By James Atkinson
Scotch whisky drinkers are increasingly graduating towards smokier, more intensely flavoured single malts and blends, according to Diageo global Scotch whisky ambassador, Ewan Gunn.
Gunn, who was in Australia recently, told TheShout that the Johnnie Walker family of blends is benefiting from the rapid takeup of peatier whiskies, "because the backbone of the Johnnie Walker flavour is that signature smokiness".
"Johnnie Walker Double Black was actually created to cater for that, our master blenders were challenged to create a smokier, spicier version of Black Label," he said.
In single malts, Gunn said Diageo's Talisker brand is leading other smoky-styled whiskies with growth of 43.8 per cent (Aztec MAT, March 2013), while the more robust Lagavulin is also seeing a resurgence of interest.
"Once consumers start enjoying single malts, they start to progress through different styles and flavours," Gunn said.
"They might start off with the lighter ones and as their palate develops they start graduating onto smokier, more full-bodied whiskies."
Gunn said Talisker is a great entry point for consumers beginning their journey of smokier whiskies.
"Someone who's new to whisky won't find it overly threatening or daunting because it does have that sweetness and some gentle notes as well," he said.
He said Diageo has also experienced strong initial demand for the new Talisker Storm variant (pictured above right), which was specially created to amplify the signature spice and smoke of Talisker. [continues below]
Diageo global Scotch whisky ambassador, Ewan Gunn
"To achieve that, they actually brought together a variety of different casks – some younger ones to really ramp up that vibrancy and the spice, and some older ones which give it that sort of smoke and some of the mellow sweetness as well," he said.
"I think it's created something with great complexity, but it really pops forward with some of the key Talisker aromas and flavours."
At the more intense end of the spectrum is Lagavulin, which Gunn acknowledged is a whisky that consumers may have to graduate up to.
"Anyone who enjoys any full flavour experience – be that an intense coffee, a big full-bodied red wine, they tend to really appreciate what Lagavulin can offer," he said.
"But it's not just about being a big smoky whisky, there's some really delicious fruity notes, a bit of a coastal note. It's not the same sort of fresh salty air you get from the Talisker, but there's definitely a coastal note there as well."
With a RRP of $89.95, Talisker Storm is now available in Dan Murphy's and Vintage Cellars, with a release in the independent channel coming later this year.