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How nostalgia trends and price can help boost whisky’s luxury status

A whisky’s uniqueness and high price point, along with trends like nostalgia, can help position it as desirable, says Ardross Distillery. 

Speaking to the drinks business, Ardross Distillery founder Barthelemy Brosseau explained how positioning whiskies as exclusive within such a competitive sector – where many big brand names were already known – was a feat of “engineering” status.

According to Brosseau, people’s desire to feel connected had propelled the nostalgia trend and that meant that buying whisky had become a way to help them feel some control and “meaning” in “an ever changing world”.

Brosseau told db: “From a very pragmatic, and perhaps cynical perspective, market forces are what they are and it is illusory to think one can compete at the entry-level with the multi-billion pound marketing budgets of our ‘bigger brothers.’ A unique proposition at a higher price reflects our higher production costs but also allows us to signal our luxury credentials and to stand above the melee of entry level products. It also allows us to keep more of our margin.”

He added: “A Veblen good is a good for which demand increases as the price increases. Reasons for this are multiple but in essence it has to do with exclusivity, status, and desirability – and of course, to a large extent, the engineering of such exclusivity, status and desirability”.

Brosseau pointed out that: “Nostalgia is everywhere around us, and from Stranger Things to the idea or dream of a distillery lost in the depths of the Northern Highlands, nostalgic images are powerful. They perhaps help us to make sense of an ever changing world; helping us connect the past and the present, connecting threads of meaning and purpose in disjointed events, or instilling a sense of care and responsibility for the memory of what was and the fantasy of what may have been”.

Ardross Distillery recently became the first new make distillery to sell at Christie’s auction house – this from a new Scotch whisky distillery which only started producing ‘newmake’ 25 months ago. The first three Scotch whisky casks filled at the Ardross Distillery were its first Ardross ex-Bourbon cask, its first Ardross sherry cask and its first Ardross Japanese Mizunara oak cask which all sold in total for £200,000 (£245,000 including fees).

Brosseau observed that “auctions provide a great mechanism for such engineering” and added that “whether it be on the Newmake side (a single NcNean bottle or the three first-ever Ardross Casks) or from the usual, albeit legendary, suspects Macallan, Dalmore, Karuizawa, recent prizes achieved at auction have been incredible”.

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