Rum ruled the roost as the yachty's traditional tot until whisky washed over yachting


Rum is the traditional default drink of yachtsmen but the Collins Stewart London Boat Show appeared to be awash with whisky yesterday as distillers aligned themselves with sailing. Chivas Regal were very much up in lights with the announcement that Ben Ainslie has been appointed global brand ambassador for the product.
The link in this case is China. With the sailing Olympics due to be staged in Qingdao in 2008 and Ainslie having recently impressed in the pre-Olympics test event last year, China is important to the classy distillers because it is by far and away their biggest market. I was staggered to hear from brand account manager Katie Beney, who was serving up some potent cocktails at the Henri Lloyd press day party, that bars in China’s biggest cities regularly shift 400 bottles – yes, bottles – of the premium blend every night.

The Chinese tend to buy it by the bottle rather than the glass and think nothing of polishing off a litre of the hard stuff with their mates in one sitting. 45 millions bottles of Chivas Regal are sold annually in more than 200 countries but China is way out in front in terms of consumption. Chivas Regal’s Life Series of sporting events include supporting the China America’s Cup team and the Phuket King’s Cup in Thailand although an imminent change in Thai law, which might ban certain alcohol advertising, meant they had to deflate their bottle shaped Chivas race marks before the last event in December. Weirdly, Chivas also back two elephant polo tournaments in the Far East. I just hope they leave the whisky alone until after the competition.

Another surprise at the show was Welsh whisky. There’s just one distillery in Wales where they distil Penderyn single malt whisky. At Excel they were handing out miniatures and offering tasting at the Welsh Watersports presentation during which we tried our pronunciation skills – Wisgi Brag Sengl Cymreig – is, of course Welsh for, single malt Welsh whisky, but we clearly needed more than a tot to get our tongues round that.

Just down the aisle Talisker ‘the only single malt Scotch whisky from the Isle of Skye’ were announcing their continued support as ‘course sponsors’ at the Bell Lawrie Scottish Series and following a long walk to the other end of the North Hall we were ready for a glass of Old Pulteney, the distillers of which have been Classic Boat magazine’s official drinks sponsors for four years. Note – does Yachting World need ‘an official drinks sponsor’?

Old Pulteney is marketed by Inver House Distillers as the Genuine Maritime Malt and to live up to this label is sponsoring the IRC Scottish Championships in June, the JP Morgan Round the Island Race, Henri-Lloyd Falmouth Week and the Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta at the end of August.

I’m sure there are some other whisky producers backing yachting which I’ve failed to mention so please get in touch and we’ll add you to the list. Cheers!