I own a 5% share of 2 casks at Bladnoch which I bought through the previous owners. Last weekend I received this letter:
Short story is that the initial payment covered 8 years of warehouse rent and those 8 years have now passed.
If we don't remove our cask before 30th November the new rental charge will be 5£ a week, increasing to 10£ March 1st. 2016
The alternative is to have the casks moved to whiskybroker.co.uk for bottling or further storage
Whenever the cask will be moved there will be a 25£ "standard movement charge"
Other cask owners have received a similar letter
Here is my opinion on Bladnoch's initiative towards their old fans and customers
First a little fact. I also own a cask with Bruichladdich. With their new owners they increased the weekly rent to around 40 pence a week.I just paid for further 5 years storage of a cask that was 10 years old.
Here is a quote from the letter:
"As a goodwill gesture we will not be charging any rent up to 30th November"
This is 4 months free rental, since the cask was filled 27th July 2007. Something similar to 18 weeks free or 90£/180£ saved. If I choose to trust Bruichladdichs rates as the going costs of warehousing whisky (I know whiskybroker charges even less) they are really goodwilling us 7£. As I own 5%, they just gave me around 35 pence. Fantastic, I feel really goodwilled there. The cost of sending this annoying letter was 1£ so you can say they spend 3 as much on annoying customers than pleasing them.
Seems like I have to get hold of the other shareholders and decide what to do with these 2 casks. My vote is to get them moved to whiskybroker as fast as possible. When we hopefully agree to do this, we will have to get in touch with whiskybroker and have them move the casks. This will have to fit into their schedule I am pretty sure, and I have no idea when this is going to happen. Probably not within the next 2 weeks, so I wouldn't be surprised we will have to experience the new rental charge, which is more like a heavy fine. Lets say it takes 4 months. Then the charge will be 10-15£ for me, which is probably something most people with our hobby can live with, but it is still a lot of money, The experience of getting robbed is probably worse. So this is at most annoying. On our side
But from Bladnochs side I think this is stupid. Very. All distilleries have a fan base. It's great for a distillery to have fans. They are loyal customers. They are also mini brand ambassadors. I think it's stupid to piss off your old fans. They might have been fans of the former company, but it's still the same distillery. I would have chosen to nurse these people (of which one was me!). Get them to work for me. They would be my first target for new products. They would buy them naturally.
I would also have kept their casks in my warehouse. Think of all these fans coming to the distillery to see their casks. Off course you would have to work a bit to take these guests to their casks as they surely would like to, but these guest, and the friends they probably bring along, would be happy. They would also go into the shop and buy things. Whisky. Merchandise. They will take photos and post it on socail media. And they might go home and say how wonderful Bladnoch is, what a good time they had, how nice the people were, and how much they look forward to visit again. And as a side bonus they would stay at local B&B's and guesthouses and eat at local restaurants.
Instead they build up a somewhat big group of grumpy former fans. I can quote one reaction I have seen on the internet concerning this exact letter:
"I would suggest a boycott of the new Bladnoch bottles, whenever they appear, I know I will. There is no room in our small country for fools like this man, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself some serious questions - to the new owner P Craig"
In my opinion the new owners of Bladnoch have started things stupid. Maybe. Or maybe not....
I have also heard that the new owner is going to market Bladnoch as a premium luxury whisky. This means high prices, fancy bottles, wooden boxes and big time advertising, but usually not better whisky in the bottle. With the advertising a new segment of whisky consumers will be reached. I am pretty sure the now former fans won't be customers after a move like this. They wouldn't be interested in packaging over whisky. They are also pretty immune to marketing gimmicks as they know a bit more about whisky then the average consumer. So Bladnoch is actually just getting rid of people that would have left anyway. I don't know if this will be true, but if it is, then the new Bladnoch isn't stupid. Just arrogant
So are the new owner of Bladnoch stupid or arrogant. What do you think ?.