Bacardi shuns NAS with new single malt Scotch range

24th September, 2014 by Becky Paskin

Bacardi has backed age statements’ future in Scotch whisky by ensuring its new single malt portfolio is NAS-free. Stephen Marshall, the man who pioneered the project, explains why.

Stephen-Marshall-Bacardi-Scotch

Bacardi’s greatest Scotch malt whisky project has been spearheaded by Stephen Marshall

Bacardi has never given much thought to single malt Scotch. Since acquiring John Dewar & Sons from the newly-formed Diageo in 1998, the Bermuda-based rum specialist has done little more than grow Aberfeldy to around 20,000 cases.

A few limited edition and small-scale bottlings from its five malt distilleries: Royal Brackla, Aultmore, Craigellachie, Aberfeldy and Macduff (under the Glen Deveron brand), barely scratched the surface of the 10.5 million-case single malt Scotch whisky export market. Noting the colossal value of blended whisky exports – £3.3bn in 2013 (SWA) – Bacardi reserved the majority of liquid for its flagship blends Dewar’s and William Lawson’s, both of which shift around three million cases annually, placing them among the world’s 10 largest Scotch whisky brands.

Blended Scotch is evidently an extremely lucrative arena for Bacardi, but with single malt now accounting for a fifth of Scotch exports worldwide (SWA), it’s about time the behemoth turned its attention to one of the fastest-growing spirits categories in the world. After six years of development, Bacardi has taken the bold decision to launch a total of 16 new and permanent single malt whiskies over the next six months, with more releases due in the coming years. It’s a move that has the ability to catapult the group into the realm of the serious single malt players.

None of this would have happened if it weren’t for Stephen Marshall, Bacardi’s global marketing manager for single malts, who noticed a glimmer of potential in the group’s underutilised stock while working as global brand ambassador for Dewar’s six years ago. “We weren’t maximising our assets,” says Marshall, who having latched onto the high quality of malt whisky resting in the group’s warehouses, tentatively tested the water with a few high-end single cask releases “to see what we could do”.

“We were a blended and white spirits company so we weren’t used to selling 200 bottles of a single malt,” he explains. In the end he says it was the liquid itself that convinced the family-owned company to let him create Bacardi’s first single malt Scotch whisky programme. “It’s easier to convince someone when you can show them a case of single malt and say ‘this is the value for money you get if you sell it as a malt than if you sell as a blended whisky’. It’s an easy argument to make.”

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