Peter Prentice is described as a legendary Scotch whisky connoisseur and a truly international businessman.
He helped grow the Chivas brand to its pinnacle in South Africa and Southeast Asia and is currently the Global VIP Relationships Director for Chivas Bros, UK.
We caught up with him when Peter visited Cape Town to share his journey to success and his experience working for Chivas Bros for the past 20 years.
What were your first thoughts when you started working in the SA market?
I first entered the South African market in September 1986 as an export manager to South Africa.
I spent three weeks in a car, travelling the lengths and breaths of this country with sales reps meeting so many warm and hospitable people.
Over the years I have noticed that South Africa has a strong Scotch whisky culture.
South Africa was a great place to learn about whisky and love Scotch.
How has consumer's wants/needs changed over the years (if at all)
In the 31 years that I have been working in the industry, the consumer has become a lot more knowledgeable about whisky.
That has been driven through a lot of ambassador work and tastings such as whisky events. For example, Whisky Live.
We have seen a peak in both interest and sales of top end Scotch whisky.
The bar of what people are prepared to pay for Scotch is increasing. This is attributed to a greater understanding of the craftsmanship that goes into producing a great Scotch whisky.
We have seen a notable demand for high end whisky in South Africa and globally.
Is whisky an "easy sell" in SA where brandy and beer are such homegrown drinks?
Many people have said that whisky is an acquired taste. Every country in the world has their local spirit.
In South Africa it is brandy and in Mexico it’s tequila. I believe we have space for all of them. My job is to increase the love and appreciation for Scotch.
What is different about the SA whisky drinker compared to their overseas counterparts?
Brand loyalty in South Africa is more prominent than any other country I’ve been to. The degree of brand advocacy and consumer support is exceptionally high.
Relationships in South Africa is very important and brands such as Chivas Regal is doing very well in building the brand and the relationship with the customer.
Chivas Regal South Africa is now the 5th biggest Scotch whisky market in the world with 3.5 million cases.
South Africa is sitting firmly at the top table of the world’s Scotch whisky markets.
What are some of the notable whisky trends you've spotted over the years?
The market works in circles. The great thing about Scotch whisky, being a truly global brand, is that it has been very successful over the past 20 years. When I started, gin was dying.
Now, it has made a comeback. Vodka then took over and whisky sales decreased.
We find that millennials are keen whisky drinkers and the reason is that Scotch come with a status.
It is a sign of wealth and what you drink becomes and accessory. What you order or what you hold in your hand is like the watch you wear.
What are some of the future trends?
As an industry we are focusing a lot more on mentoring and sharing the gospel of Scotch whisky.
The industry is becoming increasingly creative and more complex as we explore new avenues.
A good example of that is the Chivas Regal Ultis which is a tribute to five master blenders. Using only five of Chivas Regal’s most precious, signature single malts from Scotland.
This would not have been an option 10 to 15 years ago.