Whisky brands of the future: Part one
Thanks to careful marketing, innovative bottlings and a surge in ‘craft’ spirits, global whisky demand has reached an all-time high. The Spirits Business shines a light on the distilleries quietly maturing the brands of tomorrow.
There’s no doubt about it: the world has gone whisky mad. According to the Distilled Spirits Council, volume sales of Bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye whiskey from the US grew by 6.8% to 21 million cases in 2016, as revenues increased 7.7% to US$3.1 billion.
Meanwhile across the pond, Irish whiskey exports increased by an estimated 8% last year to €505 million (US$537m) and are on track to double by 2020, as predicted by a recent report from Irish food board Bord Bia.
Scotch whisky too enjoyed success in 2016 – according to the Scotch Whisky Association export values bounced back from a lull, rising by 4% to pass the £4 billion (US$5.2bn) mark, with the EU and US the category’s biggest customers. As Brexit comes into play, the UK government has said it is “determined” to open up new export markets for the spirit.
The whisky wave continues further afield: new distilleries are cropping up left, right and centre in the likes of Japan, Canada, Germany, Australia, India and Wales and look set to give the traditional regions a run for their money in the coming years.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a round-up of distilleries from around the world that are readying to tap into the market within the coming years.
Click through the following pages to discover our pick of future whisky brands to watch out for.
Have we missed your favourite newcomer? Don’t be shy, let us know in the comments below.
Please note this list is by no means definitive – look out for part two in the coming weeks.
Isle of Raasay Distillery, UK
R&B Distillers’ Isle of Raasay Distillery – the first legal distillery to be built in the Hebridean island – will start production in September this year, with the intention of releasing its first Scotch whisky in 2020. Based on the site of the disused gothic hotel Borodale House, the distillery will produce about 150,000 bottles of Scotch whisky a year, with all maturation to take place on-site. Raasay hopes to use “all-local” barley, peat and water, and began barley growing trials on the island earlier this year.
Aurora Spirit, Norway
Said to be the world’s most northern distillery, Norway’s Aurora Spirit is located at the foot of the Lyngen Alps 350km inside the Arctic Circle. The distillery launched its Bivrost spirits range comprising gin, vodka and aquavit in the UK on-trade back in April, made with 5000-year-old glacial water and locally harvested botanicals. Its whisky is currently maturing in casks sourced from Speyside Cooperage on the site of an old underground NATO base that once tracked Russian submarines, and will be available in 2019.
James Pepper Distilling Co, US
Last year Georgetown Trading Co, maker of the James E. Pepper 1776 whiskey brand, revealed plans to form the James Pepper Distilling Co and rebuild a historic distillery in Lexington, Kentucky earlier this month. The original distillery was founded in 1879 by Colonel James E. Pepper and continued production until 1958 when it was shut down and left to fall into disrepair. Using water from an on-site historic limestone well and locally-grown corn, rye and barley, the site is set to commence production in October this year.
Pearse Lyons Distillery, Ireland
Situated in the centre of The Liberties region of the Irish capital, Pearse Lyons Distillery is set within St James Church – which dates back to 1190. Distillery founder Pearse Lyons descended from five generations of coopers, has a PhD in yeast fermentation, and also became the first Irishman to receive a formal degree in brewing and distilling from the British School of Malting and Brewing – so it’s safe to assume he knows a thing or two about crafting a cracking whiskey. He and his wife Deirdre plan to open the distillery in September this year, at the same time as launching a four-strong range comprising The Original, Distiller’s Choice, Founder’s Choice and Cooper’s Select.
Kingsbarns Distillery, Scotland
Back in June Fife-based Kingsbarns Distillery launched 2 Year Old Spirit Drink, the first release from the producer as its whisky comes of age. The distillery first opened to the public in December 2013, and is producing single malt Scotch whisky from locally-grown malted barley matured predominantly in ex-Bourbon casks. It plans to bottle the first official single malt as a Founders Reserve, especially for its Founders Club members, in 2018.
Corowa Distilling Company, Australia
Situated one hour inland from Albury, New South Wales, Corowa Distilling Company is said to be Australia’s first organic whisky distillery using locally-grown ingredients. The distillery is situated inside an abandoned flour mill purchased for AU$1.00 on the premise that it was restored to its former glory – and also houses Corowa Chocolate Factory. With founder Dean Druce, pictured, at the helm, Corowa Distilling Company laid more than 100 casks down in 2016, and expects to bottle its first offerings from 2018 onwards. In the meantime, the distillery has released 10 “rare” single cask whiskies from the Ben Nevis distillery in Scotland it seeks to fund production.
Waterford Distillery, Ireland
Waterford Distillery is the brainchild of Bruichladdich Distillery’s former managing director Mark Reynier and is located in the port of Waterford in South East Ireland within a brewery formally used by Diageo to make Guinness. Equipped with two pot stills and one column still, the distillery is able to produce both malt and grain spirits, but will focus on single malt with no plans to produce grain liquid. The distillery sources its barley from 46 Irish farms on 19 distinct soil types, and each farmer’s crop is harvested, stored, malted and distilled separately. Production began in December 2015, with liquid now maturing in French and American oak barrels.
GlenWyvis Distillery, Scotland
The Highland town of Dingwall is home to Scotland’s first community-owned whisky distillery, GlenWyvis. The GlenWyvis Distillery Community Benefit Society partnered with Community Shares Scotland back in April 2016 to offer investment opportunities ranging from £250 to £100,000, with great success. After hitting its £1.5 million crowdfunding target last year, the society launched a second share offer in July in order to reduce commercial lending and accelerate the distillery’s brand development plans. The steel frame of GlenWyvis Distillery has been erected and the copper stills installed, with the first run of new-make spirit scheduled for late November.
Still Austin Whiskey Company, Austin
Grain-to-glass producer Still Austin Whiskey Company built the first whiskey distillery in the Texas capital city since Prohibition. Located at The Yard at St. Elmo, the “urban distillery” intends to create “classic and innovative” whiskeys, Bourbon, small-batch specialty spirits, and seasonal offerings. Using local grains and limestone-filtered water, the Still Austin Whiskey Company team will mash, ferment, distill, barrel and bottle all products at the distillery using a 45-foot Bourbon still and a copper pot still. The distillery has made three new-make spirits available as its whiskey matures: Blue Label, Mother Pepper, and Smoked Briskey.
Aber Falls Distillery, Wales
Situated in Abergwyngregyn within the Snowdonia National Park, Aber Falls Distillery is said to be the only whisky distillery in North Wales and one of just four in Wales in total. Construction work is currently underway – the distillery’s copper stills arrived on site at the beginning of the month – and its visitor centre is slated to open in spring 2018. Distilling is expected to begin by late 2020, with a selection of flavoured gins and Welsh liqueurs released initially as Aber Falls’ whisky comes of age.