with Chivas 12, plus Chivas 18 and Chivas 25, both served neat.

The Devotee’s Blend: Chivas Regal

With the launch of the Chivas Brotherhood and Club 1801, Chivas Regal—San Francisco World Spirits Competition multiple Double Gold medal winner—has given a whole new meaning to “social networking.” Their newest campaign links the Chivas Brotherhood, a state-of-mind concept for individuals who share “a modern code of honor” that sets them apart from the crowd, with its more tangible offshoot, Club 1801, a brand-specific gathering spot for these like-minded individuals. Appropriately, it began with a Chivas Regal YouTube commercial in which a young executive is pushed and jostled along a crowded street.

“Millions of people—everyone out for themselves,” says the voiceover. “Can this really be the only way? No. Here’s to honor. And gallantry. Long may it live. Here’s to doing the right thing. For giving a damn. Here’s to the straight talkers—who give their word and keep it. Here’s to a code of behavior that sets certain men apart from all others. Here’s to us. Live with chivalry.”

“That reflects the things we value as a brand,” confirms Richard Varga, Chivas Brand Ambassador. “We feel if everyone had these goals, the world would be a better place. With our ‘Live with Chivalry’ motto, we’re in search of the modern gentleman, and joining him and his friends in a toast to honor and to brotherhood.”
This goal is accomplished via e-blasts, QR-coded shelf talkers, blogs, banners and other social media inviting the consumer to join the Chivas Brotherhood, launched in conjunction with Urban Daddy, an internet-based lifestyle guide targeted to ultra-hip urbanites. That linkup provides the website with members-only emails announcing new cocktail lounges, trend-setting restaurants, bespoke clothiers and similar information.

At Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills, the Chivas Brotherhood is evident, with Chivas Regal being enjoyed by real friends, not virtual ones. Left to right: Chivas Brand Ambassador Richard Varga, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse Managing Partner Peter Zwiener, and Wolfgang’s Steakhouse General Manager Ron Kirk.

Keyed to this, Chicago, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas are target markets for Club 1801, sophisticated pop-up environments lasting four to six weeks in upscale locations such as mansions, penthouses, and office suites, redesigned to be Chivas-specific, including branded accoutrements, bartender uniforms, and a Chivas concierge. Here, free of charge, “Chivas Brothers” are invited to bring friends, socialize, participate in poker and billiards, watch 3D TV and experience Chivas Regal, including exclusive 1801 Club cocktails created by International Brand Ambassador Max Warner.
Beyond Club 1801, ongoing “Tribe Events” encompass Brotherhood Night (televised sports events, for example) and “Mentored” gatherings such as cigar seminars and tasting select Pernod Ricard products such as Strathisla 18 Year Old and Longmorn 18 Year Old, along with Trade Nights for mixologists. Contests with prizes including a trip to Scotland are additional perks.

Thus, cyber-communications becomes clasped in a flesh-and-blood handshake that cements friendships and bonds Chivas Regal to a newfound customer base stretching from the internet to on-and-off premise encounters.

“J. C. Iglesias, Marketing Director, Scotch Whisky and Cognac for Pernod Ricard USA, actually said it best,” said Varga. “He said, ‘We want to inspire people to be more rather than to have more.’  That’s what the Chivas Brotherhood is all about.” 

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