Haig Club is Exactly What Whisky Needs Right Now
If you're someone who drinks casually, likes to have fun, and appreciates the aesthetic of flash, then you're going to love the new Haig Club Grain Whisky from David Beckham. If you're someone who hates fancy brand names, thinks all marketing is just a cheap ploy to convince you to buy leftover crap, and would never even think about drinking a Scotch whisky tauted by a major celebrity, then you're also going to love the new Haig Club. Those who have been waiting for a modern and updated take on Scotch—one that actually looks like fun, rather than a stale room filled with old men—are going to love Guy Ritchie's new trailer for Haig Club embedded above. It's almost Skyfall-esque; a Bondian scene of Highland glory, fancy cars, and good-looking actors all headed north to the great home of all things Scotch. Those who poo-poo gimmickry and would rather just get down to brass tacks, you're going to be pleased as well—none of your coveted single malt whisky was harmed in the making of this video.
In searching for the above media, I happened to find a few articles not too in favor of Beckham's latest venture. "This is exactly what Scotch whisky doesn't need," one exclaimed. I beg to differ, though. Most of the complaints I hear from serious whisky drinkers stem from the idea that big corporate marketing is attracting deeper pockets from less-experienced drinkers, thereby raising the competition and the prices for the whiskies they like to drink. Many Macallan whiskies, for example, have doubled (or even tripled) in price over the last year due to its respected brand name and global consumer recognition; much to the chagrin of long-time Macallan fans. The new-found popularity of once-insider Bourbons like Pappy Van Winkle and George T. Stagg has also aggravated aficionados in the American whiskey community. But Haig Club is a fancy take on Cameronbridge grain whisky. Who's drinking that right now? No one. Grain whisky is a genre that serious whisky drinkers could care less about, and that many casual drinkers don't really even understand. The fact that Beckham is taking up the reins for a much-maligned category (one that probably deserves more respect than it gets) is fantastic.
An unexpectedly successful Haig Club isn't going to make your favorite single malt more expensive. It's not going to convince soccer fans around the globe to start paying exorbitant sums for collector bottles of Girvan and Port Dundas. It's not going to ruin the market for North British or Inverleven expressions, or convince Nikka to up the price for their wonderful Coffey Still whisky. Diageo isn't taking the last stocks of Port Ellen, dumping them into a crystal decanter, and then charging you $50,000 instead of $1,000. Haig Club is not going to do anything that could be perceived as negative to the general whisky market whatsoever, unless you're offended by modern packaging. If you don't want to like Haig Club with all of its posh (parden the pun) potential, then you don't have to buy it. As John Goodman's Walter Sobchak says in The Big Lebowski when Jeff Bridges objects to him bringing his dog to the bowling alley, "I'm not renting it shoes. He's not taking your fucking turn, dude."
I'm always up for a good time. Personally, I appreciate anything that can get me out of the same old rut. What I like about the Haig Club is this: it's simple, light, easy drinking whisky with marketing that focuses more on the drinking aspect of Scotch than the collectability. It's the type of whisky I could pour for my wife and even she could like (she generally hates whisky). It's a cool-looking bottle that I could bring to a party where my friends and I would pound it out over rocks in a matter of hours. Beckham's team isn't out there, rummaging through independent warehouses, asking: "What's the best whisky we can find and charge a fortune for?" They're taking grain whisky—something easy and fun—and they're marketing it as something easy and fun. Their approach is a welcome change from what I usually see behind the scenes; an over-infested mess of limited releases, once-in-a-lifetime chances, and expectations that are completely out of whack. What does the Haig Club taste like? It tastes like semi-young grain whisky. It's biscuity, grainy, basically-pleasing whisky with a hint of vanilla and a dash of that earthy, herbaceousness that you often find in single grain Scottish whiskies. I'd happily drink it if someone poured me a glass. I'll bet it's even better with ice (as grain whiskies usually are).
Is it worth $60? Not if you're a whisky collector, but you probably already knew that because there's nothing collectable about it. This is a whisky meant for the masses. There's nothing inside this square blue bottle that's going to blow your mind if you've been purchasing our single casks from Signatory, I can tell you that much. Haig Club is simply drinkable whisky that should only encourage young drinkers to branch out and explore the ever-expanding whisky universe. I'm all for that. The greater point is this: it isn't $100 and it isn't removing existing stocks of mature single malt from the market, repackaging them at higher price points, and preventing those of us who love really great mature whisky from an affordable and delicious alternative. I'm all for that as well.
Hate David Beckham's new whisky, if you so feel inclined. He's not a master distiller with hundreds of years of family tradition behind his long-standing company name. Personally, that's what I enjoy about it. Someone has to be out there encouraging people to drink this stuff, rather than simply hide it all away in their closet. K&L is never going to be a big player for Haig Club, mainly because we cater to a clientele looking for brand alternatives, but I'm still going to carry it in solidarity with the message: Let's drink Scotch, let's drink it out of a fancy bottle, and let's make sure we don't touch the really good stuff while we're dumping glasses of it down our throats. Cheers, David.