The Scotch whisky brands to watch in 2018

13th December, 2017 by Amy Hopkins

A host of product innovations, plans to reawaken mothballed distilleries and surprising acquisitions made 2017 one of the most exciting years for the contemporary Scotch industry. But which brands will shake up the sector in 2018?

This year, Scotch whisky faced a more uncertain future as the industry came to terms with the potential impact of Brexit and, more recently, minimum unit pricing in Scotland.

While a ‘leave’ vote was announced in June last year, industry stakeholders
began their campaign in earnest in 2017 to ensure that Scotch whisky continues to thrive after the UK leaves the European Union in March 2019.

The Scottish Government is advocating further protection of the category after the divorce, while trade group the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has stressed that it is
also taking steps to safeguard the category’s future. While members of World Trade Organization will be obliged to protect Scotch whisky’s geographical indication, the category could be affected by losing the protection it is provided through some bilateral agreements between the EU and third countries, the SWA has said.

The industry was dealt another blow just last month, when the UK Supreme Court rejected the SWA’s challenge against minimum unit pricing in Scotland. The industry body has led a campaign against the legislation since it was first approved in 2012, claiming it will hit responsible drinkers and will not sufficiently tackle alcohol­related harm. The Supreme Court disagreed and the Scottish Government has confirmed plans to implement a minimum price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol on 1 May 2018.

On the brighter side, figures show that Scotch exports rose by 3.4% in value terms to £1.8bn (US$2.4bn) in the first six months of 2017. Data from the SWA also shows that demand for single malts is booming, with the category now making up more than a quarter of the value of all Scotch shipped overseas. Total Scotch exports also returned to growth in China – up by 45% to £27m.

The picture was different when analysed from a volume perspective: the number of bottles exported slipped by 2% to 528m. Demand also declined in some key markets because of continuing economic and political headwinds, including Brazil, where the value of Scotch exports fell by 20% to £22m.

Announcing its full­year results, Chivas Brothers, the Scotch arm of Pernod Ricard, said it will invest further in the Chinese market, following a global 3% organic sales decline for blend Chivas Regal. “We made some mistakes, but the whisky market in China is starting to rebuild itself,” Laurent Lacassagne, CEO of Chivas Brothers, said at the time.

Nevertheless, the group has experience a “solid year” in 2017, with a “sustained increased in market share”, says Glen Brasington, marketing director, strategy, business development and services at Chivas Brothers. “Stability remains a focus for the category, and we’re seeing progress here, with IWSR forecasting that momentum will carry on into 2018,” he continues. “Mature markets continue to stabilise in combination with growth occurring in emerging markets, which have seen 40% growth in the Scotch category in the past year.”

Click through the following pages to see which Scotch whisky brands we believe are ones to watch in the year ahead.

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