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Whisky Rebranding And Brand Evolution Part 5

Updated: Mar 6

As a consumer, locating your preferred bottle of whisky on a store's shelves can be difficult, particularly when whisky distilleries and brands cannot seem to agree on their product's image. All distilleries have undergone natural brand growth over the years with changing times and demand, particularly with single malts, which were not popular 40 years ago. Today, many of them are running low on stock to make their age statement releases, creating interesting-sounding names to fulfil the increasing demand for single malt whiskies over the past two decades. Every year, hundreds of new types of releases seem to emerge.

In this fifth instalment, we'll explore how whisky brands have changed over the decades, including well-known single malts and lesser-known distilleries.

whisky shelf in 2015 compared to 2021


1. Talisker

In 1988, Diageo, the current owner of Talisker, named it one of the Classic Malts. Established in 1830 by the MacAskill brothers, who discovered the site while rowing from Eigg to Skye, Talisker was the only distillery on the Isle of Skye for many years. Talisker's character is still associated with sailing and the ocean, with its salty and peppery taste.

Talisker has remained loyal to its minimalistic print labels and 'Diageo stock bottle' shape over the years, but the distillery has recently decided to step up its game. It has been included in Diageo's Game of Thrones series, Special Releases, and the Prima & Ultima series. The core line has been given a colour-lined brand boost for the first time, which works well.

Whisky Rebranding And Brand Evolution Talisker single malt whisky

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


2. Balvenie

Balvenie, one of the world's top-selling malt whisky distilleries, was established in 1892 and is owned by William Grant & Sons. In 1990, they added another distillery on the premises called Kininvie. Balvenie has released numerous editions and releases, including wood finishes and 50-year-old whiskies over the years. The first official Balvenie bottling came out in 1973, and it took them about 20 years to settle on their design style. In the late 1970s and 80s, Balvenie experimented with different design styles, including cognac and Glenfiddich bottles, and it seems like they used any bottle available at that moment. Finally, in the 90s, we saw the iconic Balvenie bottle and labelling come into use, along with their pioneering introduction of the first-ever wood finish.

Whisky Rebranding And Brand Evolution Balvenie single malt whisky

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


3. Kininvie

Kininvie is a small distillery built adjacent to its sister distillery, Balvenie, in 1990, owned by William Grant & Sons. The purpose of building Kininvie was to meet the increasing demand for whiskies. In 2007, William Grant & Sons built the huge multifunctional distillery Ailsa Bay, which allowed Kininvie to focus on experimental distillation projects. Kininvie has not released many whiskies so far. Over the last decade, in a Balvenie-style bottle, we have seen four releases of Kininvie under the name Hazelwood (not to be confused with the House of Hazelwood blend), Balvenie. Additionally, a couple of small bottle releases were made for the travel retail and Taiwanese market. In 2019, William Grant & Sons announced the release of three experimental bottlings. The bottlings are designed to attract niche whisky drinkers. It is clear that Kininvie has focused more on the quality of the whisky than on the packaging.

Whisky Rebranding And Brand Evolution Kininvie single malt whisky

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


4. GlenAllachie

Glenallachie is a distillery founded in 1967 and owned by The Glenallachie Distillers Co. The company is run by Billy Walker, who is responsible for capitalising the 'A' in GlenAllachie and bringing distilleries like Glendronach and Benriach back from the brink of extinction. In 2017, Billy and his partners bought the distillery from Pernod Ricard. Since 2018, we have seen a big rebranding take place, and an increasing number of editions have been released. Previously, as part of Pernod Ricard's portfolio, we mainly saw bottling available at the distillery. In 2023, Glenallachie introduced a heavily peated expression called Meikle Toir. For an updated article about GlenAllachie's rebranding of 2024, please click here.

Whisky Rebranding And Brand Evolution GlenAllachie single malt whisky

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


5. Craigellachie

Bacardi has owned Craigellachie distillery since 1998, which was established in 1891. Prior to the 1990s, Cadenhead was the main bottler of Craigellachie, but in 1991, it became part of Diageo's Flora & Fauna series. In 2004, Bacardi launched its first official bottling, revamped and labelled 14 years old. Since 2014, Craigellachie has been released in prime numbers (13 years old, 17 years old, 23 years old, etc.), which differs from the regular yearly release system.

This whisky ages exceptionally well, especially the older versions, which are truly stunning.

Whisky Rebranding And Brand Evolution Craigellachie single malt whisky

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


6. Glenmorangie

Glenmorangie distillery was founded in 1843 and has been owned by Moet Hennessy since 2004. The distillery has gained a reputation for its wood-finished and limited-edition whiskies, and its portfolio is so vast that it can be hard to keep track of all its releases. Instead of listing everything, we'll take a look at the evolution of the classic 10-year-old Glenmorangie Original design since the 1960s.

The first significant change to the Glenmorangie design occurred in 2004 when Moet Hennessy revamped the established design. Although the 2004 design was used for a long time, the initial design was so well done that it has stood the test of time.

In 2022, Glenmorangie announced a complete rebranding, and while the new design has divided opinions, it is undeniable that it catches the eye.

Whisky Rebranding And Brand Evolution Glenmorangie single malt whisky

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


7. GlenDronach

Billy Walker's involvement with GlenDronach is evident in the way he capitalises the 'D' in 'Dronach'. In 2016, Brown Forman acquired the distillery (along with Benriach and Glenglassaugh), which was established in 1826. Despite Brown Forman's prediction of significant changes in the next five years, we hope there won't be a major rebranding since we are fans of the current design that has been in use since the early 2000s. As one of our favourite sherry cask-matured whiskies, GlenDronach deserves to be more well-known, even though it remains relatively unknown to the public.

This distillery is renowned for releasing various vintages, wood finishes, and limited editions of its oldest whiskies. In 2021, GlenDronach's core range included The Hielan 8yo, Original 12yo, Revival 15yo, Parliament 21yo, and Traditional Peated.

Whisky Rebranding And Brand Evolution GlenDronach single malt whisky

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


8. Glenrothes

Glenrothes was established in 1878 and is currently managed by The Edrington Group, which became involved with the distillery in 1999. From 2010 to 2017, Berry Brothers - who had distributed Glenrothes since 1995 - borrowed the distillery from Edrington. Under Berry Brothers' control, Glenrothes was mainly bottled by vintages. However, in 2018, Edrington regained control of the distillery and returned to displaying age statements.

Berry Bros introduced the unique 'egg'- shaped bottle, which was inspired by the master blender sample bottle and has become a Glenrothes standard. This distinctive shape has divided whisky enthusiasts and critics alike.

Whisky Rebranding And Brand Evolution Glenrothes single malt whisky

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


9. Glenkinchie

Only a few distilleries are located in the Scottish Lowlands, one of which is Glenkinchie, established in 1837. Owned by Diageo, this distillery has received support from them, and its light and floral whisky is included in some of their most well-known series, such as Classic Malts, Special Releases, and Four Corners of Scotland. However, most of the whisky produced in Glenkinchie is used as a component in blends like Haig's and Dewar's.

Initially, Glenkinchie 10yo was the standard whisky when Diageo included it in their 1988 Classic Malts Collection. The first 12yo was introduced in 2007, replacing the core expression.

Whisky Rebranding And Brand Evolution Glenkinchie single malt whisky

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


10. Glengoyne

Ian MacLeod Distillers Ltd. acquired Glengoyne in 2003 from Edrington Group. The distillery, which was licensed under the name Burnfoot in 1833, is situated on the border of Lowlands and Highlands but is classified as a Highland malt. Glengoyne is widely known for producing highly regarded sherry cask whiskies.

Over the years, Glengoyne has made various modifications to its label, with significant changes occurring in the 1980s and 2020 when it unveiled its new design. Unfortunately, the age statement on the new label is challenging to read due to the colour of the numbers.

Glengoyne has released many different years and versions of its whisky. In 2020, it introduced its oldest whisky yet, the 50-year-old single malt.

Whisky Rebranding And Brand Evolution Glengoyne single malt whisky

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


In Part 6, we discover how certain blends have developed over the years, including Johnnie Walker and Dewar's.

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