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Marvin R. Shanken Takes On New Role As Editor & Publisher Of Whisky Advocate

April 6, 2017

Editor’s Note: Whisky Advocate has announced that John Hansell is stepping down as Editor & Publisher, effective April 30th. He’ll be replaced by Marvin R. Shanken, chairman of M. Shanken Communications, who acquired the magazine in 2010. Since the acquisition, Whisky Advocate has undergone a transformation. Marvin R. Shanken spoke yesterday with SND about his involvement with Whisky Advocate and ambitious plans for the future. 

SND: In addition to being Editor & Publisher of Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado, you’ll be taking on that role at Whisky Advocate. What’s the vision, and what’s the plan?

SHANKEN: First of all, I want to thank John Hansell and his wife, Amy Westlake, for their dedication and hard work in founding and building what was then Malt Advocate, which later became Whisky Advocate after we acquired it. When they told me they wanted to retire last year, naturally I was saddened by the news, but I was happy to support their decision. Amy retired late last year.

My vision is a fairly simple one: Over the past seven years, we’ve seen an extraordinary increase in circulation and readership, and a rise in attendance at our WhiskyFest events. We intend to continue that growth trend.

SND: But what are the ingredients that will drive growth?

SHANKEN: As everyone knows, M. Shanken is fortunate to have two of the world’s leading luxury lifestyle magazines, Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado. We understand luxury consumers in these segments. Our vision is to build a third franchise with our deep understanding of spirits and lifestyles. We’ll develop Whisky Advocate as a lifestyle magazine rooted around spirits in general and whisky in particular. That will mean more fine-tuning of the editorial content. We’ve recently added to our stable of gifted writers, aiming at a wider consumer audience.

This new chapter actually began last July, with the appointment of Jeffery Lindenmuth as executive editor. Jeffery has been contributing to M. Shanken’s various magazines for the past 20 years. We’ve made the expansion of both the print and digital components of Whisky Advocate a priority within the M. Shanken portfolio.

SND: What sort of initiatives can we expect to see in the digital space?

SHANKEN: We’re in the final stages of relaunching a dynamic new website and introducing a variety of social media tools. The unveiling will happen soon.

SND: The WhiskyFest events are a big part of the brand. Will we see some changes there as well?

SHANKEN: As the thousands of our WhiskyFest attendees are aware, we’re constantly upgrading the selection of whiskies for sampling. We’ll be celebrating WhiskyFest’s 20th anniversary on November 16th in New York. We’ve also had major successes for many years in Chicago (set for April 21st) and San Francisco (October 6th). We recently added Washington, D.C., and other markets are being considered.

SND: As you look to the future, how do you see Whisky Advocate fitting into the broader consumer landscape?

SHANKEN: We’ve been surprised by the explosion of whisky enjoyment in the U.S., as sales over recent years have soared along with the proliferation of new products. We believe this trend will only continue. We see the opportunity for a unique partnership between whisky lovers across America, whisky producers from around the world and Whisky Advocate. In the weeks and months to come, you’ll be hearing about more new initiatives as Whisky Advocate becomes another leadership brand in our portfolio.

The summer issue of Whisky Advocate, which hits the newsstands on June 6th, will focus on the vibrant future for American whiskey, with an emphasis on Bourbon. For subscription information, click here.

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