The world whisky brands to watch in 2016

16th December, 2015 by Kristiane Sherry

Taking on the might of Scotch in terms of both sales and innovation, these are the world whisky brands set to shake the sector in the year ahead.

This is our selection of the world whisky brands to watch in 2016

This is our selection of the world whisky brands to watch in 2016

For a category as diverse as world whisk(e)y – essentially any whisk(e)y produced outside Scotland for the purposes of this report – it is remarkably easy to assess its market performance. In a word, it’s boom time for geographically diverse whisk(e)y producers.

The IWSR named Irish whiskey the fastest-growing spirits category in the world, notching up 10.8% CAGR volume growth from 2009-14. American whiskey is likewise experiencing growth, with volume and value sales up 5.0% and 8.3%, respectively, year-on-year 2013-14, according to Euromonitor.

Japanese whisky has put in a truly impressive performance, with CNN Money estimating that exports increased 86% from 2008 to 2014. More anecdotally, Jim Murray’s second consecutive omission of Scotch from his top five whiskies in his annual Whiskey Bible cements the Rest of the World as a significant player in the global whisk(e)y scene. In 2014 he opted for Japan, with Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013; this year Canada’s Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye edition clinched the top spot.

World whisk(e)y has even made inroads into travel retail, a channel where retailers tend to play it safe to protect those precious margins. With the opening of The Loop’s Whiskey Collection at Dublin Airport’s Terminal 1 in 2015, Aer Rianta International (ARI) introduced whiskies from 11 countries outside Scotland and the US, opting for liquid from the likes of Japan, Sweden, India and Taiwan. “We are seeing a 485% growth in these world whiskies, albeit from a very small base,” said Paul Neeson, global buyer and merchandising director at ARI.

Big growth expectations

Perhaps the biggest question now is how long the various whisk(e)y producing regions can maintain such growth. Ireland’s distilling contingent clubbed together in 2014 to form the Irish Whiskey Association, and in May this year revealed its collective ambition to grow the category by 300% globally by 2030. The eyebrow-raising figure is actually “very achievable”, IWA president Bernard Walsh told The Spirits Business in October.

Indeed, the number of new distilleries springing up across Ireland in particular but also other producing regions certainly backs up Walsh’s optimism. As things stand, there are 26 new or proposed Irish whiskey distilleries, up from just four in 2013.

Meanwhile, Quintessential Brands’ international brand manager for Irish whiskeys, Sinead O’Frighill, thinks the consumer evolution means shoppers are now able to see “beyond simply looking at ages” – useful for an industry with a lot of younger brands. “I think it requires a distiller to be a bit more inventive with brands, behind what finish and what the actual distillate is,” she explains.

Looking forward, Brendan Buckley, global innovation and prestige whiskeys director at Pernod Ricard’s Irish Distillers, says all future indicators point to continued growth. “Undoubtedly, the arrival of new entrants will bring greater dynamism and diversity of offerings, but maintaining quality will be a key prerequisite to sustaining this growth.”

Click through the following pages to discover which brands and trends we have predicted will dominate the world whisky sector in 2016.

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