The world whisky brands to watch in 2018

14th December, 2017 by Amy Hopkins

The whisky sector outside of Scotland has become one of the most exciting areas of the spirits world. These are the brands we think could be poised for greater success in the coming 12 months.

The picture of the world whisky sector – which, for the purposes of this report, refers to all whisk(e)y categories outside of Scotch – has been one of runaway success in recent years.

Forecast data from Euromonitor states that Irish whiskey volume sales will grow by 4.5 million litres in 2017 to 74.2m litres. The category is one of the most rapidly developing in spirits, with many new brands and dis lleries launching in the past year.

Bernard Walsh, founder and managing director of Walsh Whiskey Distillery, says: “Increasing competition is a healthy thing as it will raise the bar in terms of standards and best practice across production, sales and marketing.” Walsh Whiskey Distillery describes 2017 as a “very strong year” for its business, which is set to record double-­digit sales growth. Meanwhile, from a distilling perspective, the company has produced 1.3m litres of pure alcohol this year.

Jean­-Christophe Coutures, CEO and chairman of Irish Distillers, maker of Jameson, says: “With the Irish whiskey sector booming – more than 30 new distilleries are being built or planned, and exports are predicted to double to 12m cases by 2020, according to the Irish Whiskey Association – we are happy to welcome many more entrants to the category in the next year.”

At the start of 2017, Irish Distillers announced plans to invest €10.5m (US$11.2m) to expand its Midleton Distillery in Cork, a move that will boost the group’s single pot still production by more than 30%. “[An] on-­going challenge for Irish Distillers is to ensure that we are constantly investing in our capacity to keep pace with the growth of our whiskeys, while keeping the top quality on all our products,” adds Coutures.

In the US, a similar success story is obvious. Euromonitor predicts that in 2017, sales of American whiskey – including Bourbon – will grow by 15m litres to 372.8m litres. Similar to Irish whiskey, acquisition interest in the category is high, and a number of players want to grow their footprints in the category.

Despite many producers’ supply constraints, Japanese whisky is set to increase volume sales by 6m litres, and Canadian whisky will record gains of 3m litres, according to Euromonitor’s predicted figures. Indian whisky experienced mixed fortunes in 2016, according to SB’s latest Brand Champions data. While some leading names recorded single­-digit losses, others celebrated jaw­-dropping gains. For instance, Bangalore Malt Whisky, produced by John Distilleries, saw its volume sales rocket by 87% to 2.06m cases.

“There is a lot of opportunity in every country, since new­-world whiskies are growing across the globe, with the awareness of single malt whiskies outside Scotland growing stronger,” said Sridhar Pongur, joint managing director, John Distilleries.

“The challenge is more in Asian countries – like Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan – where markets are s ll driven by age statements and the belief that the more aged whisky is the better it should be. It takes me to educate them on the advantages of Indian whiskies, which mature far faster than others.”

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

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