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News 27 Feb 2009 | Interviews | By Rob Allanson

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Bantering semantics
Numbers don’t lie. While the conventional wisdom among those in the liquor industry has long been that the spirits market is recession proof, data recently released by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, reveals that the liquor industry has begun to feel the impact of the recession.During a recent briefing in Manhattan, Peter Cressy, the trade group’s CEO, greeted everyone with a musing on semantics. “The industry is recession- resilient or resistant, choose whichever word you’d like, but it’s absolutely not recession proof,” he said, indicating that the fourth quarter, which is important because of holiday purchasing, showed softening.Revenue for the industry was up 2.8 per cent to $18.7 billion while volume rose 1.6 per cent to 184 million 9-litre cases.As stand-alone figures, those numbers may be heartening in light of the global economy’s skid, but it’s a significantly slower pace than the six per cent annual growth rate seen each year since 2001.The breakdown of the data by category tells a far more detailed story, one in which whisky plays a starring role.Premiumisation continued, albeit a bit more sluggishly than in years past. Whiskies, however, outpaced other categories, with gross revenues of super premium bourbons and Tennessee whiskey up 18.8 per cent (compared to the value brands, which were only up 2.7 per cent) and super-premium Irish whiskey up an impressive 38.5 per cent.Super-premium single malts, though, only grew by 1.2 per cent. Overall, whisky sales rose 4.3 per cent by dollar value and 1.3 per cent by volume in 2008.(The figures are based on shipments from supplier to wholesaler, not consumer retail.) On the striking growth of the Irish segment, Jameson brand manager Wayne Hartunian said: “Jameson continues to be the key driver of the fastest growing spirits category in the U. S. (Irish Whiskey) and one of the fastest growing brands in the total U. S.spirits industry due to evolving consumer dynamics, and growth in retailer support as they look to leverage the brand’s growth and significant additional potential.Jameson also has several unique marketing programs that it leverages throughout the year to help drive the consumer demand.” Whisky drinkers appear to be trading up more than tipplers in other categories, who are reaching for less expensive brands.Rum, for instance, showed a gross revenue decline of 9.5 per cent in the super-premium segment while revenues on premium brands increased 8.4 per cent.The news is a bit sunnier when it comes to exports of American spirits, whiskies in particular.“U. S. exports continue to do very nicely. Not all the numbers are in, but it looks like we’re up about eight per cent,” said Cressy.He noted that American whiskies in particular are a driving force. The international market has embraced bourbon and Tennessee whiskey as uniquely historical products and they’re “capturing worldwide attention and acclaim.” This all bodes well for the entire whisky industry, as evidenced by the emergence of rye.“It’s a small category, obviously, but it showed pretty good performance in a slow market,” noted David Ozgo, chief economist for DISCUS. The healthy showing of newer American whiskey products, especially on the micro-distilling level, is another positive indicator.“It’s a sign of strength in the whiskey market,” Ozgo said.“If people see development in that super-premium segment of the market, they want a piece of the pie. Brands develop with whiskey development.“It’s part of why rye grew. And there are all the micro-distillers.A lot of them invest their own capital.They’re making a huge bet that people will be interested in the category for a while. And they’re experimenting. Any time you see a lot of experimentation going on that’s a good thing.” While nobody wanted to make predictions about the toll the recession will take on alcohol sales this year, DISCUS chiefs did acknowledge the chance that liquor companies would modify production plans, especially when it comes to a spirit that sits aging in a warehouse for years.“Companies make careful decisions designed to optimise revenues,” said Cressy.“It’s not like we’ve seen several years of strong whiskey growth,” Ozgo explained.“The recent market signals good strength. I suspect people are looking at the state of the economy now and scaling back investment plans, but I would not see that as a big problem.“The resurgent interest came at the same time as we saw the slowing of the economy.” NATIONAL SUPPORT
Scottish rugby fans will be treated to some top class treatment as The Famous Grouse continues its support of the national side.The brand has given its ‘Famous’ sampling marquee a makeover. The newly named The Famous Grouse Stadium aims to give fans the experience as though they were entering the Murrayfield Stadium.As supporters walk through the tunnel at the marquee’s entrance, they will be greeted by clapping and cheering as if entering the stadium itself. And once inside,music from ceilidh band Kilter will keep the crowds entertained with rousing rugby anthems and popular Scottish classics.All adult fans will be encouraged to get into the spirit with a complimentary serve of The Famous Grouse and as has become tradition, Scotland’s favourite whisky will be handing out free limited edition beanie hats.Honouring Michael
Michael Jackson was undoubtedly the authority on all things whisky and as such amassed an impressive collection.As a writer, his knowledge and style still shine as a beacon to whisky writing today and his library, of both notes and bottles reflect how highly both the industry and public thought of him.Whisky Magazine has collected the bottles from Michael’s vast collection and separated them into unopened and opened bottles.Together with Berry Bros and Rudd’s whisky manager Doug McIvor, Whisky Magazine has created a unique blend using all the opened bottles. Some of the whisky used in this blend is truly stunning and has made for a Scotch of great distinction.The Michael Jackson Blend will be available for the first time at Whisky Live London and is a true testament to the great man.A proportion of the proceeds will go to the Parkinson’s Society.Also at the show Whisky Magazine is holding an auction featuring the unopened bottles from Michael’s collection during the show. Some bottles even feature brief shipping notes Michael made as he received the samples.We are proud to offer you the chance to own part of the great man’s estate with part of the proceeds raised going to the Parkinson’s charity.Place your bids for the various lots, and view the collection beforehand at the stand and you could own a piece of whisky history and raise money for a very good cause.Picturing Macallan
Top Scottish musicians Franz Ferdinand were spotted sipping The Macallan at the recent US launch of The Macallan Masters of Photography Rankin Edition at M+B Gallery in West Hollywood, California.Launched in the UK in November last year, The Macallan Masters of Photography Rankin Edition represents the coming together of two great art forms, whisky making and photography, to create a collection of unique objet d’arts.Returning to his homeland, Rankin was invited to Easter Elchies House, the spiritual home of The Macallan on the Speyside estate, to interpret The Macallan Estate through the eye of a lens.Also on the star studded guest list was model Heidi Klum, pictured here with Rankin, the fashion photographer behind the impressive project.Bottling investment
Burn Stewart Distillers Ltd, producers of Black Bottle, Scottish Leader, Bunnahabhain, Deanston, Tobermory and Ledaig whiskies, has recently invested more £1mill in new bottling facilities at its headquarters in East Kilbride and four new stills at its Deanston distillery near Doune.This major investment has come as a result of demand for the company’s portfolio of whiskies, in particular Scottish Leader which is one of the fastest growing whisky brands in the world. Among its biggest export markets are Taiwan where it is now the number one standard blended Scotch brand and South Africa where it has been experiencing 21 per cent year on year growth. Scottish Leader is also a strong contender here in Scotland where it has seen a 23 per cent increase in value in the on trade and is now the third biggest Scotch brand.Burn Stewart Distillers managing director, Fraser Thornton said: “We recognised that this investment was crucial to the future growth of the business.With demand growing in both existing and new markets, we are now in a strong position to fulfil this requirement globally.” The new line will allow an increased bottling capacity from 170 to 215 70cl bottles per minute, providing a total capacity of 84,000 bottles per day. Burn Stewart Distillers now has a total of eight bottling lines.REGAL’S RED CARPET
Party goers to a recent Nominees events, held ahead of the Orange British Academy Film Awards 2009, were treated to a touch of luxury.Chivas Regal 25 Years Old, the premium expression of the iconic Scotch whisky Chivas Regal,was the official Scotch partner for the party hosted by Asprey, ahead of the awards ceremony.With a number of British films and stars tipped for success this year, Chivas deceided it was befitting that an iconic luxury Scotch will be enjoyed at the celebration.At the party, nominees enjoyed two special cocktails created by Chivas Regal’s global brand ambassador, Max Warner, in honour of the event. The ‘Masquerade’’and the ‘Chivas Asprey’”were inspired by BAFTA and Asprey respectively.Nikki Burgess, international marketing manager for Chivas Regal, explained:“Chivas Regal 25 Years Old was the world’s first luxury whisky when it was first launched in 1909. It is a legendary and glamorous brand and therefore the association with this internationallyrenowned awards event is a natural fit.”
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