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Distillers warned: ‘don’t try to be Scotch’

24 February 2017 by

Single malt whisky distillers around the world need to establish their own ‘true’ identity rather than copy the example set by Scotch, the master distiller of Seattle’s Westland distillery has said.

Speaking at the inaugural World Whisky Forum held in Sweden last week, Matt Hofmann explained that establishing a unique cultural identity is ‘increasingly important’ for distilleries.

He said: ‘We do not seek to replicate Scotch whisky in the United States. We seek to create Westland American single malt whisky. This is crucially, crucially important, because a copy is only ever going to be as good as the original. But if you’re authentic and you embrace what you have there it may be different, but it will be your own and it will be unassailable.’

During a 30-minute presentation at the forum, which was held at Box distillery in Bjärtrå and attended by large and small distillers from around the world, he also said that with over 1,500 ‘craft’ distilleries in the US all ‘beginning to take market share from each other’, it’s never been more important for distillers to consider the uniqueness of their offer and their place in the wider industry.

‘It’s increasingly important for everybody, Westland included, to hone in on exactly what it is you are, understand what you are and fully go after it and own it.

‘People just dive straight into this industry and don’t really try to understand who they are and where they are, both physically, but also in the grand scheme of this industry.’

He added that whisky fans should expect greater innovation in single malt whisky in the future, although experimentation is likely to come from outside Scotland.

History and tradition are important, especially in the world of single malt whisky… I think finding the right balance is the important thing; it depends on where you are. For us we’re a little bit heavier on innovation. But I respect the hell out of the Scottish whisky industry – they make great products.

‘As many of the other speakers have said there’s nothing inherently wrong with Scottish whisky as it is now, we just think there’s more potential for single malt whisky in the future.’

A 10-minute interview with Hofmann is also available to view on the World Whisky Forum website along with presentations and interviews with each of the speakers, including Ichiro Akuto and Yumi Yoshikawa of Chichibu distillery; Steven Kersley of LoneWolf distillery; Jasmin Haider-Stadler of Distiller Haider/Roggenhof; Ludo Ducrocq of William Grant & Sons; Tony Reeman-Clark of Strathearn distillery; Roger Melander of Box distillery; Kevin Abrook of William Grant & Sons; Patrick Van Zuidam of Zuidam distillers; Jota Tanaka of Kirin Brewery Co; and head of the World Whisky Forum, Jan Groth. 

Additional presentations from the World Whisky Forum 2017 will also be uploaded to Scotchwhisky.com over the coming weeks. 

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