Top 10 spirits trends for 2015
Trends are a notoriously tricky phenomenon to predict, especially in an industry so full of flux as spirits. Undeterred, we ask a panel of industry experts to forecast which will dominate in the year ahead.
While last year we saw the rise of lower abv drinks, flavour innovation and grain Scotch whisky, developments in the sector and changing consumer tastes mean spirits brands in 2015 have a new host of fortunes to look forward to.
Of course, the all-encompassing trends of premiumisation and the rise of “craft” spirits are sure to remain, but experts believe 2015 will also see diversification in Irish whiskey and the greater use of mezcal in the on-trade.
In line with these trends will emerge a greater focus on provenance, locally-socurced ingredients and heritage.
However, while some trends are seen to enhance the virtues of the industry, our panel of experts also offer words of warning with regards to the appropriation of the craft movement and fake age statements.
We may have already given you the spirits brands to watch in 2015, but click through the following pages to see which trends are predicted to take off over the next 12 months.
“The industry is adapting to consumers’ growing understanding and appreciation of whisky and this should be reflected in a bar’s selection – there should be something to suit every palate. The use of whisky in cocktails and the resurgence of classics, such as the Old Fashioned has also benefitted the category. Bartenders are exploring whisky more and taking time to choose expressions and brands that complement other ingredients perfectly to create simple, neat serves that accentuate the whisky’s profile.
“Clearly there are new drinkers coming to the category drawn by the general increased exposure, who approach whisky in the same manner they do with the majority of their purchases, researching the history and traceability of a product before committing. This obviously benefits brands with historic brand equity, like Glenfiddich, however, we’re also seeing an increase in consumer willing to experiment with fledgling brands. It’s a healthy time in general and the exciting thing is that it’s growing from so many different angles.”
– Mark Thomson, UK brand ambassador, Glenfiddich
“There are encouraging signs that more and more whisky distillers are following the lead established by Bruichladdich in taking barley provenance and variety seriously. Our fascinating raw material is the most flavour complex cereal in the world and treating it with the respect it deserves can only be to our long term benefit if we are to continue to develop the engagement of sophisticated connoisseurs.”
– Carl Reavey, content creation manager, Bruichladdich
China returns to VSOP
“For Cognac in 2015 the overwhelming question is China: will it recover from the disastrous slump of 2014 or not? My bet is that ordinary Chinese will resume buying VSOP and even XO but that the fatcats will remain afraid of showing off and so sales of the seriously expensive stuff will remain subdued – though of course we don’t know how much of the slump was due to overstocking.”
– Nicholas Faith, Cognac expert
“We are seeing a shift toward premiumisation in the category with luxury and limited edition Cognac entering the market. As in other categories, consumers are looking for brands that have a rich heritage and interesting stories to tell. They want to purchase a Cognac that they can really embrace and one that makes them feel special.”
– Rebecca Asseline, global brand ambassador, Courvoisier
Brithdays and provenance
“I think the main trends I’d pinpoint for Cognac this year would be birthdays and provenance. With regards to brithdays, Hennessy celebrates its 250th birthday this year, and Martell its 300th, so expect lots of brand activity and special limited editions around those milestones. For provenance, some Cognac houses such as Camus have been playing in this area for a while, but interest is taking hold now with the launch of Domaines Hine Bonneuil 2005, sourced from the company’s own vineyards in Grande Champagne. Expect more innovative (by Cognac standards) launches if it’s a success. Domaines Hine also has no caramel, very light oak influence and a higher than normal abv. Will the big houses follow suit?
– Richard Woodard, freelance spirits writer
“Countries with a developing cocktail culture are beginning to discover gin in places like Russia and South America. As you get a developing cocktail scene, you get interest in gin as bartenders look back to classic recipes, a large amount of which were based on gin.
“It looks like it will follow what happened in the UK a few years ago when people started to look for more flavoured spirits in general and gin’s popularity began to grow.
“Next year there will be more gins coming out but people will start sticking to more local botanicals.
“A handful of gins recently came out – and are going to come out – in Australia this year and consumer interest will be looking for provenance, local botanicals rather than using generic, widely available ingredients that gives their gin a signature of the area of its country of origin.”
– Tim Stones, global brand ambassador, Beefeater Gin
Cocktails at home
“With more consumers enjoying cocktails containing premium spirits, the growing trend of recreating premium drinks from the on-trade in an ‘at home environment’ will grow.
“Cellar Trends has found that 73% of people now drink cocktails at home and serving pitchers of cocktails is proving a popular alternative to wine and beer, as this allows consumers to batch produce cocktails to impress their friends at dinner parties.
“Consumers are continuing to spend more on premium spirits, opting for quality over quantity. This is a trend which is predicted to grow in 2015 as consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their choice of spirits and liqueurs.
“Further experimentation with flavour extensions will be the next step for premium spirits moving forward.”
– Julia Bliss, Licor 43 brand manager, Cellar Trends
Decline of Mixtos
The super-premium category will continue growing, and more and more 100% agave Tequilas will entering the UK market. Mixtos Tequila will only sell at the bottom end of the market.”
– Eduardo Gomez, founder Tequila & Mezcal Fest UK
Blanco brands will prevail
“Bartenders and Tequila brands have been instrumental in educating consumers about the category and we are moving in a direction in which more and more people are finding products that they love and becoming avid and passionate Tequila drinkers.
“I believe the category’s rise in popularity is essential to creating the following trends in 2015.
“The perception that greater age equals a better product will continue to change and appreciation for the blanco category, as the most agave-led category, will grow.
“There will be continued growth of the 100% agave category as consumer knowledge of the category continues to expand as well as brands creating ultra-premium products/range extensions as the high-end segments of tequila continue to grow.
“Brands will market their products increasingly as using ‘craft’ production processes and being ‘small batch’ or ‘handmade’.”
– Jesse Estes, co-founder, Ocho Tequila
Asia leads premiumisation
“The main trends I predict in rum for 2015 are that more premium rum brands will be launched globally with Asia leading the way in increasing the awareness of the rum category around the world. This trend will unfortunately lead to another trend in that some brands will cut corners in creating their rums and claim unsubstantiated age statements.”
– Ian Burrell, Global rum ambassador and founder of The RumFest, 16,17,18 October 2015
“Rum is a spirit that is finally being rediscovered. We see great potential in quality aged rum. It is not going to happen overnight like some have thought previously. This is a category that will progressively grow into its own as quality increases. This is what we have been working on with Plantation for more than 15 years and we finally seeing some very positive growth.”
– Alexandre Gabriel, founder, Plantation Rum
Greater flavour variety
“2015 will see the increase in segmentation in the category, in particular in markets like the US, as consumers look to discover more flavoursome expressions of Irish whiskey and new distillery projects come out of the woodwork.”
– Jack Teeling, founder, Teeling Whiskey Company
Single pot still
“2015 will see the continued resurgence of Irish whiskey in terms of investment in additional capacity and in sales. Ireland has had four distilleries for the last forty years; that doubled to eight working distilleries with planning permissions granted for an additional eight distilleries in 2014. Global sales are expected to exceed seven million 9-litre cases with further resurgence in the single pot still variety, a category unique to Irish whiskey.
“The industry continues to come together under the new Irish Whiskey Association, which will be launching its ‘Vision for Irish Whiskey’ strategy document in Q1. The strategy outlines the industry’s ambitions to 2030, including to double exports by 2020 and double them again to 24 million 9-litre cases by 2030, as well as to become a prioritised industry in Ireland as Scotch is in the UK. The Association is also expected to launch an all-island Irish whiskey tourism strategy in the early summer.”
– Aoife Keane, head of the Irish Whiskey Association
Adventure and premiumisation
“Driven by the combined efforts of a new wave of micro distillers and the more adventurous approach of the bigger players, 2015 will see the development of many new Irish whiskey styles that will be laid down for enjoyment in 2020 onwards.
“This year will also see consumers trading up in their Irish whiskey choices across the board of the established brands and some of the more niche players.”
– Brendan Buckley, global innovation and category development director, Irish Distillers
Recruit new consumers
“We see the Bourbon boom extending through 2015, with global interest continuing to grow as consumers search out whiskey products that offer quality, heritage and authenticity.
“We expect the premium segment to remain strong among current whiskey drinkers, and the flavoured segment to continue to bring new drinkers into the category.”
– Chris Bauder, GM whiskey, Beam Suntory
Flavour takeover and super-premiumisation
“In the value segment, I think we haven’t even seen the beginning of the flavoured whisky segment in the UK and I have no doubt Fireball, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, and others like them will be pushing to get their products onto even more bar shelves in 2015.
“When it comes to retail, the race to the bottom is over and having the cheapest price on the high street doesn’t guarantee the volumes it once did. You’re going to see more national retailers moving up the value chain offering premium and super-premium American whiskies in an effort to capitalise on the growth of the category with a differentiated offering.”
– Michael Vachon, head of brand development, Maverick Drinks
“Vodka has come along way from the flashy packaging and unsubstantiated claims of the 80s. The 90s also saw a huge rise in this as well as every flavour imaginable being added to vodka .
“In 2015 vodka will find its dignity, with a few craft producers like myself focusing on quality and ingredients. We at Vestal go a little further by offering unfiltered vintages and aged varieties that have captured the imagination of the on- and off-trade.
“Finally vodka has a real chance to recapture the trust of those who have fallen out of love with it. Let’s hope the big four don’t crash this party and ruin it for everyone.”
– Will Borrell, founder, Vestal Vodka
Back to basics
“The huge variety of flavours that were introduced to the market over such a short period, such as bubblegum, may demonstrate that growth in this category was very much a trend.
“As with all trends, they have a finite lifespan and what we can see is that consumers are returning to natural ingredients, locally sourced products, and are going back to basics.”
– Grey Goose spokesperson
“While Tequila will stay very much in favour in 2015, all eyes will also be on mezcal this year.
“Mezcal will increasingly find its way onto cocktails menus in house cocktails as well as replacing gin, vodka, rum and whisky in classic cocktails.”
–Jesse Estes, co-founder, Ocho Tequila
Wild agave varieties