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A Double Scotch: How Chivas Regal and The Glenlivet became global icons (May 11, 2005)

book review
by Dean Tudor

A Double Scotch: How Chivas Regal and The Glenlivet became global icons (John Wiley & Sons, 2005, 290 pages, ISBN 0-471-66271-2, $35.99 hard covers) is by F. Paul Pacult, a free-lance beer and spirits writer who also has had his own successful newsletter for over 15 years. He also authored American Still Life: The Jim Beam story. This is an insider's look at Chivas Regal (a best-selling blend) and The Glenlivet (the best-selling single malt). At one point, Chivas got most of its malted scotch from The Glenlivet. Eventually, Chivas was owned by Seagram and then in 1978 Seagram's purchased The Glenlivet. Pernod Ricard bought them both in 2002 when Diageo and PR split the brands of now-defunct Seagram Liquors.

Pacult begins with a brief history of Scotch, followed by a corporate history of the two companies, and then he progresses through competition, government regulations, illicit distilling, rioting, smuggling, murder, wars and Prohibition.

The Glenlivet was licensed in 1824, to George and John Gordon Smith, Highland farmers, from Glenlivet and Speyside. Blended scotches began in the 1830s, and the Chivas brothers (James and John, both upscale Aberdeen grocers who never owned or operated a distillery) started selling a blend. Later, Seagram bought them both, first Chivas and then The Glenlivet. So this book is about three different families and their marketing development.

There are black-and-white historical photographs and reproductions of documents. There is also a bibliography of sources plus a detailed index. For me, one of the more interesting parts of this book are the appendices, wherein Pacult interviews Colin Scott, the master blender of Chivas, and Jim Cryle, the master distiller of The Glenlivet. It is good to read their takes on their products. This followed by a series of tasting notes from Pacult's newsletter. He reviews five Chivas Regal blends and 13 The Glenlivet single malts, all of various ages.

Audience and level of use: The interested scotch collector, schools of hospitality, marketing programs.

Some interesting or unusual facts: On page 266, "One Scotch whisky was designed and born as a deluxe blend in the backroom of an Aberdeen grocery store; the other was conceived in a picturesque natural trough in the Grampian Highlands that was once Scotland's most notorious hotbed of illicit distilling. One became the unrivalled darling of an irascible Canadian liquor industry baron who took his masterpiece to the world market through guile and organization; the other became the archetype of its class, yet remained within the founding family through four generations spanning a century and a half."

What I don't like about this book: It's a tad dry, chock full of names and dates and places. You'll need a scorecard to plot the characters, especially since two separate companies are involved. Also, there is a slight feeling of subsidized PR here, since there is nothing in the book that is critical about Pernod, Seagram, Chivas or The Glenlivet. The approach is soft.

What I do like about this book: Despite what I said above, the book must be seen as authoritative in that it was issued with a "Foreword" by the CEO of Pernod Ricard. Pacult had access to company archives, public relations staff, executives, distillery employees.

Quality/Price Ratio: 93.

 

 

 

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