Scotch Whisky Trends
4 trends occurring in the Scotch whisky market today
In the last weekend of September, whisky fans descended upon the London Whisky Show, showcasing the theme ‘The Future of Whisky’. Through masterclasses, workshops, and talks it became clear that the industry is heading in some new and fascinating directions, which inevitably involves new and (usually) exciting whisky releases. Here’s some of the trends to watch out for as a result:
Making whisky accessible
The industry is eager to attract a new generation of drinkers (Haig Club’s David Beckham campaign is a good example). One result of this is new releases of budget-friendly malt whiskies promoted as ‘accessible’, easy and enjoyable to drink for a beginner while still retaining some degree of complexity. William Grant’s new Aerstone malts are a great example, as well as the new ‘Discover’ selection from the revamped Gordon & Macphail range.
The beginning of a Scotch rye craze
As rye whisky in the United States enjoys a boom, Scotch whisky producers are beginning to experiment with rye whisky in production and maturation. The Glenmorangie Spios was aged entirely in American rye whisky casks, and some Johnnie Walker releases have also featured rye cask maturation. On the production side, a couple of distilleries are trying their hand at working with the notoriously tricky grain. Microdistillery Arbikie recently released a limited edition rye spirit (raising funds for charity), and Islay-based Bruichladdich began producing rye whisky with grain from the island. At the London whisky show, one of the highlights of the festival for me was that you could try for the first time ever the first Scottish rye whisky, made at the Inchdairnie distillery.
Watch out for new microdistilleries
Loads of new microdistilleries have been popping up across Scotland, and they are just now beginning to release new products. Though some of these can’t yet be legally called whisky, many of their first single malts will be on the market soon, and the whisky world will be watching their development closely.
For example, the Fife distilleries of Eden Mill and Kingsbarns have seen an enormous demand for their budding young malts, while Ncn’ean and Lindores have produced a new whisky/gin hybrid, infusing their malt spirit with botanicals until their stock ages long enough so it can legally be called ‘whisky’.
More maturation experiments
Scotch distilleries are incorporating more casks outside of the traditional bourbon or sherry into maturation. With the launch of its Captain’s Reserve a couple of months ago, Glenlivet may be the first Scotch whisky distillery to have a core range bottle involving Cognac maturation.
Whisky aged in wine and port casks are also not too hard to find these days. One interesting recent experiment was the Glenfiddich Winter Storm, aged in Canadian ice wine casks made from French oak. By bringing in new and unusual casks, distilleries are looking to stand out from what is ‘usually done’, so these new releases often have a fair amount of promotion behind them too.
The industry certainly isn’t keeping still in any case, and innovation across distillation and maturation will mean that the range of flavours found in whisky will keep expanding. That is certainly something worth celebrating with a dram or few.