Now more than ever we’re seeing trading-up and branching-out across the key categories.
2019 is set to be a momentous year for whisky as the category continues to grow and drinkers across the UK embrace a wider range of liquid than ever before.
At Edrington-Beam Suntory UK we have the privilege of having some of the most reputable whiskies in the world in our portfolio: The most valuable single malt globally in The Macallan; and the number one peated malt globally (with royal warrant from HRH The Prince of Wales) in Laphroaig. Not forgetting the Orcadian malt with Viking soul, Highland Park, and the definitive premium handcrafted American Whiskey, Maker’s Mark.
These are just four of the jewels in whisky’s most prestigious crown, uniquely positioning us at the forefront of the trials, tribulations and trends that come with this centuries-old industry. It is from this position that we can cast our eye back and look at the factors that are shaping whisky-drinking habits within the UK, as well as predict where those habits will take us next.
Perhaps the most interesting takeout from this big picture piece is the scale of exploration going on among whisky drinkers. Now more than ever we’re seeing trading-up and branching-out, not just within the ranges of a single distillery but across and between the key categories of Scottish single malts, blends and US whiskeys.
Five years ago it was rare to see someone put a bottle of both Laphroaig and Jim Beam into the same basket, and yet now we’re starting to see people embrace this breadth on offer.
This is, in part, driven by a wider offering available but it’s also down to consumer demand – people want to learn about whisky and from that knowledge base comes a desire to try new liquid.
Unveiling Dragon Legend as the smokier Highland Park is a perfect example of playing to this need for exploration – we knew people wanted smokier whisky so we took one of the best loved and made it smokier. Bottles flew off the shelves and the expression is now a firm favourite with existing as well as new Highland Park lovers.
We see this exploration most pronounced, however, in the rise of Japanese whisky. When Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 won whisky of the year, Japanese whisky was little-known beyond a few die-hard fans, though as an industry it was well established. The launch of Toki in 2018 further broadens availability of Japanese whisky to consumers with the brands accessibility in both the on and off-trade.
Now, the demand for the core expressions of Hakashu and Yamazaki is far outstripping the stock available, leading to a clamouring for any bottle from the House of Suntory that whisky fans can find. We expect Japanese to continue to play a huge part in the exploration of whisky going on in both the on and off-trade – it is, after all, wonderful whisky.
As we have seen, research has identified the key drivers of growth in the category. Among these, discovery will bring new consumers to whisky. Adventure will encourage drinkers to expand their repertoires and encourage trade-up.
The opportunity is there to continue to adapt and evolve our offerings, educate our consumers and take them with us on a journey through the diverse and fascinating world of whisky, of which we are proud to be at the heart. The incremental value in our achieving this is immense and is one that Edrington-Beam Suntory UK is committed to realising.