This is an interesting thread indeed...
Here are some things I noticed in my environment (the Netherlands):
About the attempts to interest the younger people:
in my student days, I got into (grande champagne) cognac, and later I got into single malts as well. Of course only tax free bottles, and trying not to consume too much
. Of the people I met, very little were interested in these spirits, beer is consumed most. Here it's primarely quantity over quality. I guess any marketing effort here is just money waisted.
About people who get interested:
After I started to work, I met more people interested in single malts. Not too many, since beer is most popular here in the Netherlands. After playing the 'Ambassador' role for some time, some of my old friends start to get interested, but not all. The people at the wine course that we organised a single malt N&T for got interested, but not all (especially not the woman) are drinking single malts regularly now. It seems that IF single malts are getting discoverd by people THEN in their late 20's early 30's in my environment. The N&T's I visit are roughly attended by people in the 30-55 range.
About drinking behaviour:
It seems like beer and wine are easily accessable, and higher abv drinks are only consumed in bars by younger people as long as it's mixed.
How many people drink vodka or rum neat and are trying to appreciate it? Almost none. This is only done with (single malt) whisky and cognac.
About market growth:
Rudolph, why are you wondering about significant market increase? Iain provided us the figures, but couldn't you notice by yourself?
1. the portfolio of (OB) expressions during the last years increased more than you could buy bottles per week.
2. Any liquor store in a place with 5000 people has a range of at least 30-40 single malt whiskies. Most shops in small towns have 50-60 whiskies. Any town with >100.000 people has at least 1 shop with 100 whiskies.
Since most people drink beer, the shopkeepers still have this large range on stock... So there must be a market all right!
About ageing consumers:
In the Netherlands there is a drink called 'jenever', which is also a distillate (of grain). This is consumed by older people and the youth does not drink it. Here the market is shrinking and some day it might be gone.
With (single malt) whisky the same might happen, but chances are very small.
Firstly, the market seems to be at it's top and people enjoying malt will stay with it. So consumption of a large group of people is more or less guaranteed for the next 30 years to come.
Secondly, it's a global market. The product is widely known and a lot of people will get introduced to it, someday, somewhere. This will lead to a continuaty of the group of consumers.
as you already stated, Rudolph, it's cheaper to hold on to your customers than finding new ones. The threat I see are the marketeers theirselves. Want an example?
Instead of 1 Brora 30 yo OB and a Lagavulin 25yo OB,
I bought 1 Douglas Laing Platinum Selection Brora 32yo, a Signatory Straight from the cask Brora 21yo, a Signatory unchillfiltered Brora 20yo, a Chieftains Choice Brora 19yo, a Lagavulin 12yo OB and, as far as I can remember, got some change back.
(I have to be honest, I did not buy this on one day)
But look at the load of money I left at Diageo...NOT
It can get nastier.
A Talisker 20yo OB is quite OK (yes, Diageo can do good things...)
But have you ever heard of Jean Fillioux Reserve Familiale Tres Vieille Grande Champagne? It costs about the same as the Talisker. If you ever taste it, you will find out how 50 years old cognac tastes like.
If you like this more, then you'll know where the biggest threat lies.