Star Studded: TFWA World Exhibition Review

“I am not going to stand here and say I know everything about every sort of whisky and every note that goes into every whisky because I don’t,” he conceded. “It’s still new to me. I think what’s special about Haig Club is the fact that it is a single grain. It is something which if you are interested in whisky but are not a whisky drinker it’s a great way to start.” 

Diageo GTME managing director Doug Bagley went on to claim Haig Club had the potential to “redefine” what Scotch whisky is, and while that may be over-egging things a little, who would put money against Haig Club selling well, especially in Asia where Beckham continues to be revered like some sort of sporting version of the Dalai Lama? 

Beckham and Haig Club weren’t the only show in town, of course. At a lavish Pernod Ricard media dinner on Monday night at the Majestic Hotel’s La Plage restaurant, Martell cellar master Benoit Fil unveiled Martell Premier Voyage – a new €10,000 blend of 18 eaux-de-vie with an average age of 84, years created to celebrate the cognac house’s 300th anniversary next year. 

The following night the Pernod spotlight switched to Chivas Regal and the first new permanent addition to the blended whisky’s range since 2007 – Chivas Regal Extra. 

Few drinks companies know how to throw a party like Pernod Ricard Travel Retail and the Chivas Regal Extra bash didn’t disappoint. 

Ensconced in his own 1920s-style speakeasy, global brand ambassador Max Warner was on hand to lead guests through a tasting of the new sherry-influenced whisky while up on stage indie rock band The Noisettes belted out hits such as Never Forget You and Wild Young Hearts. Upstairs, world champion pastry chef Jérome de Oliveira had prepared a range of sweet treats (including a Flaming Chocolate Bomb) to accompany the new whisky. 

Across town, Edrington-owned The Famous Grouse was having its turn to shake its tail feathers at a cocktail event to launch a new look for the blended whisky aimed at premiumising the brand. 

According to brand controller Asanka de Silva, red is the new signature for ‘famous’ (the bar call for the whisky in emerging markets, it transpires), which explains why Edrington and Maxxium executives all wore fetching red socks to the event. 

Cannes gives us trade journalists a once-a-year chance to have a proper face-to-face chat with some of the sector’s top executives, such as Pernod Ricard Asia Travel Retail managing director Con Constandis and marketing director John O’Sullivan. Few people in the trade have their fingers on the pulse of what’s going on in Asian travel retail drinks business like these two and, while playing down the effects of China’s anti-extravagance programme, they were concerned about increased discounting and tactical promoting by regional retailers. 

 “If we get too tactical we may find ourselves back in the dark days of duty free when it was the place you went to get the same thing cheaper, versus it is now a shopping opportunity where there are unique propositions and real value for the consumer,” warned Constandis.