Diageo compounds its misrepresentations on Talisker

LCreach lighthouse by Folork Creative Commons

The romance of it all – a striking black and white banded lighthouse (the one above) in a photograph taken from a different angle, atop its dark cliff, under lowering skies, with dark blue water and green-veined white surf crashing on a reef, with, in the bottom right hand corner of the frame, the warm orange glow of a bottle of Talisker, Diageo’s single malt Scotch whisky from the Isle of Skye. Beside it the words ‘Made by the sea’.

The tangle o’ the isles in every pixel, the force of the elements, the explicit seduction of danger, the heartfelt warmth of the dram – this, a new £1.5 m poster campaign for Talisker, is powerful stuff.

Diageo’s ad agency has had a field day: ‘The campaign, … Talisker’s first global activity, will play on the brand’s maritime associations’ with its ‘made by the sea’ theme.

With Skye an iconic Scottish island and Talisker a famous single malt whisky, the lighthouse will be that Scottish masterpiece of engineering by the legendary Scottish Stevenson family at the nearby Scottish landmark, Neist Point, on the island’s west coast. Won’t it?

Well, actually, no it’s not.

Neist Point LIght, Skye. Photo Wojsyl, GNU Free Documentation

Here is the Neist Point Light on Skye. And the one in the ad poster is certainly not in Loch Harport, home of Talisker distillery. Indeed, it is not even anywhere near Skye.

It is a stock photo taken by Frenchman,Jean Guichard, of  Le Créac’h lighthouse on the Ile d’Ouessant, off the French coast of Brittany – truly ‘highlighting the whisky’s provenance on the Isle of Skye’.

In the pantomime of this promotional campaign, all we can say is: ‘Oh yes it is’.

And it gets worse.

In an article published back in July 2009, we showed how the international drinks conglomerate, Diageo waxed lyrical – and misleadingly – in overseas marketing campaigning on its maturing of this same Skye single malt Scotch whisky, Talisker.

Advertisements gushed that Talisker was: ‘‘lashed by the sea spray of the west coast’… ‘sea air’… ‘gives its powerful marine character’, ‘influenced by seaweed and pepper’.

But the whisky is matured in Central Scotland / East Kilbride and gets no marine influence at all.

We said at the time that: ‘Diageo are on record as saying it makes no difference where whisky is matured and that statements to the contrary are a lot of nonsense. (In Andrew Jefford’s eye opening book: Peat Smoke and Spirit, P 285)  This kind of deception leaves the public overfed on fictional romance, misled and starved of awareness of the reality of how the major part of the industry operates’.

And here they are, at it again – implying that Talisker breathes in the tang of the west coast seas off Skye where in fact, it coughs in the carbon emissions of the central belt.

This is blatant misrepresentation – you could plead ‘artistic licence’ were it not for the place of maturation of the malt. Scotland is ruthlessly exploited by the tax-evading, Johnnie Walker Kilmarnock-bashing  Diageo.

Respect? Not a jot.

The photographs illustrating this article show:

  • Top, Le Créac’h lighthouse on the Ile d’Ouessant in Brittany, by copyright holder, Flore Allemandou and reproduced here under the GNU Free Documentation licence.
  • Above, the Point Neist lighthouse on Skye, by copyright holder, Folork and reproduced here under the Creative Commons licence.

Note for photographers and lighthouse buffs: Check out Jean Guichard’s photolibrary for some unforgettable images of lighthouses. Prepare to spend serious time here.

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9 Responses to Diageo compounds its misrepresentations on Talisker

    • For Webcraft: So are you saying that most malt whisky drinkers believe that it makes no difference where the malt is matured?

      And we do not believe for one moment that you are naive enough to describe what companies spend fortunes on as ‘only advertising’.

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  1. Very interesting to see you condemn Diageo while singing the praises of Bruichladdich. This is one of the reasons that a lot of people in Islay stopped buying the Ileach as the editor of the paper was doing same thing. Bruichladdich blog had the same theme as yourselves regarding the lighthouse, coincidence or what? Didn’t notice any complaints from anyone else.

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  2. To James Welsh:

    I have to say that I did notice the same thing but refrained from commenting. All press is partisan and has its favourites, but ForArgyll’s lobbying tendencies are perhaps becoming a little too obvious for a medium that claims to be fostering open dialogue.

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    • For Webcraft: Look at the evidence of Diageo’s track record. We have never claimed to be ‘balanced’ but we work on and provide evidence for the positions we openly adopt. The open dialogue comes through the contributions you and other contributors add to the mix – which we welcome and enjoy. Never confuse ‘balance’ with justice.

      We are openly admiring – for good reason – of the Bruichladdich distillery and of its CEO Mark Reynier, for the turning around of a traditional Islay single malt distillery that had closed down; for employing islanders; for encouraging local barley growers; for using Islay and Scottish barley rather than importing; for endless inventiveness with new products and with promotion; and for a great dram.

      Bruichladdich sponsors events across Argyll. It brings thousands of visitors annually to Islay for its quite mad Beach Rugby competition which sees international stars and Island and distillery teams compete to survive.
      Sp why would we not – and rightly – admire a performance like that.

      None of this means that we elevate Bruichladdich above their peers in the Islay malt distillery and the Whisky Bible regularly recogises the calibre of other, like Ardbeg.

      We know we pay more attention to Bruichladdich than the others – and this is because they send us regular press releases and keep us up to date. We are the tiniest of teams and we simply do not have time to chase up press releases – although we gladly respond to those we are sent.

      Believe us – Mark Reynier is one of the most talented publicists we have met. The Bruichladdich Press Releases and promotional gambits always – always – make us laugh.

      They put a massive pair of ears on either side of the top cask in a stack below which stood Martin Clunes with a similar home grown, if rather more modest, set. God alone know where they got the huge ears but the photo was irresistible.

      They got James May and Oz Clark to drive a race car fuelled by Bruichaddich distilled spirit. The car was probably the Team Bruichladdich Le Mans series car (another inspired promotion and the team’s been turning in some really good results this season) as it was in distillery colours.

      They bought and installed rescued stills with names like Ugly Betty and gave them new work to do.

      They feed in little titbits of intriguing education in the mysteries of the world of distilling. We learned of olas and a valinch in the past year.

      And their sense of style is impeccable – the packaging of their products is quite beautiful.

      They’re also a tease. Sometimes we get an emailed image – always a curiosity – with no comment. So we enquire. And there’ll be an interesting story behind it.

      We know they play us like a trout but the game’s a laugh and the bait is good.

      So, for us, Bruichladdich, Jim McEwan, its Head of Distilling and Mark Reynier are a uniquely wonderful combination of things life enhancing.

      For as long as they do what they’re doing, we will delight in spreading the word. Why ever not?

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  3. I wasn’t that long ago one of our community was found frozen to death outside after his usual drinking session that took-over-his-life killing him before middle age, and with the Labour Party’s commission concluding alcohol advertising should be banned, and more recently alcohol has been rated as worse than heroin – one would think the ‘media’ would have the ‘maturity’ and not need to wait for the State to ban alcohol advertising when writing advertising news articles ForBruichladdich – ‘ForArgyll’ must have missed Argyll’s alcohol epidemic if they consider ‘drug dealers’ Jim McEwan and Mark Reynier as “…a uniquely wonderful combination of things life enhancing.” your own lives must be dull, though get your own attention under the tag ‘ForArgyll’.

    Blobbyland didn’t last long after the ‘gimmick’ wore off, Mark Reynier is selling a ‘class A’ drug rapped up in gimmicks for attention ForArgyll is happy to give a man who is happy to tell on-line that he has used his fists to get his way and was a short lived ‘Whisky Coast’ chairman after belittling the very people he was representing and is the yellow submarine man calling on YouTube for a Government health warning on his drugs and clearly wanting to be known for the ‘whisky’ and NOT the ‘gimmicks’ if only ‘ForArgyll’ and other media could see the alcohol epidemic for the ‘trees’ and report the ‘news’ rather than ‘their’ admiration ForGimmicks.

    And did Mr Reynier not give abuse to rescue workers after his boat capsized ‘ForArgyll’ a man above you “openly admire”?

    And is ‘Port Charlotte’ whisky not really ‘Bruichladdich’ whisky – ‘ForArgyll’?

    And ‘ForArgyll’ I note above you write “And here they are, at it again – implying that Talisker breathes in the tang of the west coast seas off Skye where in fact, it coughs in the carbon emissions of the central belt.” a bit like Bruichladdich’s ‘yellow submarine’ nothing to do with Bruichladdich other than them using the image and story to sell their drugs?

    Oh, and if west coast ‘Scotch’ needs to breath in the tang of the west coast: The Herald “For a couple of years after getting control of Bruichladdich, Reynier attempted to run the business from London. But this became increasingly difficult. He decided to relocate with his wife and child to Islay and sell the London business.” so Mr Reynier couldn’t run Bruichladdich via ‘remote control’ from “carbon emissions” London – lucky us ForArgyll!

    This is a case of serious mistaken identity.

    We have checked the facts and Mr Reynier has never capsized a boat, or had recourse to being rescued from the sea and would never abuse rescuers, asking: ‘Who in their right mind would?. He has also been involved in rescuing other people’s boats and has never been abused himself by those he rescued, only gratefully thanked.

    The second comment in the comment above is no less than sick. The car stunt did not kill anyone. It happened on a closed-off road, 6 months before the three people (who were known to Mr Reynier) were killed in a head on collision with a lorry and a cow on the same stretch of road.

    On account of the very serious misrepresentations in this post, we put the author on notice that, should anything of this nature occur again, any contribution he makes to the site will automatically be spammed.

    We could have removed his original comment here but, since some will have read it, this utter refutation seemed the fairest response in the interests of the wronged party.

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  4. Confused. What has Bruichladdich and Islay to do with this? I thought this article was about Talisker and Skye?

    My reading is that Talisker have spent a few million to mislead the market on the provenance of their whisky – I found it hilarious that they show a picture of France while extolling their Skye roots. I suppose, as the article points out, there is a darker side – didn’t Diageo pull off some dodge recently by re-registering the company in Holland to avoid paying UK corporation tax? Does make you wonder about the ethics of milking your national heritage in your marketing then scooting the profits offshore.

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  5. …oh here we go again, more bile from the usual suspects to rty and throw somw slurry at diageo! The root of this is pure jealousy and nothing else, it is getting embarassing to have to keep reading this sort of nonsense that does nothing for the locally produced whisky or the locals involved in its production.
    Again the “newsroom” has backed up its reasoning by praising bruichladdich to a vomit inducing level, failing to mention while dribbling at the mouth about its sponsoring of events around Argyll, and its beach rugby…that the event was created by and taken to its heights of glory by no other than Diageo before bruichladdich took over the sponsorship! I would ask that the clowns running this site do some reel investigative journalism and find out how much money diageo has put into local communities compared to bruichladdich before using MISLEADING opinions to give your readers the impression that it may be the opposite! hypocritical in light of what this topic is about!!
    All this has been covered before on this site by the biases people that write it, luckily as has been said already, most folk are too wise to be taken in by it but it is still so sad that an Argyll publication will use its position to put down Scottish brands!

    Observer…have a look at this thread about your tax question…http://forargyll.com/2009/09/diageo-branded-socially-irresponsible-for-uk-tax-avoidance/comment-page-1/#comment-11653

    then this one about the former topic….http://forargyll.com/2009/08/diageo-whines-and-bullies-over-kilmarnock-jobs-and-port-ellen-grain-silo/comment-page-1/#comment-8687


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