Diageo unveils ‘weird and wonderful’ whisky arm
Diageo has launched an experimental whisky arm tasked with producing “unorthodox, weird and wonderful whiskies”.
Called Whisky Union, the project was unveiled during Diageo’s investors conference held in New York last week, and is described as an “experimental craft whiskey off-shoot within Diageo”.
“Our whiskey makers’ creations are about exploration of flavour and pushing the 55 boundaries of blending”, said David Gates, head of premium core spirits at Diageo during the conference. “They are unorthodox, weird and wonderful and possibly like nothing you’ve ever tasted before”
The project is in line with Diageo’s recently unveiled strategy to target growth in the Scotch whisky sector, and compete with the rise of innovative American and New World whiskies.
The first two whiskies from Whisky Union will be launched on a trial basis in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Vienna, with a global release to follow. They include Smoky Goat (€24), a “smoky sweet” blended Scotch whisky, and Boxing Hares (€22), a 35% abv spirit drink made from Scotch whisky infused with hops. A third whisky – a blend of Scotch, Canadian and American whiskies – called Huxley, will launch shortly after.
“We know that these Whiskey Union products may well be quite polarising – and that’s just fine”, said Gates. “Some of them will fail – and that’s just fine. This concept is about experimenting, testing and giving freedom to our ‘makers’ imaginations and giving our consumers a range of completely different styles and personalities of whiskey.”
Some of its creations will be labeled as Scotch whisky, when they adhere to industry regulations, while others will not be.
“It’s worth stating here that we think the SWA regulations are a good thing,” said Gates. “They give consumers complete reassurance that when they buy a product labelled Scotch whisky, they know exactly what they are getting and that it is of the very highest standard. But there is room to play. When our innovations comply completely to the SWA regulations we shall call then Scotch whiskies and when they don’t we won’t.”
All whiskies produced by Whisky Union will be released under a “new business model”, which Diageo hopes will attract a new group of whisky drinkers.
“We believe these brands and a new way of bringing them to market will allow us to reach a new group of people who will not have engaged with whiskey before”, explained Gates. “And we are going to do it in a different way.”