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Experts predict spirits trends for 2016

It can be difficult to know which trends will dominate in an industry as changeable as spirits. Nevertheless, we ask some experts to share their insights for 2016.

These are the spirits trends experts predict will be big in 2016

In 2015, we saw barley innovation Scotch whisky, a focus on birthdays and provenance in Cognac, and the use of creative casks in gin. Meanwhile, the at-home cocktails trend prompted radical changes in the liqueurs category and single pot still was a major trend in Irish whiskey.

While 2016 will witness a number of these trends continue, a panel of industry experts have identified some intriguing new phenomena set to take the sector by storm.

An increased focus on terroir, provenance and heritage will to push the premium trajectory on the industry as a whole, but some category-specific trends will make for interesting changes in the year ahead.

Click through the following pages to discover the spirits trends to watch 2016. Think our experts have missed one? Have your own predictions? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Cognac: normalisation of China

“2016 will be the year in which the Chinese market will increasingly resemble others. Previously it had been dominated by premium – and super-premium – Cognacs, often part of high-level corrupt networks. These have been at least partly eliminated, hence the fall in sales since 2012. But there is an enormous potential – and indeed growing – market for VS and VSOP Cognacs amongst the hundreds of millions of middle-class Chinese.”

– Nicholas Faith, author and Cognac expert

Vodka: new regions and artisan production

“It is not only the premium and luxury vodka brands (Belvedere, Double Cross, Beluga, Absolut Elyx, Purity Vodka, etc.) that are going to be the key drivers for the market growth, but also small independently crafted vodkas with locally sourced ingredients and artisan production methods.

“The more passion we put in vodka distilling process, the better product we get. Organic, small batch, gluten free – these are the words that characterise the future vodka generation. The growing trend of new distilleries and vodka brands can be seen in the countries we wouldn’t normally associate with vodka production – France (Sauvelle, Fair, Golovkine), United Kingdom (Our/London, Arbikie, East London Liquor Company, D1 Spirits), Spain (Santamanía, Basmoon Vodka), Germany (Sash & Fritz, Freimut), etc. It is hard to pick one or two good quality vodkas, especially with such a great number of new vodkas on the market each year. Whether you like it straight up, on the rocks, or mixed in your favourite cocktail, vodka definitely has its unique place and bright future in the modern spirits industry and mixology.

– Veronika Karlova, founder of Girls.Drink.Vodka

American whiskey: diversification of malts

“While Bourbon will continue to take precedence, it is historically fitting with the current abundant supply of barley produced in the North Western states that America produces an increasingly diverse supply of malts: a veritable hat-tip to this often overlooked American-Scottish cultural connection.

“I look forward particularly to the growing exposure of West Coast malts, such as Seattle’s Westland Distillery, which I hope will continue to add to its portfolio of intriguingly traditional expressions.

“I hope for an increase in the number of Colorado single malt distilleries, too. Why Colorado? Well, it’s Colorado – it’s awesome!”

– Robert Chapman, whisky expert

Gin: strawberry flavours and companion vermouths

In-house base spirits

“A selection of British distilleries that started out making gin are now producing whisky; Cotswolds, Shortcross, and the East London Liquor Company, for example. I think we’ll start to see some experimentation with these sorts of distilleries making their own base spirit for new gins, rather than buying in neutral spirit. Expect to see a few British Genevers or Gin/Genever hybrids.”

Signature botanical Gin

“This has been bubbling away under the surface for a few years and things heated up a bit in 2015 with some new releases. Essentially, they are gins that have the usual array of distilled botanicals, but also highlight a signature botanical on the bottle, such as Knockeen Hills Elderflower, Liverpool’s Rose Gin, or Curio’s Rock Samphire.”

Strawberry-flavoured gin

“This got really big in Spain over the summer of 2015 (where it is often mixed with Lemon Fanta) and, with strawberry being such a popular flavour in the UK, it could make an appearance in 2016. Both Hayman’s and Silent Pool released limited edition strawberry gin liqueurs in 2015 and Bloom has a Strawberry Cup. The key is to make gin that’s not too sweet, but still has the fresh succulence of the fruit.”

Companion Vermouths

“As distilleries mature and expand their portfolios, more will follow in the footstep of Sacred and look to make some distilled vermouths. There is growing interest in vermouth; it is a great accompaniment to gin, with good cross-sale potential. Expect products that work equally well when mixed and when sipped neat as an aperitif.”

– David Smith, independent spirits consultant

Scotch: higher priced NAS and birthdays

I think that 2016 will see a continuation of the growth and development of the no-age-statement sector. I see this being particularly true in the higher price brackets, rather than simply at the entry level price point, both in domestic and travel retail markets. We are already seeing the first shoots of this trend, especially in travel retail where research has shown that a high percentage of consumers are driven by flavour profile rather than age.”

– Matt Chambers, co-founder Whisky For Everyone (

Similarly to 2015, 2016 looks to be a year where a number of whisky brands are celebrating birthdays of a rather impressive age and as a result they are digging into their archives for inspiration for upcoming releases. Recreation of original or heritage expressions that were being sold those many years ago, be it through the age statement, flavour profile or simply the style of label, will be on trend and creating a buzz with consumers.
– Karen Taylor, co-founder Whisky for Everyone (

Liqueurs: floral and herbaceous flavours

“We have just opened our second site First Aid Box next to Brockwell Park in Herne Hill and are therefore feeling all floral and herbaceous. We are especially loving violette, poppy and elderflower liqueurs at the moment to add freshness and complexity to our drinks, and also eau de vies such as thyme, basil, sage and rosemary for some smart twists on classic Gimlets and Revivers.

“We have also been busy making our own flavours such as lemongrass, seabuckthorn, oregano and we have a few savoury ideas up our sleeves using different seasonings. In`terms of older liqueurs, we have fallen in love all over again with Luxardo Maraschino, perfect for Pickford and Hemingway cocktails.”

– Chris Edwards (pictured left), co-owner of The Shrub and Shutter

Irish whiskey: tourism growth

“In our export markets we have seen that millennials are certainly being drawn to Irish whiskey. Irish Whiskey has attracted a new consumer (if compared to Scotch). It’s the younger generation 21 to 35 who see Irish whiskey as approachable and mixable. It can easily be swapped into cocktail mixes even in place of Bourbon.

“With an influx of new entrants there is expected to be growth in whiskey tourism, as many open visitor centres with their distilleries. The industry hopes to increase visitors from 600,000 per annum to 800,000 per annum in the medium-term.

“There are 32 new or proposed distilleries across Ireland. Each have a  different vision of what their Irish whiskey will be, meaning that consumers at home and in export markets can expect an array of new and distinct products to choose from. Irish whiskey has carved out its own niche in the global spirits market, relying on the traditional craft of Irish distilling and authentic heritage, underpinned by high-quality whiskey with a distinctive taste and broad appeal.”

– Ross MacMathuna, director of Alcohol Beverage Federation Ireland

Rum: gold and spiced success

“I think if you look at the category positioning right now we are seeing growth in gold and spiced rums, and that is certainly going to continue – we are definitely seeing more of a boom in the darker variants. The decline we’re seeing in white rum is due to people’s taste preferences changing, but I think we’ll also start seeing some levelling in white rum’s performance this year.”

– Lisa Jazwinski, director of Bacardi Europe

Tequila and mezcal: wild agave

“Mezcal’s popularity will increase across Europe as people’s appreciation of ‘home-made’ and hand-made’ products is continuously growing. Artisan mezcals will continue finding their way into cocktail menus. Wild agave Mezcals and blends will also grow among connoisseurs and experienced drinkers.”
– Eduardo Gomez, founder of Tequila & Mezcal Fest
“Tequila will continue to grow in 2016 with further premiumisation of the category. As consumer awareness grows, consumption will continue to shift away from shots and into the cocktail and sipping occasions.”
– Sticci Stringfellow, Herradura Tequila brand ambassador 

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