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Skye’s the limit

The fastest growing brand in Diageo’s Classic Malts range, Talisker is being revamped and an 18-year-old is being introduced to meet growing demand, says Penny Boothman

THIS MONTH sees the launch of a new 18-year-old bottling from Talisker, the only single malt distillery on the Isle of Skye.  It has quite a reputation to live up to as the 10-year-old has won six IWSC trophies for Best Single Malt under 12 years old.

In 1989, when the Classic Malts were launched, Talisker sold 1,000 9-litre cases a year.  This has now risen to 70,000 cases in more than 30 markets and, over the last three years, sales of Talisker have grown on average by 16% per annum, making it the fastest growing brand in the Classic Malts range.

The top five markets are the UK, taking 16,000 cases, or 23% of total sales volume, France with 19%, the global dutyfree market with 13%, and the USA and Italy with 11% and 9% respectively.  "Talisker is entering a new phase of growth," explains marketing director for Diageo’s premium malts, Nicholas Morgan.

"Sales are growing faster than the category average, but there is now massive and growing demand for an older Talisker too, so adding an 18-year-old to the regular bottling range will meet some of this thirst.

The great success of older Taliskers, sold in limited editions in our periodic Special Releases over the last four years, led us to plan for a range of older Taliskers that would be more regularly available," Morgan continues.

"The new bottling targets existing malt whisky drinkers, who are broadly to be found in the male 30/35 plus segment of the market. 

"Talisker is advertised in only a handful of markets, and the main marketing thrust is through sampling and tasting programmes, and also through relationship marketing programmes like the Friends of the Classic Malts, which operates in 12 markets across Europe and North America," says Morgan.

The brand certainly has some attentiongrabbing promotional activity.  "Talisker is one of Diageo’s three coastal distilleries that sponsor the Classic Malts Cruise, which has now been running for over 10 years," Morgan explains.

In this event yachts from around the world assemble each summer for a non-competitive twoweek cruise through the challenging waters of the Inner Hebrides.  "The Cruise promotes Classic Malts to a prosperous and cosmopolitan audience.

It also generates considerable media coverage for our distilleries in key overseas markets, and brings useful economic activity to many points along the West Coast," says Morgan.  And it doesn’t stop there. "Locally, on Skye, Talisker also supports a music festival, a highland games festival and the Skye Food Festival."

Talisker already has an enviably strong presence in the whisky sector, and, indeed, the spirits scene as a whole.  "Talisker is one of the world’s most famous single malts, but we would say it has a reputation more than an image – a reputation created by its utterly distinctive taste, and its unique provenance," says Morgan.

However, marketing a well-known brand with limited availability has inherent constraints.  "For obvious inventory reasons, the 18-year-old Talisker will not be sold in anything like the quantities of the 10-year-old, nor in as many places.

It will be marketed in conjunction with the 10-year-old and through the same channels," Morgan explains.  This first ever 18-year-old is bottled at the unusually high strength of 45.8% and has a recommended retail price in the UK of £38.

Meanwhile, the whole range has been redesigned by Glenn Tutsell of Enterprise IG to coincide with the launch of the 18-yearold.  "Its [blue] maritime livery now embodies the unique heritage and distinctiveness of this individual malt whisky," comments Tutsell.

It also delivers vital stand-out on shelf.  "There are more than a few good malt whiskies around, but Talisker is particularly distinctive," says Morgan.  "The rich new packaging, the launch of a new 18-year-old and the promise of further age expressions will reinforce its presence."

Where can Talisker go from here? "We aim to double sales over the next three years, for starters," he replies.  "We are working on further additions to the range, with a view to their appearing in the next 12 to 24 months."

According to Morgan, "Talisker’s outstanding success in international awards and its rocketing sales confirm that both the leading independent whisky experts and malt whisky drinkers see it as a distinctive and special malt."

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