World whisky brands to watch in 2020

13th December, 2019 by Nicola Carruthers

The world whisky category has attracted growing interest as consumers become more adventurous and global players make multi-million-dollar investments. Here, we present the brands poised for success in the coming 12 months.

The whisky sector outside of Scotland, Ireland and the US has benefitted from investment from major players and flexible regulations that allow for experimentation.

“Whisky sales are in solid growth across major markets and, more interestingly, we continue to see an increase in the range of whiskies that people are drinking,” says Frank Lampen, CEO and co‐founder of Diageo‐backed investment and accelerator programme Distill Ventures. “There is a generation of adventurous and curious whiskey drinkers who are starting to be better served at the moment.”

Over the past few years, Canadian whisky has attracted attention from major drinks. The end of 2018 saw Buffalo Trace owner Sazerac buy Seagram’s Canadian whiskies – Seagram’s VO, Seagram’s VO Gold, Seagram’s 5 Star and Seagram’s 83 – from Diageo, as part of the firm’s sale of 19 non‐priority brands. In February 2018, Becle acquired Canadian whisky Pendleton. Most recently, in November 2019, Heaven Hill Brands purchased Black Velvet whisky.

Meanwhile, the Nordics region is also starting to shine, with producers such as Sweden’s Mackmyra distillery, Finland’s Kyrö Distillery Company and Denmark’s Stauning Distillery expanding production and launching game‐changing products.

And in Australia, Fred Siggins, strategy manager at Tasmania’s Sullivans Cove Distillery, says that the market for Australian whisky is “still very small but growing every day”. He says: “The biggest challenge for us is scale. We’re still tiny by global standards, probably only producing one hundredth of what Japan or Scotland would, so we don’t have the same efficiencies that make those whiskies relatively cheap to produce. We also don’t have the marketing reach of the big multinational beverage companies that own most whisky distilleries in Scotland, Ireland, Japan and the US, so there are still a lot of people who don’t know about us.”

Lampen says the challenge for world whisky brands is “having the right level of inventory to grow sales without running out of stock. Exciting new products tend to be in short supply.”

Japanese whisky has grown so popular over recent years that producers have found themselves short of aged stocks. As such, several have had to remove their age‐statement whiskies from the market. In January, Suntory discontinued six bottle formats of its Shirokaku, Chita and Kakubin brands.

Looking ahead, Lampen believes the sector will offer a “much broader selection of price points as investments in distilleries and inventory start to filter through. Look out for multiple new European countries announcing themselves in the world whisky category with breakthrough releases.”

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

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