Islay Single Malt – Triple Wood vs. Ageing

While I worked in Calais (F), my friend and colleague Neil introduced me to two single malts which are at the opposite ends of the tasting scale, Laphroiag and Glenmorangie. Interestingly, most other Scotsmen I know (and I know a few) don’t like whiskey or default to cheaper alternatives like the Famous Grouse blend. My first Glenmorangie was the 18 year old, which is as smooth as Cognac, a truly splendid nip. Glenmorangie also offer a very large selection of different cask finishes, be it port, sherry or alike. I never paid attention to those, but I should have!

My favourite whiskey, however, is from Islay. The most renown distilleries from this island off the Scottish west-coast are Laphroiag, Bowmore, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain. It is love at second tasting, because these single malts are the most characterful whiskeys you can have. A peaty, smokey base mixes with bitter, seaweed and salty notes, not for the faint-at-heart! From Laphroiag I have bottles of 10y, 15y and 30y (a birthday gift from my lovely wife) and also the 10y cask strength (56%). The 30y has a very round and cultivated yet typical strong Islay taste and is only opened on special occasions.

Only recently, while travelling on a ferry to Amsterdam, I have discovered the Quarter Cask, which is finished off in smaller “quarter casks”. What a revelation! At a fraction of the price, you get a much more refined Laphroiag which even competes with the very special 30y filling. Laphroiag go one step further and recently introduced a Triple Wood, which is matured in three casks. The postman delivered this package on the morning after boxing day and I can say this is a great morning time whiskey! I need to taste some more, but it seems Laphroiag’s strategy to mature in multiple casks is definitely a good one!

Slainte!

About networking and LinkedIn

I am using online networks like LinkedIn extensively for more than five years now and the experience is overwhelmingly great. LinkedIn not only enables you to better understand your business partners, identify key contacts at targeted customers and suppliers, but it can also genuinely restore your trust in fellow humans through a spirit of collaboration and open networking. It is great to connect people, give advice and share information, be it with status updates or discussion topics in specialised groups. Furthermore, LinkedIn can help you create business. What do you need more than 4,000 connections for, I hear you asking. Well, each of them might need my help and input sometime, or I might ask them for an opinion or an introduction. Such a network is an asset which gives you many opportunities. I am very thankful for each of my connections and welcome all invites from genuine LinkedIn networkers! Are we connected yet?

How your babies help you do better business

Our twin babies are the greatest joy we have. I realised very early after the birth of Maurice and Fleur that, contrary to my thoughts, they give us actually much more than we give them. Babies make you a parent and put you on a very steep learning curve! You learn how to improve on a wide range of key skills that are important in business life:

Time management: Where has all the time gone? Flexible time seems to be reduced to the short sleeping intervalls. Parents need to tidy up, wash bottles, prepare milk etc. before getting “we”-time or, rarely, getting “me-time”. Planning and rigerous execution of the schedule help, but in the end it is flexibility and multiple-tasking which do the trick!

Communication: This is the single most important skill. Babies really benefit from constant re-assuring and communication. Not understanding any meaning of the words, they will listen to your intonation, melody, mimik and gestures. If you can get your babies excited about a business topic, chances are that you will strike a chord with more educated people as well!

Work/life balance, quality vs quantity: Whereas in worklife the focus is more on the predictable QUALITY of work, for the family it is more about the predictable QUANTITY of time you spend with your loved ones.

Financial planning: We all want the best for our kids. They grow so fast in their needs that you quickly end up reassessing finances and start to almost think entrepreneurial. How do you pay those new car seats, the people carrier, the University savings account?

Aren’t we blessed with the growth opportunity our babies give us?

10 trends for TiO2 in 2010

10 trends for TiO2 in 2010

1) Customer focus:
TiO2 suppliers are competing in a global market and traditionally were chasing volumes for profitability, which has led to some degree of price driven commoditisation and also to a disconnection from markets. A better way to keep and create customers is to understand their requirements in detail and to make a tailored offer (“Make to order” instead of “Make to stock”). Even better when the pigment industry solves some of the problems further down the value chain!

2) Innovation:
In the past years, some new TiO2 pigments were only incremental improvements to existing technology or even just repackaging. There is also some redundancy within the “big 5” pigment ranges. More innovation is needed to help customers develop new markets, reduce cost and simplify pigment handling.

3) Consolidation:
In the strive for cost optimisation, consolidation is still a topic after Millenium-Cristal, Sachtleben-Kemira and the bankruptcy protection, failed auction and bondholder-sponsored transaction around TRONOX.

4) Functionality:
Most of the value of TiO2 is beyond whitening and other optical properties, which by now are developed close to the physical limits anyway. Important functionalities are UV protection, catalytical properties, IR reflection or tailored surface chemistry.

5) Green offer:
In 2010, major industry trade fairs like the K2010 in Duesseldorf will focus on sustainability. Although working on the topic, the TiO2 industry has yet to officially show focus and commitment on topics like carbon-footprint reduction etc.

6) Supply & demand:
In 2010, it is likely that mature markets will come out of the recession. In turn, TiO2 consumption will rise again on top of the usual seasonality. With a number of TiO2 production lines either temporarily or terminally switched off, this might lead to a shortness in TiO2 supply. Some experts, like the Economist journal, predict a further softening of global economies around 2011/2012.

7) Growth in “B.R.I.C” area:
Economies in Brazil, Russia, India and China thrive and had high GDP growth rates throughout the time when Europe and the USA were in a recession. Many of the global plastics and coatings players have set up local production sites, which often have a dual strategy: Domestic formulations with local sourcing and higher quality “export” formulations with “western” raw materials.

8) New entries
2nd (Central European) and 3rd tier (CIS and China) manufacturers will continue to catch up on TiO2 technology and will improve their quality with the help of legions of retired TiO2 experts from Western Europe and the USA. Some players already have specialised products for food, drugs and cosmetics applications. For some other niches, they might not have the necessary production capacity. A small but growing market is TiO2 re-finishing.

9) Sulphate vs. Chloride
Chloride lines tend to have better overall economies of scale. If not yet completed, the industry will continue to shift volumes from sulphate to chloride technology and keep the sulphate lines for specialties like printing inks and anatase pigments.

10)
Marketing 2.0
In the past, the TiO2 industry has been pretty conservative when it came to Marketing. Some manufacturers use webinars or product DVDs, but there is still much potential left in new developments like social media. Open the stage for Twitter and LinkedIn as customer service and marketing tools!