On the third Saturday of May each year, whisky lovers of the world unite to celebrate a momentous annual event – World Whisky Day (WWD). In 2021, the day falls tomorrow on May 15.
Its a day to celebrate whisky and whiskey from near and far, of brands big and small, of different countries, price points, style and history. So important is this celebration to the whisky category, it has become the second largest key selling period for whisky only behind Christmas, as National Liquor News reported in last year’s WWD feature.
WWD has been increasing in popularity and opportunity year on year, as whisky widens its appeal to new audiences of consumers. And after the events of 2020, which saw a boost in spirit sales overall and rising drinks exploration and experimentation in consumer homes, this year’s event is set to be even bigger.
That’s certainly the case for William Grant & Sons and its well stocked portfolio of whisky that includes Glenfiddich, Grant’s and The Balvenie, just to name a few.
“2021 will be our biggest World Whisky Day to date. We are extending World Whisky Day to an entire month with a full programme of activity in the on and off trade throughout May,” said Kristie Asciak, Marketing Manager at William Grant & Sons.
The on-premise has often been the space for WWD to be celebrated on a bigger or more grand scale. But there is exceptional opportunity for retailers when the event is brought to the off-premise, especially when suppliers get on board to help bring the excitement of the occasion in-store.
As Helen McAleer, Jameson Brand Ambassador for Sydney at Pernod Ricard Australia, noted: “There is a huge opportunity for retailers to get involved in World whisky Day as the World whisky Category in Australia is worth $204m, and growing at +30 per cent this year.”
Ivan Myers, Co-owner of World of Whisky in Sydney, said when brands and retailers unite for the cause, it does great things for the whisky category as a whole while providing great results for businesses.
“It helps bring awareness to the whole category and we see more activity in our store and online during this period,” Myers said.
More people than ever are interested in whisky, and on different levels too.
“Over the past 10 years we have seen consumers become more informed and more selective about their whiskies,” Myers said.
“While the primary market is men aged 25-40, we have seen a significant increase in female whisky drinkers. We calculate that 20 per cent of our membership is female. I believe this trend will continue.”
The impact of the pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on consumer behaviour, changing the way they think about and approach drinks at home. Throughout lockdown, the premiumisation trend in the spirits category continued to rise as consumers explore and experimented with different kinds of drinks.
McAleer said these new-found interests and behaviours amongst consumers add to the opportunity around WWD.
“Throughout the pandemic we have seen a rise in super premium world whiskies (+48 per cent growth MAT), as people are trading up and spending more to ‘treat’ themselves at home,” she said.
“Consumers are experimenting with at home cocktails due to the limitations of enjoying their favourite whisky cocktail in their local bar which will definitely have an impact on this World Whisky Day this year.”
Asciak also noted her prediction for more premium at-home experiences to celebrate WWD, and said William Grant & Sons anticipates that the continued popularity of the home cocktail trend will help contribute to this with great results for the industry.
“The great news for retailers is that consumers have continued to premiumise their spirits choices, which means whisky drinkers are more likely than ever to explore within single malts,” she said.
At Campari Australia, where the whisky portfolio includes the likes of Wild Turkey and The Glen Grant, a similar impact is predicted, with continued strong growth in retail results likely to contribute to WWD’s success this year.
Paolo Marinoni, Marketing Director at Campari Australia, said: “WWD is likely to be bigger than ever as the selling period is driven by off-premise sales. We also know that whisky consumption often occurs at home so it is very likely that people will seize the unique offers that WWD provides to create a premium at home experience.”
Start the celebration
There are plenty of ways that people across the world can join in on WWD this year, many of which are listed on official event website, worldwhiskyday.com. This is also where you can register your own event, should you choose to create one.
And as William Grant & Sons shows by example, it doesn’t just need to be all over in a day.
“Although WWD is technically a day, we’ve created a month of activity. There’s no reason retailers can’t do the same and maximise the opportunity to talk such a high value category to their shoppers,” Asciak said.
The full programme of activity that William Grant & Sons has planned for WWD includes many elements that can extend down to a retail level. Asciak described such things as the official launch of Glenfiddich Grand Cru in Australia, a collection of specifically curated WWD content that educates and inspires whisky drinkers from beginner to explorer, and a number of exciting digital and invenue experiences. Of course, you’ll also find the Glenfiddich Whisky Wanderers back on the road, and retailers can always access the free personalisation service to help increase sales for non-seasonal gifting.
There is a lot on the cards for Campari Australia too. Marinoni said: “We are looking to showcase our vast and award winning whisky portfolio, including The Glen Grant, our single malt Scotch whisky, along with our Wild Turkey and Russell Reserve bourbons, within the available retail platforms that exist.
“We are also investing behind The Glen Grant during this period, which will include some exciting ATL and experiential activity in Melbourne, Australia’s largest single malt state.”
One of the ways that World of Whisky helps mark the WWD occasion is with Sydney event, The Whisky Show, which takes place every year on WWD. Myers said that pre-COVID it was one of the store’s most loved events. After being one of the first drinks shows to go digital last year, the show is now aiming for a dual physical and virtual event this year.
David Ligoff of Alchemist Events, the organiser of The Whisky Show, spoke to National Liquor News about how and why the show helps people celebrate such an occasion.
“Obviously we don’t need a reason to enjoy whisky and to celebrate whisky, but it’s a means of mobilising the industry in one direction… We’re all trying to do the same thing, to get people to enjoy good whisky. And that’s why [WWD] just works worldwide and has become a phenomenon quite quickly,” Ligoff said.
“We were already doing The Whisky Show in its current form since 2012, and it seemed like a natural thing to do to slot it [into WWD]. It’s the biggest whisky event in Australia on that day, and it helps centre it – we encourage people to celebrate and create tastings and events that whole week.”
This feature originally appeared in the March issue of National Liquor News. Read the full story, including tips on whisky retailing and how to get involved with WWD below.