Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Haig Club: Great advert, but what about the Whisky?

Has anyone seen the Haig Club Whisky advert? It's ridiculously cool. Directed by Guy Ritchie, it features beautiful, sweeping Skyfall-esque Scottish scenery, Beckham on a classic motorbike, a seaplane, a loch and a castle. Doesn't get more Scottish than this, aye?

I've always had a problem with celebrity-endorsed products; be it underwear, fragrance or alcohol etc, on the grounds that it can often be an inferior quality product, with a name plastered on it to make it marketable. Great for both parties though; the producer sells more of their product, and the personality earns massive royalties. Win Win.

When I heard that Diageo had teamed up with Beckham and music mogul, Simon Fuller, I was sceptical at best about the outcome. Firstly, I failed (and still do) to really understand what X Factor (excuse the pun) Fuller brings to the table; he's not a particularly marketable person, just a music entrepreneur, and found myself thinking 'Oh dear Beckham, here we go again...'

I fell in love with the advert immediately. If you haven't seen it, it nails exactly what sells you on whisky. It's also extremely clever, clearly playing on the fact that the Asian market are massive on whisky, and massive on Beckham. It sells the heritage, even though the whisky has no age statement. The track, Left Hand Free by alt-J suits the advert perfectly. I imagine Haig Club will perform much, much better in the Asian markets, and obviously, so do Diageo, the alcohol brand conglomerate behind the venture, also responsible for brands such as Smirnoff, Guinness, Gordons, Red Stripe, Tanqueray, Captain Morgan and many many more.

The Haig Club bottle can easily be confused for a bottle of Bleu de Chanel, however, I'd recommend not drinking the latter. Perhaps Beckham got confused in the design meeting, perhaps he thought it was another Eau de Beckham... I'm sorry but the image of Beckham in his underwear dousing himself in the contents of this bottle may do it for some of you out there, but I'm not that way inclined, and struggle with the idea of drinking a bottle of aftershave...

I was lucky enough to taste Haig Club the other week, and although I'm no whisky fan, nor expert, I wasn't totally underwhelmed by it. It didn't blow me away, but it did restore some faith in celebrity-endorsed brands. There has been some standard of quality applied to this product, so fair play to Diageo, and Beckham, for not completely selling out.

Theres virtually no peat (a good thing for me!), and its got a good amount of sweetness and toffee (also good for someone who doesn't enjoy whisky). There's lots of almond on the nose, and I pointed out it smells like Bakewell tart (I like Bakewell tart). Apparently theres dried mango, but I really didn't get this.

There's a little spicy oak on the palate, a rich sweetness and lingering spicy aftertaste. Very little complexity.

It is also, ridiculously, stupidly, overpriced in my view. The Whisky Exchange retails it at £44.95 for 70cl, for which is essentially a £25 bottle of whisky. Pricing it at the same level as a Lagavulin 16 year old raises some seriously big eyebrows for me, especially as there is no age statement...

It's not really good enough to sample on its own as a favoured whisky, and all I really wanted to do is pour it over vanilla ice cream or mix it in cocktails, but the price makes it unjustifiable.

Haig Club will still perform well internationally, and I imagine that is what Diageo is concerned about, rather than creating a whisky to rival Scotland's many highly-esteemed and legendary distilleries. But my experience as a pub and bar manager makes me feel bartenders will avoid mixing with it due to the price, and real whisky fans will give it a wide berth in favour of spending this kind of money on more iconic names.

The advert supersedes the experience. In a way, the advert IS the experience. Enjoy it below:

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