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Diageo releases honey-infused J&B ‘Scotch’

Diageo is the latest drinks group to combine Scotch whisky and honey flavours with the release of J&B Urban Honey.

Diageo has moved into the Scotch-based flavoured “spirit drink” category with J&B Urban Honey

Labelled clearly as a “spirit drink”, the new release is an infusion of J&B Scotch Whisky brand and honey, designed to appeal to “a new generation of men and women”.

J&B Urban Honey, bottled at 35% abv, is described as a “characterful drink that has a balanced and smooth liquid”.

Guidelines by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and EU law state no other ingredients except caramel colouring and water can be added to Scotch whisky.

Diageo has therefore claimed to ensure that the new release is differentiated from its parent J&B brand “with the use of a honeycomb pattern, a city skyline illustration and a prominent ‘bee’ illustration”.

“Creation of J&B Urban Honey is true to the urban roots of the J&B brand and its reputation for re-invention in the whisky category,” said Dougal McGeorge, global J&B Brand director.

“The rapid growth of flavoured spirit drinks made J&B a natural choice for us as we looked to drive innovation.”

The UK drinks group follows in the footsteps of Bacardi and Pernod Ricard with this latest flavoured release.

In March last year Bacardi was caught up in a dispute over its new Dewar’s Highlander Honey, which describes itself as a “Blended Scotch whisky infused with natural flavours” on the front label, and only states it is a spirit drink on the back.

The label adheres to US regulations, but in its current state would be prohibited by the EU.

Flavoured trend

More recently, in December 2013, Pernod Ricard’s gin and whisky business Chivas Brothers released Ballantine’s Brasil – a labelled “spirit drink” created by steeping Ballantine’s blended Scotch whisky in lime peel.

The flavoured spirits category has experienced fast growth in recent years, particularly in the US. More than 40% of all spirits in the US have an additional flavoured expression with more than 220 flavours now on the market, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS).

The launch of J&B Urban Honey also follows the release of various honey-flavoured variants in the American whiskey and Irish whiskey categories.

In 2011, Brown-Forman released Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, while in May 2012, Beam Inc released Jim Beam Honey.

Irish whiskey first forayed into flavours when Diageo’s Bushmills Irish Honey launched in February 2012, followed by Pernod Ricard’s Paddy Bee Sting in October 2013.

J&B Urban Honey will first launch in Spain from April 2014.

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