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SB’s most read stories of 2022

Our coverage of legal battles, ill-thought out marketing campaigns and big investments captured the attention of our readers last year. Here, we count down the most read stories of 2022.

most read stories
Eight of SB’s 10 most read stories of 2022 concerned whisky

While our pick of the biggest news stories of 2022 spanned topics from the war in Ukraine to trouble for the UK’s hospitality sector, our list of the most read stories from last year features one standout theme: whisky.

From the oldest whisky to be bottled by The Macallan, to legal Bourbon-based disputes in the US – whether you spell it with or without an ‘e’, the amber-hued spirit definitely got The Spirits Business readers around the world clicking last year.

Meanwhile, a few of the stories that narrowly missed the top 10 include the launch of a Peaky Blinders-inspired whiskey from Bushmills; Ciroc and Grey Goose’s move into RTDs; and the new non-alcoholic release from Bacardi.

10. Glenmorangie unveils playful redesign

Highland whisky producer Glenmorangie unveiled a new look for its core range in July, to better reflect the flavours of each expression.

The refreshed packaging, which was rolled out across its Glenmorangie The Original, The Lasanta and The Quinta Ruban bottlings, features a more ‘elegant’ bottle shape, with wider shoulders, a tapered neck and stopper, and a swirled detail inspired by Glenmorangie’s Signet icon on the base – all designed to combine ‘elegance, luxurious materials and a sense of fun’.

The brand also turned to ‘vivid’ colours to reflect the flavours of each whisky: orange for The Original, which boasts notes of orange, honey and peach; red for the 12-year old Lasanta, inspired by the ‘rich, spicy sweetness’ of the liquid and the hues of a sunset; and green for the 14-year-old Quinta Ruban to showcase the ‘bold and velvety whisky’s forest-like depths’.

9. Mast-Jägermeister invests in Teremana Tequila

In February last year, German spirits company Mast-Jägermeister gained a stake in Teremana Tequila, the brand co-founded by actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, for an undisclosed sum.

The company had served as Teremana’s exclusive distributor since its release, and the new relationship was agreed to make the brand “a true global Tequila brand to be enjoyed by the people around the world,” Johnson said.

Michael Volke, global CEO of Mast-Jägermeister SE, said his firm was “committed to having Teremana as the next major brand in [its] portfolio”.

8. Macallan debuts oldest whisky

The Macallan made headlines last year when it announced the launch of the world’s oldest whisky to date: an 81-year-old single malt that was laid to rest in 1940 during the Second World War.

The Macallan’s rare whisky, known as The Reach, was made from a single Sherry-seasoned oak cask and presented in a decanter supported by a bronze sculpture of three hands.

Kirsteen Campbell, The Macallan’s master whisky maker, selected the single cask for the release, but said that The Reach’s creation was “a truly collaborative effort”, and said that it was a tribute to the people who made the “precious whisky” 81 years ago.

The unique and limited edition bottling was limited to 288 decanters globally, priced at RRP US$125,000/£92,000/€110,000. One decanter went on to sell for £300,000 (US$332,266) by auctioneer Sotheby’s in October.

7. Trade calls out Fkng Bourbon’s sexist marketing

Detroit-based Resist Spirits came under fire in April for marketing materials on its website and social media platforms that were said to perpetuate gender stereotypes.

Whisky journalist Becky Paskin was among the members of the trade to draw attention to the posts. Paskin, founder of the Our Whisky Foundation, which advocates for gender parity in whisky marketing, told The Spirits Business: “The objectification and sexualisation of women in any form of alcohol marketing has damaging, real-world consequences. This is particularly true in an industry such as whisky that has long been considered a ‘man’s world’.”

The brand responded to the accusations of sexism, saying: “In our ads and marketing materials we seek to promote images of strong, independent, confident, warrior-minded women and men. Many of our ads are created by women and women-owned companies. All are meant to exude this mindset in a classic, sophisticated, upscale way.”

6. Rum sales reach £1bn to overtake whisky

In July, we reported that UK rum sales surpassed the £1 billion (US$1.21bn) a year mark, accounting for a bigger market share than whisky.

The data, supplied by CGA by Nielsen IQ, indicated that in the 12 months to July 2022, total rum sales amounted to £1bn, giving rum a 13% share of the overall spirits category, which was attributed to ‘surging interest from younger consumers’.

CGA client director Paul Bolton said that the category’s performance since the end of Covid-19 restrictions had been phenomenal, and rum’s versatility in cocktails and the ‘explosion’ of new flavours had helped to “pull in new drinkers”. In addition, he said the successful positioning of premium brands had encouraged a lot of people to trade up from mainstream options.

Bolton added: “With so many taste profiles and cocktails to explore, and such a young demographic embracing them, there is still a lot of headroom for growth.”

5. US distiller calls IWA claim ‘ridiculous’

Following the Irish Whiskey Association’s (IWA) claim that Kings County Distillery’s Irish Style American Whiskey was misleading consumers, the New York City-based producer hit back in June.

The distillery shared a letter it had sent to the IWA in response to a cease-and-desist order on Twitter, which labelled the claim ‘spurious and patently ridiculous’, and confirmed it would not promise to stop selling its product as it ‘respectfully disagreed’ with the accusations.

The letter said: “How is ‘distilled in Brooklyn’ or ‘wholly produced in New York from local ingredients’ misleading? How could any consumer read the statement on the bottle or our website and reasonably be confused?”

4. Johnnie Walker unveils utopian collection

Johnnie Walker cities of the future bottles

Last year, our readers took a high interest in stories concerning Diageo-owned Johnnie Walker, which has led to the blended Scotch brand dominating the second half of this list. The first story to get the clicks was the news that the brand was releasing a utopian series – a visualisation of world cities two centuries from now.

The launch was in collaboration with renowned digital artist Luke Halls who created 10 limited edition designs for Johnnie Walker Blue Label. The designs reimagined a ‘thriving and vibrant’ future society that had transformed cityscapes and skylines by embracing new scientific developments.

The series, launched in August, featured cities including London, Hainan, Taipei, Mexico City, Seoul, Sydney, Bangkok, Berlin, and Singapore, as well as the planet Mars.

3. Diageo calls for injunction against Bulleit lookalike

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but Bulleit owner Diageo confirmed it wasn’t flattered by Redemption whiskey’s familiar packaging design in June, when it sought an injunction against the Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits owned brand. A lawsuit had previously concluded that the bottle diluted Bulleit’s trademark, and Diageo subsequently sought more than US$21 million in damages.

However, a ruling on 2 June concluded that Deutsch’s Redemption packaging did not infringe on the Bulleit trademark by creating consumer confusion. The jury also rejected Diageo’s allegation that Deutsch acted in bad faith when designing its Redemption bottle.

The drama continued to play out over the year, concluding in November when Redemption was forced to stop selling its range immediately, after it failed to get Diageo’s injunction order thrown out.

2. Johnnie Walker bottles Sherry finished Black Label

The news that Johnnie Walker had launched its Sherry Finish as a limited edition Black Label whisky was big news for our readers last year.

Initially released in Taiwan, the blended Scotch was added to shelves in more than 35 countries in May 2022. Offering the familiar flavours of Johnnie Walker Black Label, the Sherry finish added mellow sweetness of figs and plums.

Johnnie Walker master blender Emma Walker said that the whisky was “inspired by the bold and dynamic layers of flavour that Johnnie Walker Black Label is famed for.”

The 40%-ABV whisky was aged for 12 years prior to being finished in barrels seasoned with Sherry from Jerez, and was recommend to be enjoyed neat or on the rocks, as well as in cocktails such as a Black Sherry Highball made with blackcurrant and mint.

1. Johnnie Walker re-releases Black Label with Air-Ink

Johnnie Walker stories

Topping our list of most read stories, and completing Johnnie Walker’s hat-trick of features, was the news that the Scotch brand had unveiled six limited edition bottles for its Black Label series, created using an ink made from air pollution.

The Keep Walking City collection was made in partnership with Air-Ink, a brand that creates ink by condensing carbon-based gaseous effluents generated by air pollution.

Our readers were intrigued to hear of the limited edition series, which was represented by six individual bottles each depicting a city: Mexico City, New Delhi, Warsaw, Bangkok, Istanbul and Madrid. Only 2,500 bottles per city were available to purchase between July to September in 2022.

Johnnie Walker global brand director Julie Bramham said: “Johnnie Walker is built on a legacy of making positive, progressive choices and to bring this collection to life we asked artists to shine a light on what makes their city special and inspires people to come together to ‘keep walking’.”

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