People

View from the other side

For this debate we ask a group of non whisky industry people for their view on the subject
Q. If someone mentions the word whisky to you, what thoughts immediately come to mind?JT: As someone who enjoys a fair amount in his spare time, my first thought would be one of delight. I can’t think of another spirit with as much obvious variety and diversity as whisky, provided you get past the ubiquitous, blended brands (as is the case in most areas of life). It’s all there for the budding amateur!KP: I think about how the small country of Scotland has conquered the world with its liquid gold; cold misty days and hot copper stills; the taste of salty air; slainte.KD: Cold nights, warm drink, great bars, even better conversation.LE: My view’s more negative – Scotland; brown; peat; I don’t like it; traditional; old. Q. In your view has the profile of whisky risen this year? Has its image improved or worsened?KP: It’s definitely improved. Cardhu and Glenmorangie made international headlines, albeit for different reasons; more and more people are enjoying the variety to be found amongst single malts; variations like ‘pink’ whisky always make great talking/selling points; whisky cocktails find whole new markets; innovative bottlings from small companies.JT: Yes, I definitely get a sense that younger people are starting to make their impact on the industry. New brands such as Compass Box – which I frequently read in the consumer press – are making their mark, while the more general influence of style bars and trends among younger drinkers away from ‘alcopops’ and towards more sophisticated cocktails has placed whisky
in excellent stead – primarily because of its amazing adaptability in drinks recipes. LE: Whisky’s profile has risen as drinkers reacquaint themselves with spirits in general and traditional spirits within that. There is a greater desire for quality in all things and whisky is deeply associated with craft, character and quality. Whisky’s image as a drink for intelligent, discerning and confident people helps.KD: That’s true in the states too. The profile has risen, the image has improved and magazines that normally wouldn’t cover whisky are now highlighting new bottles for style and holiday gift guides. Q. Is whisky still an old man’s drink, or can it appeal to younger drinkers and women?LE: It can appeal to the latter but it needs to continue to stay fresh in a general sense.KD: I agree. It can appeal to the younger drinker and to women but I think it is still seen as an old man’s drink. You should see the look on the bartender’s face over here when a blonde 25 year old orders a single malt with no ice!KP: Yes, it can definitely appeal to all, and skilful marketing can help to spread the notion (and the reality) of wide varieties of taste and ways of drinking whisky.JT: It is changing, but slowly. I perceive a large number of people still feel whisky is enjoyed solely by old men in pubs. But the trends I outlined in point two mean new, younger people are beginning to experience whisky in drink formats that appeal to them, particularly for women. This can only be a good thing for the industry.Q. Are trends such as Frozen Serve Johnnie Walker Blue Label good for whisky in general?KD: Sure, because it allows the average drinker to introduce whisky in to their repertoire and then they can try the higher ranges of single malts and blends.LE: I’m not sure. Whisky should avoid faddishness for the sake of it. I don’t know whether FSJWBL is a fad, so I can’t comment specifically.JT: I’ve never been convinced by products which seem to have originated from the marketing department, rather than the soul. Passion and belief in something because of its quality has,
and always will be, the key to its success: although I haven’t tried this concept, I don’t think it’ll go too far out of its niche.Q. What more should whisky companies be doing to attract new drinkers?JT: Keep working with imaginative and visionary style bar owners, and be innovative. Perhaps come up with more promotional opportunities with real meaning, such as bespoke house/bar
blends in prestigious venues. Get in there early on and shape the venue. On a PR level, work really work hard on journalists outside the usual columns, and even try and reach women’s writers. In restaurant and food environments, push the diversity message, and try to bring whisky more into the menu. Work hard on developing the sexy image side of whisky, as bourbon has done, to create appeal, but always avoid gimmicks – all that needs doing is just to push that fabulous taste!KP: Much more funky, cutting-edge advertising. More strategic partnerships with non-spirits companies eg. associating with cool and happening hotels, shops, other businesses, other luxury businesses where applicable. Tastings ingroovy venues. Visibly associating with ‘safe drinking’ initiatives/promoting health benefits? Well-chosen sponsorship.LE: Bottle size is a concern. Anormal size bottle looks a lot but the smaller sizes look cheap and tacky and miniatures are a joke. New, unusual, rare or expensive whiskies could be packaged in ‘collections’ featuring smaller bottle sizes which consumers feel they can taste from.