“Nepal is a fast growing market for Glenfiddich”

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James Pennefather, Managing Director Glenfiddich Bar at GG Machaan restaurantJames Pennefather
Managing Director
Glenfiddich Bar at GG Machaan restaurant

Glenfiddich, regarded as the biggest and most awarded single malt whisky brand in the world, carries a legacy of 132 years. The famous Speyside single malt whisky is produced and owned by the family run Scottish company William Grant & Sons which was established in 1886 by William Grant. The fifth generationof the Grant family now runs the Scotch whisky distillery maintaining the original taste of the Glenfiddich and its production credentials. The company recently opened the exclusive Glenfiddich Bar at GG Machaan restaurant at Jhamsikhel, Lalitpur. James Pennefather, Managing Director-India was recently in Kathmandu for the inauguration of the bar. Bijaya Laxmi Duwal of New Business Age talked to Pennefather about the Glenfiddich brand, its presence in the Nepali market and plans for expansion, among other topics.Excerpts:

Probably for the first time in Nepal a globally renowned Scotch whisky brand has opened an exclusive bar under its name at a famous restaurant. What are the objectives behind opening the Glenfiddich Exclusive Bar?
We find that many people experience their first taste of whisky at bars, pubs and hotels bars. What is very exciting for us in opening this exclusive bar in Kathmandu is that we will be encouraging more people to try Glenfiddichfor the first time to enter the single malt category.

How is the global market of Glenfiddich?
We look at the indicators across all our markets globally. We are seeing that our market growth in Asia is much stronger than in Europe and United States. Nepal is in the Asia-Pacific region of William Grant & Sons. This region is receiving huge additional investment from the company as its wants to diversify its markets away from Europe and United States. 

How important is Nepal’s market for your company?
Glenfiddich, which is the largest brand in the single malt category globally, is also number one here also by some ways. We believe, our market and the potential growth is much bigger than where are today because in Nepal there is an aspirational and successful group of Nepali businessmen, entrepreneurs, bureaucrats and a large expatriate community as well as a big tourist market. So, it is a very exciting time for us to be in Nepal.

At the moment, Glenfiddichis growing very strongly in Nepal. There have been some ups and downs over the last five years due to some market conditions like the tragedy of the earthquake and supply disruptions in 2015. Nevertheless, the underlying momentum of the Nepali market is very strong. It is a market which is premiumising very fast. Besides, the demographics and the wealth indicators here are also improving. We believe that Nepal, which is still a small market for Glenfiddichwill grow as the Asian market will outstrip Europe and US over time.

During this trip,I’ve visited a number of retail outlets and bars and have seen a very vibrant scene in the Nepali market. I think Nepal is very lucky for having a very good range of imported whiskys which is much better than what I’ve seen in many markets across Asia. The retailers and shopkeepers are also knowledgeable, and this is encouraging for Nepalis to learn more about brands like Glenfiddichand producers like William Grant & Sons.

How much share doesGlenfiddich hold in the single malt segment of the Nepali whisky market?
At present, our estimate is we are the number one single malt brand in Nepalby quite some distance. We hold somewhere between 40 to 50 percent market sharehere, and globally it’sabout 30 percent.

What are the major reasons behind the success of William Grant & Sons?
Thestrong family bond created while the making of the distillery has been the major factor for the success of the company. The Grant family still fully owns the company and the fifth generation members of the family are actively engaged in the entity, whichI think is very rare in business nowadays. 

It is also because of the company’s approach to stand different from the crowd. Back in the days when the first ever single malt whisky was flown from the stills of William Grant’s distillery on Christmas Day in 1887, only blended whiskies were available in the market. All single malt including Glenfiddich would go into blended whiskies. In the 1960s, the company decided to market it as single malt brand in its own right. Over the years, Glenfiddich has become a favourite among whisky lovers the world over creating the category of single malt whisky in the global liquor market.  

Over the last 20-30 years, the growth of the single malt category has been very powerful outstripping the growth of the rest of the whisky market. Glenfiddich not only has wonderful production credentials and a lovely story about how it is produced. It has become a sort of a luxury product that helps people show their aspirations, social status and success in their life.

What factors differentiate Glenfiddich from other single malt whisky brands?
The company’s founder William Grant’s vision was ‘to create the best ‘dram’ in the valley.’ Dram is basically a Scottish word for a whisky peg. To realise this, he created marvelous single malt flavours of apple, pears and soft floral for the high quality 12-year old aperitif whisky.  That complexity, balance, length and the expressiveness of the whisky really marked it out against the other ones.  

Like their ancestors, Grant family members are passionate and insistent on maintaining the originality and quality credentials of the whiskies.They don’t want to cut costs in production. Within the distillery, they have people who make their own casks and maintain the copper stills, whereasother distilleries outsource these to cut costs. We believe this is the best way to preserve the quality and integrity of the brands.

Besides Glenffidich, we also have other famous brands including the 12 year Balvenie Doublewood Malt, Hendrick's Gin, Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt, Grant’s Whisky, Tullamore Dew and Sailor Jerry, all of which are available in Nepal. 

Are there any new products for launch in Nepal? Will Glenfiddich open more bars here in the future?
Monkey Shoulder is one of our products which I would like to draw attention to. The whisky, which is quite new in Nepal, is the highest trending in the top 100 bars globally for the last three years. It is the coolest whisky brand at the moment.It is matured in the first-fill American oak barrels which gives Monkey Shoulder the lovely vanilla flavour and makes it very mixable.We are encouraging bartenders to make cocktails with it. It really has captured the imagination of the market globally and we hope to recreate it in Nepal too.

We always look for the bars that are trending, premium and aspirational and are popular with consumers. There are many upcoming bars here.We also have been looking for a number of options for our market expansion in Kathmandu. 

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