What’s the best cure for jetlag? SCOTCH. That was the first thing we learned when stepping off the plane, when we were transported to Diageo’s newest facility in the Highlands, the Diageo Whisky Archive at Menstrie. Simply put: when we walked into this room, with bottles stacked as high as the library’s 18-foot ceiling, it completely slipped my mind that I was running on a time change.
With our jetlag promptly cured and forgotten, we spent some time culling through hundreds of glass cases jam packed with spirits bottles, some dating back hundreds of years. It was there that we had a small whisky primer, delivered by Nick Morgan of Diageo.
From there, we toured Cambus, Diageo’s cooperage, to get a bit of an overview on the barrel making process. While a cooperage is essentially a working factory (with none of the sex appeal of the Scotch distilleries, warehouses, or their glamorous visitor centers), it does help demonstrate how much care and attention goes into the entire whisky-making process; as we know with American Whiskey, the aging process is just as important at the distilling process, and a well-produced barrel is of paramount importance.
Here’s what we learned from Diageo: as mentioned previously, the overwhelming volume in the Scotch Whisky category globally comes from blended Scotch Whisky sales. Yes, the single malts that are the building blocks for these blends are fantastic on their own (each with a distinct flavor profile and character), but they are fundamentally ingredients for blends.
Second, the industry is just as much about technological innovation as it is about upholding the traditional whisky styles that have been perfected over hundreds of years.
The most obvious takeaway, however, was the sheer magnitude of the Diageo portfolio. At its core, Diageo is a whisky company, and owns around 30 distilleries in Scotland.