Call to make most of ‘malt whisky valley’

SPEYSIDE is home to half of Scotland’s whisky distilleries but the former chairman of VisitScotland has said not enough is being done to promote its unique malt heritage around the world.

SPEYSIDE is home to half of Scotland’s whisky distilleries but the former chairman of VisitScotland has said not enough is being done to promote its unique malt heritage around the world.

Peter Lederer, who is also director of Diageo in Scotland, said Moray’s whisky trail was “a missed opportunity” and it needed to be marketed more vigorously to attract wealthy tourists.

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He said the area should learn from some of the world’s top regions for vineyard tourism, such as South Africa, California and Spain.

Speyside boasts some of the most famous and long-established distilleries as well as the only working cooperage in the UK. However, the former tourism boss believes the area is not fully capitalising on its unique position.

Mr Lederer said: “I think you’ve got an opportunity here with an industry that has proven it has growth potential.

“We should look at it as an economic opportunity, how can Scotland benefit from this growth industry and build on it?

“I’ve been to South Africa and looked at what [the vineyards] Stellenbosch is doing, and Franschhoek next door. All the wineries are working together, they’re all individual, they’ve all got great products and beautiful restaurants, coffee shops and hotels. All are working with government, at all levels, to market South African wine.

“Then I look at Speyside and see that as a lost opportunity.”

Scotch exports were worth £4.23 billion in 2011 – representing roughly a quarter of Scotland’s total exports, with 40 bottles shipped overseas every second.

Mr Lederer, pictured below, added: “The industry provides huge numbers of jobs, it’s a successful industry.

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“In Speyside, it is a huge player in a fragile rural economy. How can we build that, so it’s not only a visitor experience but also growing the economy in that area? There’s only one place that could call itself the malt whisky valley, and that’s Speyside.”

Penny Ellis, a board director of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, which is held in May this year, said she agreed with Mr Lederer’s comments.

“I think the whisky companies could do more to promote the area itself rather than concentrate on just marketing their own brands.

“Every year they come together for the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival so there is no reason why they can’t make that a more permanent arrangement.”

Ms Ellis, who has run Knockomie Hotel in Forres for 25 years, added that Speyside was an outstanding part of Scotland which attracted tourists from all over the world.

Speaking about the need to market a Speyside Whisky Trail to the world she added: “I’m not sure how much they promote the actual whisky trail at these global trade shows. I understand that for each company, selling its own brand is a priority but surely also putting the product into the context of a wider whisky trail would benefit everyone.”

Mary Hemsworth, who organises the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, said it was a very profitable event which also saw all the whisky companies working together.

“It’s going into its 14th year and last year it generated £1.3 million for the local economy,” she added.

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Mr Lederer’s comments came after calls were made for a tax to be levied on each bottle of Scotch, to give Scotland a greater share in its growing success.

Professor John Kay, who served on the Scottish Government’s Council of Economic Advisers, recently said that whisky’s recent exporting success had brought “disappointing” benefits to its country of origin.

He said Holyrood could put a levy on the water used in the distilling process, a suggestion backed by another former economic advisor to the government, Sir George Mathewson.

However, the whisky industry said the move would hit demand, reduce investment and cost jobs.