Portfolio Refresh

13 October, 2016

“We have two of the most celebrated malt masters in the industry, David Stewart and Brian Kinsman. David in particular is recognised within the industry for pioneering techniques that are now standard practice. Brian has picked up David’s mantle and both have the freedom to experiment using a combination of old and young whisky.”

WGS has certainly not given up on age statements, however. Alongside the Cask Collection sits the travel retail-exclusive 15-year-old Distillery Edition, and the Age of Discovery range: three 19-year-old whiskies in a variety of cask finishes. Filling out the Glenfiddich portfolio are numbered single cask vintages from its Rare Collection, which are exclusive to selected travel retail outlets.

Cottrell agrees that age is “very influential” in the purchasing decision of many travelling shoppers. “It acts as a signpost for quality and helps enthusiasts and connoisseurs navigate the category and a brand’s range,” he says. “In consumers’ minds age is an indicator of quality, the general consensus being that the older the whisky the better the quality and therefore worth paying more for. The family that owns William Grant & Sons had the foresight to lay down plentiful stocks for future generations, resulting in an unparalleled collection of single malts. It is this exceptional aged stock of whiskies that sets the brand apart from competitors.”

While Glenfiddich remains WGS’s most important brand, there’s no denying which of its major brands has been growing fastest in recent years. Its Scottish rose and cucumber-infused gin Hendrick’s grew in volumes by nearly a third in 2015 and, according to the IWSR, it, along with Tanqueray and Beefeater, added another 50,000 cases in travel retail last year to help the 1.2m-case gin category grow by 6%, faster than any other spirits category.

The brand’s curious marketing mix of Victorian-themed absurdity and Terry Gilliam-inspired surrealist nonsense continues to drive airport promotional activity. For instance, in June at Frankfurt airport’s Heinemann Duty Free shop in Terminal 1, passengers were invited to pedal a Master Serve ’O’ Matic bicycle to slice up cucumbers which were than added to samples of Hendrick’s & Tonic for passengers to try. The bicycle was supported with floor and wall graphics, branded shelving and a free gift with purchase.

In sharp contrast to Hendrick’s, Drambuie liqueur, which WGS acquired back in 2014, has seen its duty free sales fall in recent years.

At this month’s TFWA World Exhibition the company will unveil new packaging for the ailing brand in an attempt to restore its fortunes. “Drambuie is our secret and I am really excited about it,” Cottrell insists. “It has a strong brand identity and brilliant distribution.

“Since acquiring the brand in late 2014 we’ve been examining the best ways to re-engage with existing drinkers and to connect the brand with an entirely new generation of consumers.

“The first stage is to introduce a new upgraded presentation that we will be showing to our customers in Cannes.”

The relaunch of Drambuie aside, it’s going to be a relatively quiet Cannes for WGS in terms of launch activity compared to last year’s hectic show, which saw the twin launches of both the Art Deco-inspired House of Hazelwood blended scotch whisky and the science-themed Grant’s Elementary travel retail range.

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