At the recent World Whisky Conference Diageo's Nick Morgan called for a conversation.
In whisky industry parlance, a 'conversation' is a euphemism for 'this is what we are going to do'.
The subject is, surprise surprise, the contentious new category, blended malt. Morgan's proposition, as it was tweeted by drinks industry news provider Just Drinks, is he wants to sow the seeds of converting existing single malts in to new blended malts. This is the reheated Cardhu Debacle all over again. back then in 2004 Diageo were obliged to concede that, while not exactly illegal, it was not in the spirit of things to hoodwink the consumer. At the time, in full Arnie-mode, a spokesman said: "we'll be back".
And here they are.
But this time the landscape has changed: SWA members have now seen the light; a new category has been specifically created for this purpose.
Nick's conversation is about setting the narrative for allowing certain single malts to become blended malts. The reasoning is simple, and of course it is to do with money: a blended malt would allow the better margins of a single malt to be achieved, but with the unlimited volume of a blended whisky: blended malt equals the best of both worlds. This economic argument has already won over SWA members; there is no longer any industry opposition.
How will whisky retailers be convinced? Continuity of supply, better price points. And the whisky-buying public? Expect platitudes along the lines of 'blending is an art', our master blender, cheaper prices for your favourite malt, the brand looks the same, no one will notice the difference, etc.
And of course they would be right. 90% of whisky is exported overseas, so brand-conscious Johnny Foreigner is unlikely to catch on to the deception, that his whisky no longer comes form the specific place that he thought has been told it came from, but instead some anonymous blending facility. And, and this is the main point, if origin, spirit, appellation and brand are decoupled, where will it all end?
After all, the only difference on his favourite Scotch whisky will be the transposition of two little words, just 3mm high: 'single' for 'blended'.