By Deborah Jackson, Editor National Liquor News
In the lead up to World Whisky Day, Diageo is urging retailers to make sure they are well prepared in order to capitalise on the occasion.
World Whisky Day is held on the third Saturday in May annually, so this year it will fall on Saturday 20 May. It was founded in 2012 and has been officially recognised by the Scottish Parliament.
According to Simon McGoram, Diageo’s National Whisky Ambassador, the Scotch whisky category is “quite dynamic and growing” citing around 2.2 per cent category growth.
“Most of this is actually driven by single malt whisky as well. Malt whisky is growing by $7.4 billion per year in the market, so it is substantial, and Scotch in general is $2.24 billion. It is being led by malt whisky, but certainly we can’t forget about blended whisky in there as well,” McGoram told TheShout.
So how can retailers capitalise on World Whisky Day? According to McGoram, it is important that they make sure they are well stocked with a range of blends and malts, and also that they are pro-active in arranging a tasting prior to the day.
“The Johnnie Walker Red Rye Cask is a good one for retailers to note. It was originally designed to appeal to people who like American whisky, Bourbons and rye. The Red Rye Cask actually has some of those characters in there, so that might be a good one to recommend.
“Other whiskies to look at apart from blends would be to look at some of your lighter whiskies as well, so things like your Glenkinchies, your Dalwhinnies – they tend to be a bit lighter and floral, but at the same time we’ve seen this huge growth in smoky whisky, so if you like smoky whisky and bold flavours, then it’s quite good to go for things like Lagavulin or Talisker – you either love them or you hate them – but once people get onto them they are hooked for life. But we’ve certainly seen that part of the category grow as well,” said McGoram.
“World Whisky Day is open for all to enjoy, not just businesses, so as consumers are becoming aware of the occasion, it is a great opportunity for retailers to capatilise on it and increase sales of premium product SKUs of course, with Scotch whisky being one of those.
“It is important that retailers make sure that they are well stocked with a range of blends and malts, including of course the recent award winner of the World’s Best Blended Malt Whisky, Johnnie Walker Green Label, and Lagavulin 16 Year Old would be a nice touch too.
“We like to think that there is a whisky out there for everyone and this is something we can certainly showcase in-store.”
According to the 2017 ALSA-IRI State of the Industry Report, single malt Scotch contributed more dollar growth for retailers than blended varietals in 2016.
“Despite Blended Scotch being seven times larger than Single Malt Scotch, the latter’s 16.4 per cent dollar growth resulted in $3 million more growth being generated,” says the report.
McGoram told TheShout that as we are coming into the peak season for whisky purchasing, retailers should make the most of occasions such as World Whisky Day.
“As World Whisky Day grows, consumers might look to hold their own tastings with friends, and all you need to hold your own celebration is a bottle or two of whisky.
“The good thing about holding these in-store tastings is that it also gives the staff a chance to brush up on their whisky knowledge as well, and I think that is very key for them to convert into sales.”
And while the demographic is still predominantly older men, McGoram said that Diageo is starting to see a shift in that.
“We’re definitely starting to see both younger men and more women enter the category as well, which is really exciting. I do think a lot of that is driven by the small bars because people are getting exposed to whisky in different environments, but it’s also just because the category is growing quite rapidly as well.
“It’s definitely something to get on board with, it’s not just the domain of old men in a boardroom anymore, Scotch has shaken off that demographic and we’re starting to see a much wider spectrum of people enjoying it as well,” he said.
“Another thing that we’re starting to see a lot more of in the bar world is Aperitifs and people drinking cocktails, so the Old Fashioned is a really popular one and Whisky Sours – Johnnie Walker Black Label makes an excellent Whisky Sour; and Highballs are fantastic as well, they are one of the ways that I like to enjoy it and is a very easy way to enjoy whisky.
“And then that just ties in very nicely to what World Whisky Day is all about, which is about getting people to celebrate whisky as a fun category and trying to get people away from a lot of the rules and dogma that people think surround the category.”