Scotch on the rocks

An interesting piece at the Guardian, suggests the Scottish whisky world is in something of a bind:

Twentysomethings and thirtysomethings – whom the marketing types refer to as the “millennials” – are shunning formerly trendy brands of vodka in favour of old-school brown spirits. And American whiskies are driving it. “It’s about popular culture,” says John Hayes, managing director of Jack Daniel’s.

“What you’re seeing in the UK is a renaissance in classic American cocktails such as the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned,” he says.

This bourbon boom is not just bad news for vodka, though. Scotch whisky is getting squeezed too. Scotch does not lend itself to cocktails in the same way as some of the new, sweet-tasting bourbons, such as Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, which now sells some million cases a year worldwide.

Four years ago it didn’t even exist. And now scotch’s biggest brands, such as Famous Grouse, Bell’s and Teacher’s, are starting to look staid by comparison. “Scotch has been on the market for so long that it sometimes has an old, stodgy perception. They [the scotch brands] have to be worried,” says Hayes.

Following a decade of fast growth, scotch exports were down 11% in the first half of this year, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

You will have spotted that the promotion of bourbon at the expense of scotch is at the behest of Jack Daniel’s. So, perhaps it is not quite as straightforward as he presents. For example, the decline in scotch exports could be due to other factors, such as an economic pause for breath in certain countries. I imagine that quality scotch will always sell. However, I do tend to agree with this comment:

There is an argument, though, that the Scotch industry needs to come up with more original marketing ideas and connect better with consumers who often feel intimidated or, worse still, bored by scotch.

Read the whole piece here, and note the involvement of one David Beckham. It would be somewhat ironical if one of England’s greatest ever footballers could give scotch a bit of a boost.