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Glenmorangie global ambassador speaks on foray into Kenyan market

Three weeks ago I had a rare opportunity to interview the Glenmorangie Single Malts Whisky Global Brand Ambassador Hamish Torrie.

Torrie landed in the country ahead of the launch in the Kenyan market of the fourth variant of the Glenmorangie franchise, the Glenmorangie Signet.

This add to the three variants of the Scotch whisky already in the Kenyan market; The Original Lasanta, Quinta Ruban and Nectar D’Or.

For starters what is it that you do as a Global Ambassador for Glenmorangie?

Torrie: Like you put it, I am the global Ambassador of Glenmorangie where I look after the affairs of the brand in various world markets. But also I act as Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for the company.

Glenmorangie, the pronunciation of the brand is quite a task?

Torrie: Haha! I know right. The name is derived from one of the common languages in Scotland where Glen means valley, mor means big and angie means peaceful. So in a nut shell the brand represent a big valley of peace.

How long has your brand been in existence?

Torrie: The brand has been running since 1843. We are a very well established whisky company making single malt whisky. Single means from one Glenmorangie distillery while malt is the barley where all productions comes from.

The barley is combined with yeast and water then distilled into a wonderful spirit which is then matured in different barrels for many years to obtain the various variants.

Kindly walk me through them?
Torrie:
We have the Original which is the flagship of the brand. It gives flavors of fruity mellow and creamy vanilla after its maturation in barrels of up to 10 years.

So after 10 years, we take this whisky and put it in another barrel for just two years and it’s transformed into The Lasanta 12 year old variant.

This is because the barrel here previously had sherry wine sourced from Spain. This gives it extra deep flavors which are much richer than the former.

The same process is used for the rest of the variants. All the maturation in these different barrels is entirely natural and we just drive extra flavors that has been in the barrels beforehand.

How comes the Signet has no age maturation?

Torries: Signet is the reason for my second trip to Kenya. Signet is a very special type of production. Here we take the malted barley and we roast it before production.

As you roast the barley it produces a sort of Aruba coffee taste. We then stop the normal production for a week then wrap it to the wonderful whisky.

How has the response been from the Kenyan market?

Torrie: It’s been very good. We have seen tremendous growth from last year which motivated us to come and launch the Signet.

How long have you been in the Kenyan market, and what has the progression been like?

Torrie: We have been here for very many years but in a very small way but until recently when we put up a small local team here that has helped us become more aggressive.

We have seen international premium brands coming here and do well, and we thought we can be part of that as well.

You are in a market (Kenyan) that has well renowned established premiums whiskeys, what’s your game plan to compete with such brands?

Torrie: Our competitors are here and is a good thing but we also think Glenmorangie has a distinct taste and profile hence we can stand the taste of time.

We feel that we are very suited for the palate of the market because people here love sweetness unlike other parts. Besides there is always something for everyone.

Glenmorangie doesn’t advertise that much, how are you able to drive sales?

Torrie: We are not doing big advertising or big billboards but what we doing is hosting several tasting sessions in various top joints to try and build relationship.

We are actually hand selling it and its working. We started with a few cases ago and it’s grown. It takes a long time but we patient. To sustain you need to build slowly and properly.

How would you compare the business in East African countries where Glenmorangie has presence?

Torrie: In Kenya we are way ahead but I would say it’s still early days.

Premium Whiskeys like Glenmorangie are quite expensive and targets the middle class going up, don’t you think you could be losing out on the lower class clients?

Torrie: True all true premium Whiskeys are quite expensive but for Glenmorangie we have tried to make our entry point, The Originals, as affordable as possible.

I believe many people can access it, it’s expensive but not too expensive as the rest.