Blended Scotch Whisky

17 October, 2016

Take a look at recent releases from Pernod Ricard, for instance: a new take on Ballantine’s 21 Year Old called Signature Oak, European Oak – which showcases the characteristics and flavours that European oak contributes to the blend; Chivas Regal 18 Ultimate Cask Collection – a limited-edition whisky that explores the influence of first fill American oak casks; and Royal Salute The Age Collection – a collection of 10 distinctive blends, with the youngest containing whiskies 21 years or older and the oldest containing whiskies at least 30 years old.

POWER BLENDS

According to Suzy Smith, marketing director, regional power brands at Edrington, the opportunity presented by new markets and premiumisa-tion have contributed to the launch of the company’s new Famous Grouse blends.

“There are a number of exciting emerging markets for blended scotch whisky,” she says. “We see a growing appetite for our brands in parts of Africa. In Europe more established markets including Scandinavia and western Europe are being joined by emerging markets such as Russia, Hungary and Bulgaria. There is also a growing marketing for blended scotch whisky in the US and Canada.

“But also consumers’ interest in premium spirits was an important factor in the development of The Famous Grouse portfolio and the launch last year of a new premium expression – The Famous Grouse Mellow Gold, and the rebranding of The Black Grouse to become The Famous Grouse Smoky Black.”

The past couple of years haven’t been the easiest for scotch whisky sales, and particularly for blends, as several export markets have had to contend with difficult economic conditions. But the move to premium blended whisky has helped to ride out the storm, and there is considerable optimism about the future.

“Global volume for blended whisky is growing at 0.9% year on year, with value up 1.1% driven by the continued growth of premium blends – that is blends aged 12 years and above,” says William Grant’s Oliver Dickson.

“In mature markets, we continue to see promotional activities within the standard blends segment but, as with trends across the wider spirits category, the growth of premium blends is helping to offset volume decline through value growth.”

EMERGING MARKETS

Dickson points to India, where a growing middle class is moving to scotch whisky and agrees with Edrington’s Suzy Smith about the growing importance of eastern Europe.

The Scotch Whisky Association points to growth in a number of

emerging markets, with Mexico up 17% to £115m, Turkey up 24% to almost £53m, and China returning to the top 20 markets with an increase of 5% to £41m.

But while in normal times the future would seem to be becoming increasingly bright, there are a couple of big black clouds on the horizon – the UK’s exit from the European Union and the potential for a fresh referendum on Scotland’s place in the UK.

“In the context of the referendum we pointed to the fact that around 40% of the volume of scotch shipped globally was exported to the European Union last year, underlining the importance of the single market,” says the Association. “The SWA has argued that European Union membership has been vital to growing scotch whisky exports, with the EU playing a particularly important role in knocking down trade barriers as it negotiates free trade agreements with other countries.”

That leaves everything very much up in the air. For now, though, blended whiskies will continue to play a key role in the vanguard of scotch whisky.

And according to Oliver Dickson we should expect more premium blends and an increasingly proactive approach to innovation.

“As with other global spirits categories there is increasing consumer appeal for premium and super-premium blends,” he says. “However, this is not exclusively linked to price, with many consumers looking for unique experiences be through the way the whisky is served, specific craft styles, or the way it is made.

“As consumers begin to explore the whisky category it is these types of variants that offer something unique and different without the need to consider a single malt.”





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