The world whisky brands to watch in 2015By Melita Kiely
Ireland, the US, India, Japan and even Europe, the spirits industry has been inundated with top quality world whiskies of late, so we’ve picked three brands and trends worth watching in 2015.
Soaring demand for American and Irish whiskeys from all over the world has resulted in the world whiskey category being bigger and better than ever before – and it’s showing no signs of giving up the gun any time soon.
Near the start of 2014, the Irish Spirits Association (ISA) predicted exports of Irish whiskey would double to more than 12 million cases by 2020 as a result of new distilleries being built. “What’s especially exciting is that the Irish whiskey industry has been flourishing as of late, experiencing somewhat of a renaissance,” said Peter Morehead, chairman of the ISA and director of production at Irish Distillers. “This has led to extremely positive growth prospects.”
The group’s flagship brand Jameson remained the only Irish whiskey to achieve more than 1m case sales – 4.6m to be exact. But with so many new entrants in the category, who knows what dizzy heights Irish whiskey will reach next year?
Head overseas, and the Bourbon and American whiskey industry has seen a revival sparked by the renaissance of classic cocktails, the craft distilling movement and a focus on quality. Despite the woes of an on-going barrel shortage, Bourbon producers are still managing to increase production. Take Brown-Forman for example, which is investing US$30m to build an Old Forester Bourbon distillery and “Bourbon experience” in Louisville, Kentucky, in order to double production of the brand.
Japan is also proving itself to be a strong contender in the whisky world. Earlier this year, Beam Suntory CMO Kevin George told The Spirits Business that although he believes the company will always be “first and foremost a Bourbon company”, it also plans to pay a lot of attention to its Japanese portfolio.
“Our focus will continue to be on Bourbon, which we are the world leader of, not only in the US but in export markets as well,” said George. “Japanese whisky is now next on that list because of the size and importance of the Japanese market to the business.”
Global growth slow down
Furthermore, Indian whisky Officer’s Choice overtook Diageo’s Johnnie Walker to become the largest selling whisky in the world, after experiencing a 31% volume growth. And with a growing number of affluent young consumers keen to explore the premium spirits market, Indian whisky producers are confident they will continue to grow their global reputation.
While growth in the whisky category as a whole is predicted to slow down slightly over the next few years, the sector is predicted to increase by 4% from 2013-2019 (IWSR).
Of course Scotch’s reputation precedes itself, but producers from Canada, the US, Japan, Ireland and even some European counterparts are also proving their capability to produce excellent whiskies, which are steadily building a reputable name for themselves.
Key world whisky trends 2015
- Irish whiskey will remain one of the whisky category’s main talking points.
- Japanese whiskies will ramp up their presence in global markets.
- Expect to see flavour innovation in American whiskey extend past traditional honey and cinnamon offerings.
Bushmills Irish whiskey is now in the hands of Jose Cuervo. The brand sold 800,000 cases in the year to June 2014, but with brand new ownership, could there soon be a new million case Irish whiskey brand in the world?
Jim Beam has been toying with flavours such as maple and cinnamon-flavoured Bourbon this year, as well as launching its flagship brand in India. Not only that, the brand has taken an extra innovative twist with the launch of Jim Beam Kentucky Dram, a blend of Bourbon and Scotch whisky.
With the might of Beam behind it since the multi-billion-dollar merger with Suntory, Japanese whisky Hibiki has the potential to thrive. Hakushu distillery, which provides malt whisky for the blend, is also undergoing a one billion yen (£5.8m) expansion to increase its production capacity by 30% to meet growing demand.