May 2012

Range Rovers

By: David Gadd

Pedro Shanahan (left) and GM Angus McShane at Seven Grand in Los Angeles, where The Glenlivet range is de rigueur.

The days of ordering generic “whisky” in a bar (think every Western movie you’ve ever seen) are long over. Modern whisky-drinkers call not just their favorite brand, but, increasingly, their preferred age expression as well.  Responding to—and furthering—that trend are today’s whisky-driven bars, where enjoyment and education meet over a great dram. These contemporary saloons thrive on having a wide selection of brands and age expressions. That naturally includes The Glenlivet, America’s best-selling single malt.

But while the Speyside brand’s popular 12 Year Old is widely known, many consumers remain relatively in the dark about The Glenlivet’s greatest strength: its stunning range of higher-end offerings. “The Glenlivet 12 Year Old has become so dominant that many accounts don’t capitalize on our other wonderful Glenlivet offerings, due to the perception of their lower relative volumes,” explains Brian Mequet, Division Marketing Director for Pernod Ricard USA.

But that’s changing, and Pernod Ricard sees it as a golden opportunity to introduce whisky-drinkers to The Glenlivet in all its variations. We recently visited two whisky-fueled West Coast establishments where customers can roam The Glenlivet’s widerrange.

LOS ANGELES: Seven Grand
The Glenlivet 12 Year Old, shown in a Dagny Taggart cocktail at Seven Grand, leads the pack of older Glenlivet expressions.

Mention whisky in Los Angeles and the first thing any bar-goer thinks is: Seven Grand. The Glenlivet is one of the mainstays at this unique downtown mecca for all things whisky, part of Cedd Moses’s ever-growing 213 Nightlife empire. Of course, there’s the popular Glenlivet 12 Year Old and its 18 Year Old sibling. But this being the whisky bar in L.A., other members of the Glenlivet range are de rigueur: the 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve, the 16 Year Old Nàdurra, and the majestic 21 Year Old.

“We encourage people to explore,” says Australian-born Angus McShane, Seven Grand’s General Manager, pointing out that there are no fewer than 375 whiskies on the wall in the atmospheric venue, which is decorated in an eclectic style where tartan and toile meet dioramas and jackalopes around a bustling bar. “The crowds are a testament to the whisky category,” adds McShane’s cohort Pedro Shanahan, who runs the Seven Grand Whiskey Society.

“Today, there is no definition of a whiskey drinker,” McShane says. “There are plenty of women drinking whisky, and there’s always an entry point. We’ll find a whisky for anyone. The 15 Year Old French Oak is great for turning someone on to Scotch whisky, and there are plenty of different expressions of The Glenlivet.”

With the already iconic bar opening a second location in San Diego’s North Park later this year, the Seven Grand whisky juggernaut will continue southward. It’s a cinch that The Glenlivet will be part of the mix, and McShane readily acknowledges that he uses The Glenlivet 12 Year Old as a “benchmark” for adding any new single malt to his stock.

“The Glenlivet is one of our best-selling products,” concludes Shanahan. “The range speaks for itself, and the people who make it are spending the time it takes to make a quality product—that’s what puts it across the bar.”

SAN FRANCISCO:  Nihon Whisky Lounge

San Francisco’s Nihon Whisky Lounge boasts the largest single malt selection to be found on the West Coast, with more than 400 selections, all available by the bottle. Bottles purchased can then be stored in private lockers on the premises for future visits, adding a club-like cachet to the place. As opposed to typical bottle service, where customers pay high mark-ups on bottles of spirits, Nihon prices each bottle as if patrons were ordering individual shots. This novel concept “appeals to people who are exploring the whisky world,” says owner and buyer Khaled Dajani.

Owner/buyer Khaled Dajani at San Francisco’s Nihon Whisky Lounge, where The Glenlivet expressions are mainstays at the bar.
“When I went to Thailand and Japan,” says Dajani, “I noticed that people would sit around in circles and sip whisky by the bottle.” The name of his seven-year-old lounge, located at the crux of San Francisco’s hip South of Market and Mission neighborhoods, pays homage to this: Nihon is the sophisticated Japanese name for Japan (more commonly known as Nippon). The lounge has developed a reputation both locally and regionally as a whisky-lover’s haunt. “You don’t come to Nihon to have a vodka,” says Dajani.

The kitchen features contemporary Japanese cuisine with a sophisticated twist on traditional izakaya, the Japanese version of tapas—great with smoky Scotch whisky. Nihon’s signature whisky cocktails are a draw for the local crowd, but the bar is primarily about single malts—and that’s where The Glenlivet’s extensive range comes into play. (Tellingly, the bar carries only five blended Scotch whiskies.) Notes Dajani, “Single malts account for 95 percent of our spirits sales.”

The Glenlivet plays a central role in the on-going education that Dajani provides to his customers, all in the guise of a fun evening of sipping whisky. “We sell a lot of Glenlivet,” says Dajani. “It’s a luxury brand, like Mercedes—a certain quality is expected.”

Whisky Among Friends

“Whisky should be shared among friends.” The Glenlivet’s Brand Ambassador Rick Edwards is talking to a group of Hollywood power players seated in a private room at Mario Batali’s Osteria
The Glenlivet Brand Ambassador Rick Edwards addresses invited guests at a Glenlivet dinner at Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles.
Mozza in Los Angeles. The dozen guests—we won’t drop names, but let’s just say that anyone who watches television or listens to music would recognize at least some of them—have gathered at the invitation of their mutual friend, TV personality Tom Caltabiano, to sip several expressions of The Glenlivet over dinner prepared by Executive Chef Matt Molina. Caltabiano, who is as avid a photographer as he is a Scotch whisky enthusiast, clicked away to record the evening with his camera, even managing to capture the glow of great whisky and the animated conversation it stimulated.  —D. G.

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