How Scotch is Reinventing Itself for Modern Drinkers

Message in a Bottle

Scotch whisky is an involved and complicated topic – hence the need for education and brand messaging to retailers, bartenders and consumers.

Glenmorangie is continuing its “Unnecessarily Well Made” campaign, which depicts the extraordinary lengths needed to create the whisky. For retailers, Moët Hennessy USA offers large and small footprint displays, as well as a wide range of VAPs. “With single malt, 40% to 50% of purchases are for gifting,” Balay says. The VAPs encourage customers to trade up: a 750ml of Glenmorangie Original is packed with two mini-bottles of the 12-Year-Old, so customers can taste the difference. For further education, customers can buy the Taster Pack with four 100ml sample bottles.

Balay also says that, as the demographics of the Scotch drinker change, communication has to change too. “The average malt drinker is probably 44, but the growth is coming from those in their late twenties and early thirties. That will impact the type of messaging to consumers and type of media, moving away from print and TV into the digital space,” he says.

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William Grant has created two new ad spots for Glenfiddich. One talks about William Grant building the distillery with help from his seven sons and two daughters; the other focuses on Sandy Grant Gordon, the uncle of the current chairman, who first brought single malts to the U.S. back in 1963. The Balvenie brand builds on a reputation for hand-crafting, noting that the distillery grows and malts its own barley, and employs a coppersmith to keep the still in good repair. “It’s anachronistic,” Nash remarks.  The company has entered into a partnership with TV personality Anthony Bourdain to create a web series called “Raw Craft,” looking at craftsmen who still do things the old-fashioned way. The series has already garnered multiple millions of views.

Crossing over into new territory is Glenfiddich 14-Year-Old Bourbon Barrel Reserve, launched last September. “Born in Scotland but has an American accent,” is its motto. After 14 years in old Bourbon casks, it’s finished in custom-charred new oak barrels. Nash describes the whisky as having notes of vanilla and caramel like Bourbon, but a finish and complexity of Scotch—he thinks that calling out “Bourbon” on the label will communicate that.

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For its The Glenlivet brand, Pernod Ricard places emphasis on exclusive tasting events for its Glenlivet Guardians members. “We have fantastic experiential programs such as The Glenlivet Nights of Passage that immerse consumers in the world of The Glenlivet,” says Wayne Hartunian, VP, Scotch & Cognac.

Beam Suntory spreads the word about its brands with well-versed ambassadors in the field, who conduct in-store personnel training and participate in consumer events. “For off-premise accounts, we have high-end retail displays, window displays, and POS to premiumize our retail footprint and attract consumers,” Patel says.

For the peaty Laphroaig brand, a #OpinionsWelcome social campaign encourages drinkers of Laphroaig to share opinions – both good and bad – about the liquid. The hashtag has garnered a variety of taste descriptions about the whisky, ranging from “a burning hospital” to “my grandma’s baking.”

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