Scotch whisky is ‘too intimidating’ for new drinkers

6th February, 2015 by Becky Paskin

The Scotch whisky industry is “too intimidating” and “serious”, and room should be made for more fun in the category to attract a new generation of whisky drinkers, a spokesperson for William Grant has said.

Monkey-Shoulder

Monkey Shoulder has long aimed to “demystify” Scotch whisky

According to Matthew Hawes, global marketing manager for Monkey Shoulder, the Scotch blended malt owned by William Grant, some brands are “too hung up” on communicating complicated terminology associated with Scotch that consumers become intimidated by the category.

In an interview with The Spirits Business, printed in the February 2015 issue, he argued that by presenting the fun side of Scotch to consumers, producers can help “facilitate people into the category”.

“For some consumers Scotch can be quite intimidating,” he said. “Less so increasingly, but in a lot of markets there are rules associated with the category.

“There is a lot of seriousness in the whisky category, but equally there is plenty of room to have some fun as well and demystify to a certain extent.”

Hawes said Monkey Shoulder’s long-term strategy to “demystify” Scotch whisky involved avoiding explaining the difference between a blended malt and a single malt upfront with new consumers, so as not to intimidate them.

“Some do and some don’t know about blended malt and as we are trying to protect Monkey Shoulder as a whisky first and foremost, the precise definition we’re not so concerned about,” he explained.

“We are trying to invite a new generation of whisky drinkers into the category and by not getting too hung up on some of the terminology associated with the category we can facilitate that process a little bit better.”

He added that while education of Scotch whisky is important, brands must “do it in a way that’s acceptable”.

“Monkey Shoulder has always presented itself in a light-hearted fashion; a lot of what we want to do is cut through some of the stuff associated with the traditions of Scotch whisky. More and more you’re seeing established whisky brands doing the same thing. There is room for a bit more fun and light-heartedness in what can be quite a serious category.”

To read the full interview with Hawes, see the February 2015 issue of The Spirits Business.

5 Responses to “Scotch whisky is ‘too intimidating’ for new drinkers”

  1. Dave Gunns says:

    Naturally everybody has a right to an opinion but it bothers me that somebody in the industry can spout such nonsense. The idea is to educate and inform people about the whisky industry, once they understand the whisky making process, the differences between blends, single malts, blended malts etc., the various ways of drinking whisk(e)y they will be less intimidated about whisky culture in general. Youth branding has been part and parcel of the industry for many years, so the assumption that drinking whisky is still a serious culture is just not true. To demystify whisky, you have to educate!!!

    • J.Kelly says:

      Dave,
      Millennials a have a fear of being wrong. Currently the barrier to entry into the category seems steep to them. The scotch industry have such legacy of seriousness and stuffiness. Also, a misstep in their first experience can leave a bad impression. You’re asking a lot from the industry to try educate and inform about a category rife with complexity in the limited time that the consumer allows at the point of consumption or purchase. I think the point is you don’t have a doctorate in Scotch to try it. I would think you would welcome an approach that eases people into the category so they can eventually become more educated and informed.

  2. Please tell Mr Hawes to go to… work for a Irish or Canadian whisky company. Oh, their products are user friendly and certainly not intimidating: just perfect for him. The ONLY thing wrong with the Scotch whisky industry is misguided representatives like Mr Hawes.

  3. I agree with J. Kelly – all the education in the world won’t necessarily make someone love whisky but easing consumers in with, dare I say it, great marketing might… John Hegarty said something similar recently about demystifying wine, an industry which also suffers by being ‘impenetrable’ to most consumers according to him. There’s nothing wrong with ‘fun’ marketing but, to Dave Gunns’ point, this is an industry with a deep history and an involved manufacturing method so that marketing, whilst fun, needs to be considered and in tune.

  4. Dan says:

    My experience has been that those intimidated have never been taught how to properly drink whisky. A colleague and I had an opportunity to educate a 22 year old a couple of years ago and it was quite rewarding to see the light go on in this young man. I have had a few opportunities like this present themselves and I always try to educate, and it pays off for those newly indoctrinated into how to drink whisky.

    Sorry, whisky drinking is not McDonalds, or any other instant institution that today’s society wants. Whisky is to be appreciated and it takes time to develop the ability to properly nose and taste. This isn’t snobbery, it is just the way it is. And maybe it’s not an industry problem, it’s a consumer problem where some of us are unwilling to spend the time and educate those new to whisky.

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