Last Drop Distillers

Old Whisky, New Management

Last Drop Distillers products
Last Drop Distillers’ current products

At the 21st Annual Whisky Advocate Awards, The Last Drop 50 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky was awarded the highly prestigious Whisky Advocate’s Blended Whisky of the Year 2014.

It’s a remarkable product from a unique and equally remarkable company. I’ve blogged about the company a number of times but only in reference to James Espey, one of the founders. I think you’ll find the full story very interesting, particularly since the day-to-day management of The Last Drop Distillers (LDD) has been handed over to the daughters of two of the founders.

How it began

In 2008, three partners with a proven track record of producing incredible spirits brands (Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Chivas Regal 18 Year Old, The Classic Malts, Malibu and Baileys Irish Cream) decided to pool their skills to create one last amazing brand. So, James Espey, Tom Jago and Peter Fleck founded the company whose single-minded goal was to find and bottle rare and exclusive spirits.

Award winning Last Drop 50 year old
Award winning Last Drop 50 year old

For instance, The Last Drop 50 year old (50.9% AbV, $4,000) is based on the discovery of three overlooked casks that had been distilled between the 1940s and 1950s and sold throughout the 1970s. But somehow these casks were ignored or forgotten about until Espey and Jago came along and further aged them.

The result was twofold. The whisky was extraordinary and described by reviewers as “epic.” Further, they realized they were on to something and have produced a 1960 Scotch and a 1950 Cognac. Other last drop variants are in the works.

New management

As you can imagine, precious and rare spirits, not to mention expensive, require a full time commitment for sales and marketing. As a result, the management torch has been passed to two brilliant offspring of the founders.

Carolin (Beanie) Espey
Carolin (Beanie) Espey

Caroline (Beanie) Espey (daughter of James Espey) is Sales and Marketing Director and comes with a strong global background as well as expertise in very top shelf brands. Following a degree in modern languages at Oxford University, Beanie has worked for luxury brands Chanel and L’Oreal before starting her own business – a Marketing agency run jointly from London and Hong Kong.

Rebecca+Jago.jpeg
Rebecca Jago

Rebecca Jago (daughter of Tom Jago) is Creative Director. Following a degree in Linguistics and time with some of London’s leading design agencies, Rebecca has been running her own small design agency for the last 25 years. Somewhat unusual for a creative director inasmuch as Rebecca’s creativity extends both to design and product.

What makes The Last Drop unique?

There are many very expensive whiskies on the market selling for four, five, even six figures. (Here is an interesting list.) The scotch whiskies on the list are mainly single malts and available in either glitzy or straightforward packaging. What I love about The Last Drop products is that it is about the liquid, not the packaging. If your motivation is ostentation, then you probably gravitate toward elaborate packaging that shows your “good taste” regardless of the quality of the scotch.

Also, the list consists mainly of single malts except for Last Drop Distillers 1960 Blend and Johnnie Walker Blue 200th Anniversary Blend. While I love single malts, there is nothing like a carefully blended scotch, particularly with ancient stocks. For me, that’s the epitome of the scotch maker’s craft.

Add to that a family run business consisting of old school/new school spirits industry connoisseurs and the results are products worth buying.

Of course, that’s only as long as the stock lasts. But, if I know the Espeys and Jagos, more discoveries are on the way.

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The Last Drop team

 

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Book Review: Making Your Marque

100 tips to build your personal brand and succeed in business

book coverWhat does this have to do with the Booze Business?

Glad you asked.

James Espey, a good friend and business associate, wrote the book. James has been at the forefront of innovation in the spirits industry with such creations as Malibu, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Johnnie Walker Blue, among others. He was President of United Distillers North America and Chivas and Martell at Seagram.

If that’s not enough, he is the founder of The Last Drop Distillers LTD (producing rare scotch and cognac from literally the last available stocks) and was recently awarded the O.B.E. (Order of the British Empire) from Queen Elizabeth.

Here’s how the book is described:

Harnessing decades of experience in managing and developing top international brands, James Espey has refined his wisdom into 100 bite-sized tips in his new book MAKING YOUR MARQUE. His clear, down-to-earth advice has been carefully structured to benefit readers at all stages of their career…  At its heart is the importance of creating and nurturing your own brand – making your marque – in order to achieve business success and career fulfillment.

So, I asked James some questions about the book.

BB: What prompted you to write it?

James: I worry about the lack of mentoring and guidance in today’s world.  Everything is frenetic and instant. I have given a couple of talks at different graduate schools and this convinced me more than ever that people wanted a book addressing fundamentals but in a succinct and easy to read format.

BB: So the book is aimed at young people?

James: Not at all. There are three audiences – the young graduate starting out in life and thus the beginning of the book is crucial; the upwardly mobile 30-55 year old, the main target audience; then for people looking towards the end of their career, what to do next.

BB: Why is personal branding so important these days?

James: Everything is a brand and it’s as important to build your own personal brand, as it is to build consumer brands. Besides, it’s a very competitive business world these days and branding is vital.

BB: Tell us about your favorite sections of the book.

James: Here are some of the chapter headings.

“Your Own Vision:  Who do you want to be?”

“Who should you seek to work for?”

“Plan Your Exit from the company when they are trying to employ you because that is when you are strongest in negotiation.”

“Friends in the office – true or false”

“Be nice to people on the way up, with luck they may remember you on the way down”.

BB: Thank you James.

Making Your Marque is an entertaining and fun book but also a life guide. I plan to give as a graduation gift as well as to those changing jobs and retiring. It’s an engaging and informative guide to building a career.

The only complaint I have about the book (like most people who have read it) is that I could have used it when I was starting out. Or, when Seagram closed. Or, when I started this blog. Oh well, it’s never too late.

By the way, Making Your Marque is available on Amazon.com in hard copy as well as e-book.

James Espey
James Espey

 

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“It will never sell” vs. “You never know”

I was chatting with James Espey the other day and the subject of Baileys Irish Cream came up. For those of you who don’t know him or of him, suffice to say that James is a legend in the spirits industry as a very senior manager that has successfully run companies, categories and brands. In addition to creating the Keepers of the Quaich (see Sept. 28, 2010 posting) James’ innovation history includes the invention of Malibu, significant involvement in Baileys and much more.

He is still at it with a range of new and unique ventures including Last Drop Distillers among other ventures.

Anyway, the subject turned to what it takes for a brand to withstand the naysayers (generally corporate types who are risk adverse and would rather buy than create) and the prognosticators (the self proclaimed experts at prediction of success and failure). James told me the story of a well known industry observer who took one look at the Baileys idea and proclaimed, “that s**t will never sell.” Well, the forecast was wrong but never mind, that gent went on to make millions in the industry anyhow.

The Baileys story I had heard came from the late Jerry Mann (former Seagram CEO) right after I took over new products. His advice began with a typical Jerry Mann comment. “Listen pal,” he said between puffs, “in this business, you just never know what will sell and what won’t.”

It seems that when Jerry was running a distributor operation in California a friend called and asked for a favor, which was to buy some 5,000 cases of this new cream liqueur. He thought it was doomed for failure but a friend asked a favor and Jerry complied. As he put it, “we stuck the crap in the back of the warehouse and forgot all about it.” Then one day out of the blue, a sales manager called and informed him that retailers were clamoring for “that crap at the back of the warehouse.”

7 million cases per year later, despite ups and downs, lower priced knock-offs and diet and weight concerns, Baileys is still going strong and a true global brand.

According to James, it was launched using a well thought out new product approach, a strong dedicated team, management commitment and an understanding of consumer needs and wants. Which I believe gave the brand its momentum. Once you get momentum, boys and girls, even a large bureaucratic behemoth can’t slow you down.

Just ask Seagram’s 7 Crown.

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