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The spirits trends to watch in 2019

As categories merge, healthfulness increases and ethical consumption becomes more commonplace in drinks, fascinating trends are beginning to appear. The Spirits Business rounds up what we can expect to see take off in 2019.

In 2018, we predicted a growing Japanese gin category, rising consumer interest in the heritage of Tequila and mezcal and the launch of a sub-category of coconut rums.

Among our 2019 forecasts is the rise in low- and no-alcohol offerings, producers experimenting with hybrid crossovers and the burgeoning trend for cannabis-based drinks.

Click through the following pages to discover the spirits trends to watch in 2019. Have your own predictions? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Mindful Drinking

One of the key buzz words to come out of 2018 was ‘balance’. Worldwide, people have been striving to achieve a greater equilibrium in all aspects of daily life – and consumers’ relationships with alcohol has been an important focus in the past 12 months.

For some time, drinkers have been taking a more considered approach to their alcohol consumption. What was once a trend confined to campaigns such as Dry January and Go Sober for October has evolved into a lasting lifestyle choice – particularly among the millennial and Generation Z demographics. Brands globally have responded to this social shift and created a vast assortment of lower­-alcohol offerings, such as Absolut Juice, as well as non­-alcoholic ‘spirits’, such as Seedlip and Ceder’s.

As we roll into 2019, the popularity of these serves is sure to continue – and the category will expand. It will no longer be enough to simply add a new brand to the sector: the pressure will be on entrants to create a point of difference, carve out a niche and meet consumers’ demand for healthier drinking.


The environmental impact of spirits production is not a matter that distillers take lightly, that much is certain. Take the Scotch whisky industry, for example, which successfully met its target to source 20% of energy from environmentally sustainable means in 2018 – four years earlier than planned.

Scotland’s producers are using more non-fossil fuel sources to power distilleries and recycling steam as heat energy – all hugely commendable endeavours that are fantastic for the environment.

However, as the topic remains front and centre of consumers’ attention, companies are looking to go above and beyond cutting down on water use and creating recyclable packaging. Last year, Glen Scotia adopted 100,000 bees to help “preserve the endangered species”, and the year before, Glenmorangie returned oysters to the Dornoch Firth for the first time in 100 years. Similar projects can be expected in 2019.

Agave-based spirits

From Diageo’s US$1 billion takeover of George Clooney’s Casamigos to Bacardi’s acquisition of Patrón last year, the Tequila category is on fire. The popularity of its lesser-­known agave cousin, mezcal, has been simmering away for several years – but 2019 looks poised to be the year agave-­based spirits get the recognition they deserve.

Celebrity backing is a powerful tool for any spirit brand or category to have, and with Clooney’s mezcal line extension combined with Sex and the City star Chris Noth’s acquisition of Ambhar Tequila, there’s no shortage of famous faces ready to elevate the sector to the next level.

Add to that some of the industry’s leading names – Alex Wolpert, of East London Liquor Company, and Michael Sager and Marcis Dzelzainis, both of Sager + Wilde – launching their own line of agave distillates, called El Destilado, and it’s clear there has never been such a rich fountain of knowledge surrounding the agave spirits sector.

‘Boundary-breaking’ categories

Innovation is crucial to the spirits world’s longevity and this year looks set to bring even greater creative developments in the industry. Although several categories are bound by strict rules and regulations, such as Scotch, Cognac and Tequila, this has far from hindered cask experimentation, hybrid crossovers, implementing unusual base ingredients and incorporating all sorts of weird and wacky botanicals into recipes.

Breaking boundaries is Rebel Rabbet, which launched its Exile range last year to avoid category constraints. The brainchild of London Distillery Company’s Matt McGivern and Dylan Bell, the duo has created a series that falls under no specific labels; instead, the focus is on playing with yeast strains, distillation techniques, maturation methods and botanicals to create a truly experimental product. We envisage a few more transgressive spirits will be joining Rebel Rabbet to shake things up in 2019.


There has been no shortage of conversations regarding cannabis this past year – and the drug will be grabbing headlines well into 2019 and beyond. Canada became the second nation after Uruguay to legalise recreational cannabis use in October 2018, prompting drinks industry giants such as Constellation Brands and Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits to invest heavily in the sector. These moves are hardly surprising; a report by Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics predicted cannabis­-based food and drinks are set to surpass sales of more than US$4 billion in North America by 2022.

The drug’s use in spirits has already been gaining traction, with Southern Glazer’s taking on distribution of cannabis-­infused brand Nirvana in Florida, and Australian startup The Cannabis Company revealing what’s thought to be the first gin distilled using cannabis oils.

South Africa has also legalised recreational use, though sales remain prohibited, and Luxembourg could become the first country in the EU to decriminalise the drug.

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