Well what do I know?
Quiet at the back there! I know as well as you that the answer is next to nothing – but at least have the indulgence to allow me some illusions. Sometimes though it is difficult as the curtain is pulled back and the cold, full light shows every clear detail of my misunderstanding.
I have a weakness for a plausible narrative – a story that conforms to the way I see the world and so makes it easy to believe it is true. I know I’m not alone in this but because other people are similar does not make an error any less of an error. Things have a habit of not being that simple and a clear narrative is often not the whole truth (one should always bear in mind the Mencken quote: “Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”). Take for example Berry Bros and their commitment to Glenrothes. A few months ago I went to a tasting with Ronnie Cox where I was not only fully convinced about the virtues of the whisky (my account of the evening is here) I totally bought into the story of the commitment of Berry Bros to the brand. I liked the whole idea of a there hundred year old, family company that could afford to take the long view. That they were able to build for the years ahead as well as looking after the present. This is given weight by the fact that a three hundred year old company is very unusual. Everything has a life cycle and companies are no different. If you look at the firms that once seemed like giants a mere fifty years ago, you will be surprised at how few of them now exist. Berry Bros offers continuity like few other businesses – when you look at the window of the shop in Pall Mall you can almost believe the nobs and nabobs from past eras are reflected back.
When I was told that the development of Glenrothes was a long term plan, with the idea of slowly building the reputation of the brand until it became established as one of the premium whiskies – I not only believed it I bought into the idea as a good thing. But as we know, in business, forever is only as long as the next offer you can’t refuse and such is the case with Glenrothes. The brand has been bought back by Edrington so that it is once again united with the distillery.
I can fully understand why this makes sense. Berry Bros had pushed open a door, establishing a distinct reputation for what had been primarily a blending distillery and so doing offered Edrington the chance to run it alongside Macallan and Highland Park as a triumvirate. In other words Edrington could take their ball back and run with it. It also know that in business everything has a price. And yet, and yet, I liked the idea of a chairman of a family company wanting to invest in something that would blossom for future generations. I like the idea of planting a tree for your grandchildren.
You see I am a sucker for a romantic story.
P.S. Never mind the ownership, I still like the whisky