LEN MASEKO, intrigued by the evolution of Scottish Leader, a whisky steeped in tradition but essentially shaping to the vagaries of modern times, asked a few questions of Rowan Ellappen, Brand Activation Manager for Scottish Leader and Three Ships Whisky, about what makes the whisky brand tick.
First of all, Ellapen had this to say about the whisky: “What I love about Scottish Leader is that we are what is classified as a “new world whisky” however we are produced in Scotland. We do things differently, we challenge the norm, we take traditions and turn them on their head in order to appeal to the modern consumer.”
That said, what is Scottish Leader’s unique proposition to a whisky drinker who knows nothing about it?
For a consumer that is new to whisky or is interested in trying whisky, their initial perception of the whisky category is what they would have been exposed to watching movies and series, and what mass media has done for the category over the years – the perception of drinking an aged single malt, neat or with a single block of ice, sitting on a Chesterfield couch and wearing a three-piece suit.
What we do at Scottish Leader is to challenge the norm by modernising the brand both extrinsically and intrinsically. Our ethos is being a new perspective on Scotch, asking the consumer to try something new and challenge life in order to discover richer possibilities. Over the years we have improved our flavour profile to speak to the younger, modern consumer with an ever-expanding taste profile. We challenge traditions by having a different flavour profile in our variants instead of altering our mother brand profile.
We are a relatively young whisky brand at the end of the day – over 40 years old but, in that time, we have accomplished a lot being available in around 30 countries globally and being awarded in multiple competitions most recently awarded Gold for our 12-Year-Old at the World Whiskies Awards.
How is Scottish Leader taking its ethos of viewing whisky and life in general from a new vantage point to a whole new level?
In South Africa, we have partnered with creative collective I See A Different You. Their ethos is similar to ours as they are challenging perspectives and showing the beauty in Soweto using photography. As a result, this partnership has brought about the campaign line “A New Perspective on Soweto. A New Perspective on Scotch”
Furthermore, this innovative duo is currently featured on an array of eye-catching billboards situated across South African cities, the start of phase one of a nationwide campaign that will be rolled out in several stages over the next 18 months. It’s aimed at those prepared to see beauty in the everyday, those who are slightly alternative and inquisitive in nature.
What does the Scottish Leader range consist of?
Three distinct Scottish Leader whiskies are available in South Africa: Original, Signature and 12-Year-Old. The core range in South Africa appeals to different palates – Original is sweet and smoky, Signature is smoky and rich and 12-Year-Old is rich and smooth;
How would you categorise Scottish Leader in terms of its flavour profile?
Scottish Leader offers a range of accessible, fruity whiskies characterised by a taste profile that’s slightly smoky, sweet, rich and smooth.
For whisky drinkers who are not familiar with Scottish Leader can be able to relate to it, what other whisky brands belong to its flavour profile camp?
Johnny Walker Red, Ballentine’s, Bell’s, Jack Daniel’s, as well as, Johnny Walker Black, and Chivas Regal.
What food would you pair with Scottish Leader?
The most important thing to note is that neither the food nor the whisky should overpower the other. Below are some of our best examples of that:
Original: Gnocchi with caramelised pumpkin and sage sauce
Signature: Roasted Mediterranean vegetable lasagne or smoked or grilled red meat with Bordelaise sauce, potato fondant, roasted honey carrots and green beans
The 12 Year Old: Sticky toffee pudding with orange marmalade and honeycomb ice cream.
What necessitated the change of label for Scottish Leader?
In 2014, the Scottish Leader brand underwent a successful relaunch to create ‘new perspectives’ and realise ‘richer possibilities’. the Original blend was enhanced increasing the malt content offering a contemporary, complex but well-balanced liquid that is accessible and appealing to new, younger whisky drinkers. The brand also introduced the new Signature variant containing older peated whiskies, designed to be category challenging and provide something different for the Scottish Leader consumer. As part of the brand evolution the packaging and bottle were refreshed to ensure the whisky stood tall and proud with the introduction of a contemporary and distinctive design. . This was enhanced by the soaring eagle icon, reflecting the brand’s ambition, vision and sense of freedom that allows Scottish Leader to stand out from its heritage-driven competitors, as the young contemporary.
Scottish Leader is 42 years young. It entered an extremely established category, with aims to challenge tradition and break the mould. It has adopted a collaborative approach to producing the blend, introducing innovations and breathing fresh life into an ageing industry with a ‘new perspective’.
Scottish Leader, South African-owned Scotch brand. What does this really mean?
Our whisky is based in Scotland, but owned by Distell, Africa’s leading producer and marketer of spirits, fine wines, ciders and RTDs, since 2013.
Is Scottish Leader a single malt or blended whisky?
The brand offers blended whiskies.
What is the best way to enjoy the brand?
Keeping ‘open mind’ is highly recommended to people seeking advice about whisky. There are no hard rules to drinking whisky. Experiment a little to find a way that works for you. If you drink single malts, don’t be closed to blends. Try whiskies you wouldn’t normally drink. You may be pleasantly surprised.
As the variants are so different to each other the best way to enjoy it for some would be very different to how others enjoy it. The recommendation would be to try it for the first time neat. Thereafter, either add water or ice to either bring out hidden flavours or make the flavours more subtle. There is also nothing wrong with having it with your favourite mix . Those will react differently to the whisky as well and bring our different flavours.
Which cocktail has the brand as the main ingredient is popular?
We have recently begun work on a new cocktail series. It will be ready soon. But one of our classics is the Signature Affair – Scottish Leader Signature, honey, apple and mint – the recipe is below:
8 mint leaves
37.5ml Scottish Leader Signature whisky
50ml cloudy apple juice
12.5ml honey or honey syrup
Dash of fresh lemon juice
Place the mint leaves into a cocktail shaker. Pour the honey or honey syrup over the leaves. Using a muddle stick, press the mint leaves and honey together. Fill the shaker with cubed ice. Pour Signature whisky and apple juice over the mixture. In addition, a dash of fresh lemon juice. Close the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Fill a short glass with cubed ice and pour the mixture over the ice. Finally, Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Where does it rank in terms of popularity among the top blends either in South Africa or across the world?
The whisky has shown significant growth in South Africa over the past three to four years. We are very excited for what the future holds for this brand.
Which is the most prestigious whisky award it has won to date?
Most noteworthy, the 12-Year Old recently awarded a gold medal at the 2018 World Whiskies Awards. The same whisky is a regular gold medallist at international shows including the International Wine & Spirits Awards, the International Spirits Challenge and earned ‘master’ status at 2015 The Spirits Business Global Scotch Whisky Masters showcase.
How many whiskies are blended in the brand?
Close to 30 of the finest hand selected malt and grain whiskies from across Scotland are blended to create a smooth, accessible range of whiskies.
In which country is the Scottish Leader most popular?
It is available in around 30 countries worldwide. Therefore, the range appeals to international markets due to its high quality and exceptional, diverse and modern taste profile. In conclusion, the Scottish Leader international range includes four rich, smooth blends. Original, Supreme (not available in South Africa), Signature and 12-Year-Old. Taiwan, and Lithuania are core markets for the brand outside of South Africa.