Tom Thomson: Why is London being chosen over Scotland for whisky product launches?

It's time to move whisky product launches back to Scotland and locations close to the distillery, writes Tom Thomson.

Published 22nd Sep 2017
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

There isn't a week that goes by without some lovely emails which start with "We would like to invite you to ...", and I get really excited to be invited to a launch or product event, only then to see that it's being held in... London.

Yes, I will admit that if I was located somewhere nearer London, or able to travel for an event there without the requirement of two days away from home, expensive travel and the use of a hotel, that I might make more of these, but that is not the point I want to make.

The point I would like to make is: "Why on earth is a Scotch Whisky launch being held in London in the first place?"

Now, I've heard lots of answers to this in the past including "because that's where all the drinks writers are" - and I will come back to that later - but for me none of the answers offered ring true, and any launch should be held preferably at the distillery, area around it, or if a major city venue is required, then have it in Glasgow, Aberdeen or Edinburgh.

Why do I think that? Well would Manchester United launch their brand-new kit in London, or would Apple launch the new iPhone in Taiwan without first having a proper launch event held at home?

No, they wouldn't.

So, why does it seem to be the done thing to launch whiskies in London?

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) are there to protect the Scottishness of the product ensuring that copies/fakes are found and removed, ensuring that it supports jobs and employment in Scotland by having to be bottled here, yet appear to do nothing to stop the flow of constant London based product launches and events.

They will quite happily go after the companies that make their products sound Scottish, such as Glen Bretton or Bagpiper etc, but do nothing to stop the flow of more and more Scotch events and launches appearing in London as the "centre of all things whisky".

The move of these events from London to the small villages and towns in which the whisky is produced would introduce a small, but noticeable, effect on the areas with events requiring staff, catering, accommodation etc which should all be a kickback into the local communities where these distilleries reside, instead of further filling the coffers of the multi-national companies who own the facilities used for most London based product launches and events.

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Getting back to the earlier point that London is "where all the drinks writers are", well that's just crazy, that's like saying any news relating to Manchester would be covered by the BBC correspondent in London as that's where they are, rather than the correspondent or writer being in the area they are writing about.

So, what exactly am I saying?

Well I'm saying that if you are a full time writer, writing about Scotch Whisky, surely you should base yourself in that area (or close by), and the SWA should be doing much more to protect the jobs and encourage investment in the areas surrounding the distilleries, or at least within the same country the whisky is produced in.

Do I think this article will do anything to change these things from happening and the tide of moving more and more events away from the areas producing the spirit to places like London? No, I certainly don't, but what I do hope happens is that some of the distilleries sit up take notice and begin to look at ways of doing more to protect the Scottishness of Scotch Whisky.


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