Extreme Logistics: God save the queen, and her whiskey

June 8, 2004
Extreme logistics- God save the queen, and her whiskey While the movement of alcoholic beverages from one country to another isn't usually considered

Extreme logistics-
God save the queen,
and her whiskey

While the movement of alcoholic beverages from one country to another isn't usually considered extreme, one's perspective changes when the retail value of a single bottle is $10,000. That was the challenge facing distributor Pernod Ricard USA (www.pernodricardusa.com), which had to move 10 bottles of Royal Salute, a specially blended scotch whiskey.

This special scotch was conceived in 1953, on the occasion of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the event. Through the course of the intervening years, Chivas Brothers set aside special stocks of their best whiskies, and in 1993 they were gathered and blended with a cask of Strathisla malt whiskey which had been filled in 1949. Owned by Chivas Regal, Strathisla is the oldest operating distillery in the Scottish Highlands.

At last, in 2003, in celebration of the Queen's Golden Jubilee, the Coronation Cask — as it was called — was tapped and the greatly matured scotch whiskey was bottled. Not all of the bottles remained in the U.K., with 10 being sent to the company's U.S.-based distributor, Pernod Ricard USA, located in Lawrenceburg, Ind., a 20-minute drive from Cincinnati.

Stephen Ballas, Pernod Richard USA's senior director of customer service, explains that the bottles were first placed in specially created wooden boxes and then packed for air shipment to the U.S. As might be anticipated, the shipment was very carefully monitored, Ballas says. “We had Brinks' security in place when the shipment came off the plane.”

Ballas' role was to ensure that the operations and logistics portion of it went well, and to that end the company worked with freight forwarder John S. Connor (www.jsconnor.com). “Connor cleared the shipment and got it distributed,” Ballas explains. “There were launches planned and timing was highly critical. Connor assisted us in getting the bottles to the right place at the right time.”

“The cargo in this case was routed via Continental Airlines and came in to Newark, then on to Cincinnati,” says Sheila Saab, manager of John S. Connor's Cincinnati office. “We have a local drayage company we use for delivery. We gave them the information about the shipment's importance and its special contents. While they were handling delivery for us, their dispatcher was in constant communication with the driver.

“We handle a lot of alcohol and a lot of high dollar value goods, and we've even had several hundred thousand dollar shipments, but those have been full containers,” continues Saab, “but this is the highest dollar value per alcohol item we've ever handled.”

Who got the bottles of Royal Salute? Ballas won't reveal final consumers, though there was a very select group of individuals and organizations that put in orders for the scotch. He does say, however, that one of the bottles was to be put on the new Queen Mary cruise ship.

— Roger Morton

June, 2004

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