Sweeter whisky leaves a sour taste

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It is a decision that will have traditional Scotsmen choking on their single malts. A leading Scotch whisky distillery is to tamper with the taste of the amber fluid in a bid to woo a female audience.

In September, Glenmorangie will launch three new "flavours" of whisky which will come with a hint of port, sherry or Madeira. The distiller feels the slightly sweeter taste, or "expression" as the industry calls it, will help boost Scotch sales among women who have traditionally shunned whisky in favour of other tipples.

The marketing ploy is the latest in an increasingly uphill battle to halt the decline of Scotch sales in Britain. Hit by a combination of increased competition, high taxes and more moderate drinking habits, the industry is now going on the offensive to seek a younger, wider target market.

Glenmorangie will take its 12-year-old Scotch, which is brewed in the traditional casks, and transfer it to port, Madeira or sherry casks for the last two years to give the Scotch a slightly different finish. All three will be priced at pounds 25.

Glenmorangie's chairman, Geoffrey Maddrell, said: "The drinks have very different tastes and we hope they will appeal to women who tended to steer clear of Scotch in the past."

Alan Gray, an investment analyst at Sutherland & Partners in Edinburgh, said the industry badly needed to "add some razzmatazz" to boost sales.

John Wakeley, a drinks analyst at Lehman Brothers stockbrokers, questioned the wisdom of targeting women drinkers. "The trouble is that if you try to feminise a standard product like beer or whisky, you risk alienating the traditional consumer." He added: "You don't need to flavour the damn thing. You just need to teach them [women] to drink it differently, like with Coke."