Close Menu

Top 10 emerging whisky trends

From Japanese blends to new high-tech apps, db surveys the whisky landscape and runs through some emerging trends.

Events like the Whisky Lounge London Festival 2012 give an opportunity for brands, producers and enthusiasts to discuss emerging trends and showcase their own unique twist on the whisky blend.

This year’s Whisky Lounge event was no different as it threw up interesting talking points like the launch of the London Whisky Distillery; the unveiling of the Belfast Whisky Distillery’s Titanic Whisky and details of a new whisky-finding App from Mark Thomson, director of Dramatic Whisky.

Added to this, Jameson showcased their new trends in Irish whiskey and The Tweeddale Blend was also on show as one of the only independent blended whiskies available. It meant that the drinks business was able to gauge the current whisky market and assess some likely trends to emerge in the next few years,

Based on those displaying at the Whisky Lounge event in London, we have a compiled a top 10 whisky trends that emerged at the trade show and could have a major impact on the industry in the years to come.

 1. Japanese whisky 

“Can’t match demand” was how representatives at the Morrison Bowmore stand at the Whisky Lounge described the impact Japanese whisky is having on the market.

The company is owned by the Japanese family drinks firm, Suntory and they have a good selection of cult Japanese whiskies such as Hibiki, Yamazaki, and Hakushu.

Sales of its Islay single malt increased by 12% with the Japanese malts, Yamazaki and Hakushu, selling well in the UK and Europe.

The two single malts are distilled in Japan and Morrison Bowmore handles the sales in Europe.

The distillers also blend and bottle Drambuie after winning a contract last year.

Chief executive, Mike Keiller, said: “The company continues to focus on building its single malt whisky brands and investment in recent years, in both Bowmore and Auchentoshan, is starting to pay off with significant growth in the brands performance in 2009 despite the difficult economic conditions.”

China has already shown that it has a thirst of luxury international brands of whisky and Cognac, as these spirits begin to take a foothold in that market.

2. Breaking into the female market

A move into a fruitier whisky blend is becoming more prevalent in the industry as producers try to attract women to drink whisky.

The Scotch malt whisky society has reported record numbers of women joining.

The whisky aimed at women is more rounded and smooth than most others. The more choices of flavours and aromas mean a bigger demographic of people are interested in the drink.

Balblair 1989 is a good example of a whisky which is aimed at that market and women are beginning to respond.

The American oak barrels, used in the distillate’s maturation, lend a memorable warm toffee, vanilla fragrance. On the palate there are raisins and fruits mixed with spicy undertones.

“The 1989 has been very popular with ladies and has been one of our best sellers. We expect that to continue into the future as more women become interested in whisky,” said a Balblair whiskies spokesperson.

In America this shift in whisky drinking patterns has been nicknamed the “Mad Men effect.” In the UK, it has been put down to images of celebrities such as KT Tunstall, Kate Moss and Girls Aloud’s Sarah Harding, along with increasing depictions of female television characters drinking whisky.

Skyy Spirits, the wholly owned subsidiary of Gruppo Campari and eighth largest spirits company in the US, has recognised the trend and responded by launching “Skyy Spirits Women & Whiskies,” an interactive community managed by women for women who love the alluring spirit.

3. Twice burnt barrels

Irish whiskey is at an all time high at the moment and when category leader Jameson launch a successful “Black Barrel” blend which uses twice burnt barrels, people tend to take notice.

The Irish distillers launched the new extension of their Jameson Irish Whiskey in Brooklyn, New York and reports from The Whisky Lounge event were that the US is very keen on the blend.

The Jameson Black Barrel is part of their Special Reserve series, and refers to the heavily charred bourbon casks used to add extra depth and flavour to the blend.

The distillers describe the new blend as “rich in pot still whiskey and rare small batch grain whiskey, matured in flame-charred black barrels for a rich and luxurious taste”.

Glenfiddich also uses traditional American casks for their 18 year old scotch whisky, which are sometimes burnt again to help give the blend an extra toastiness.

 4. Whiskey from India


A new wave of whisky is coming from India and it is beginning to make a name for itself on a global scale. Just this month, for the first time, an Indian company has launched a Luxury Single Malt Scotch Whiskey at a global platform.

“Seven Islands Vintage”, a brand created exclusively for Tilaknagar Industries and meticulously designed by Ryan50 Scotland in strategic association with the BenRiach Distillerywas launched in London.

At the Whisky Lounge event, Amrut Distilleries showed off their single malts. They are a young company that are making strides in the whisky market and were awarded “Young World Whisky Distillery Award 2010.”

“A special award we invented to recognise Amrut’s impressive performance,” said Malt Manics Awards Whisky Competition.

 5. Single pot still whiskey

Another trend to emerge and present itself at The Whisky Lounge fair was that of single pot still whiskey.

As with a number of these trends, Ireland is leading the way. Pot still whiskey is a style which is unique to Ireland in general, and single pot still whiskeys (whiskeys originating from a single distillery) were once the norm in Ireland from the late 18th century to the early 20th century.

Pure pot still Irish whiskey is similar to a single malt, in that it is not blended with grain whiskey. It is, therefore, a straight whiskey.

However, in recent years this style of whiskey has enjoyed a renewed groundswell of interest from whiskey writers and enthusiasts alike, giving rise to demand for new expressions and now, to the “Single Pot Still Irish Whiskeys of Midleton” range.

Irish whiskey producers are again leading the way here Jameson are making a whiskey tag lined “Rediscover the original style of Irish Whiskey.”

One of the most decorated Irish whiskies, Redbreast is largest selling single pot still irish whiskey in the world and is regarded as the definitive expression of traditional pot still whiskey.

6. Whisky member societies on the rise

The popularity of whisky societies is beginning to grow as people learn more and more about whisky.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which had a stand at the Whisky Lounge, is growing in membership and influence.

It has a UK-wide whisky tasting programme, where a tasting team travel to venues so present malts so that members, wherever they live can get together and indulge with the society’s finest blends.

“We bottle malts from virtually every distillery in Scotland, and have brought to light several whiskies which were hitherto unknown to the public,” it was claimed.

The society publishes a regular newsletter together with bottling lists that describe the currently available whiskies. The society headquarters are in Edinburgh and a number of international branches exist to serve the needs of members living outside the UK.

7. Double distilling of Irish whiskey

Jameson is the leader of the field in Ireland with regards whiskey and this includes triple distilling. But other irish producers are beginning to see some progress from double distilling.

Cooley Irish Distillery has seen its flagship blend Connemara grow and grow and the producers expect this to go even better in the next year. It is aged in Bourbon casks and several versions can be found; single-cask, cask-strength, 12-year, and a high-peat version called “Turf Mór.”

Now owned by US based company Beam, Cooley is to cut short its supply of third-party brands and concentrate on core Irish brands such as Kilbeggan, Tyrconnell, Connemara and Greenore.

The success of double distilling Irish whiskey was proven when Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey has been named the world’s Best Irish Blended Whiskey at the 2012 World Whiskies Awards(WWA). This is the third time in the last four years Kilbeggan has earned this top honour, and rounds out a list of 17 awards that Cooley has achieved  from two of the world’s most prestigious industry competitions – WWA and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

8. More whisky apps

Whisky themed applications already exist, but they are becoming more high-tech and more user friendly.

The Mash app is a perfect example of this as it aims to take the hassle out of whisky drinking and allows users to locate a venue where their favourite whisky is available. The app uses GPS enabled venue recommendations.

The concept is that a whisky you like can be added to a virtual cabinet and the app will show what venues in the area stock that particular brand of whisky.

Mark Thomson, director of Dramatic Whisky, said at The Whisky Lounge event: “The idea of the app is that the complexity around whisky is taken away and things become simpler.

“Less guess work – with the expert tasting notes and less leg work – with the GPS. The idea is that your night out can be simple as the app can find the he right brand and the right venue for your occasion.”

9. Resurrecting old whisky recipe books

One of the most interesting stories at the Whisky Lounge event was that of The Tweeddale Blend whisky created by Stonedean Limited.

The owner is Alasdair Day and his aim was to resurrect an old blended whisky recipe that was last produced over 70 years ago.

The Tweeddale Blend and was originally produced by Alasdair’s great grandfather Richard Day, a licensed grocer from Edinburgh in the 1920s. The recipe for the blend dates back even further to the 1820s when previous owners of the shop, J&A Davidson, started producing their own range of blended whiskies as many such businesses were doing at the time.

Production continued until the outbreak of World War II but was not to be created again until Alasdair gained possession of a family heirloom – a book containing the recipe for The Tweeddale Blend. This included an itinerary the names of the single malts and grain whiskies involved, the type of casks that they were matured in and the quantities of each. Inspired by this, Alasdair set about recreating The Tweeddale Blend as closely as possible to how his great grandfather had produced it.

The first batch, released in 2010, gained widespread acclaim within the whisky world (including from us), so we were excited to try the second batch at a whisky festival back in the autumn.

Resurrecting whisky recipes is an interesting trend, which is beginning to work for Alasdair and his blend.

10. London distillery

The first working whisky distillery in London for 100 years is set to open in 2012 and it is bound to change the whisky landscape in the UK.

Darren Rook, a former strategic project manager for an online drinks retailer, is behind the venture and after securing 45 investors and his first potential employee, his plans are starting to take shape.

The London Distillery Company will produce the first London single malt whisky in 100 years and will also be the producer of organic London dry gin.

“Things are moving along well,” founder Darren Rook said at the Whisky Lounge event.

“I can’t say too much at the minute. I am here at this event with just an empty table. But people are free to come along and find out about what we are about.”

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No