The Brown-Spirits boom is a global phenomenon that has increased interest and sales in whisky from all over. These are four imported brands emblematic of this global trend.
Highland Park Magnus
Provenance and backstory have become as important in whisky as with wine.
This U.S./Canada-exclusive Scotch was named after the distillery’s founder Magnus Eunson, who as legend has it descended from Vikings.
To market Magnus, Highland Park launched a multi-city Viking ship tour in 2018, and also erected a “Valhalla Cabin” in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, where fans could stay if they won a sweepstakes.
“Magnus tapped into American drinkers continued desire for premium, well-crafted products with unique provenance and a strong and shareable story,” says Jim Brennan, SVP of Marketing at Edrington.
Its recipe is also likely a nod to the North American palate. In addition to whisky aged in the brand’s traditional Sherry casks, Magnus blends in Scotch that rested in American oak, for a more-pronounced vanilla flavor.
This Canadian whisky from Brown-Forman has successfully tapped into its roots.
“We’ve been focusing resources on Ontario to establish the brand there, making sure consumers know that’s our home place, and that’s what they think of for Collingwood,” explains Daniel Navarro, Brown-Forman Canada national marketing manager. “From there we have grown it out into other places.”
When the brand launched in 2011 it worked with the Ontario town of Collingwood to found the 10-day Whiskylicious Festival. Last year the company hired a brand ambassador, Alexis Green, to help put a face to the brand. Navarro says that Collingwood will continue to expand both of those marketing efforts this coming year, with a focus on consumer education.
The brand will also continue launching special releases, like its recent Double Barreled, that feature unique finishes. Navarro believes this has helped align Collingwood with the U.S. craft craze. “We’ve tapped into the trend of consumers who are looking for something different.”
Look at most back bars and you will spot this blended Scotch. This William Grant & Sons brand grew 25% in the U.S. last year for a total of 55,000 9-liter cases, according to data from The Beverage Information & Insights Group.
Recent marketing embraced the brand’s mixability, including a 2,400-gallon MonkeyMixer cocktail shaker traveling the country, serving drinks from its chute, and the Ultimate Bartender Championship and Bartender Academy programs.
“It all goes back to one main idea – that Monkey Shoulder is meant to be played with,” says Vance Henderson, brand ambassador. “Monkey Shoulder is ideal for cocktail creation.”
The Scotch continues to roll out its Distortion Tour, which brings brand mixologists into bars across the country to make Monkey Shoulder cocktails. This helps educate consumers about mixing with Scotch, a former faux pas that has disappeared amidst the craft cocktail movement.
In many ways this brand reflects the journey of Irish whiskey in the past century. Founded in 1829, Tullamore D.E.W. nearly disappeared when the Irish whiskey category nosedived in the early-to- mid 20th century. The brand was bought and sold several times before ending up at William Grant & Sons in 2010.
Times have changed. Irish whiskey recovered from its past nadir to explode in popularity in current day. Tullamore D.E.W. grew 14% last year in the U.S. to finish with 236,000 cases. Globally the brand is the second highest-selling Irish whiskey after Jameson.
It has tapped into both provenance and craft. William Grant & Sons moved distillation back to Tullamore, Ireland, helping connect the brand with a sense of history and localness. And like other growing Irish whiskeys, Tullamore D.E.W. has provided fans with new, different flavors, like its recently released XO Rum Cask Finish, while also linking up with the Scottish craft beer brand Innis & Gunn.
Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Wholesaler. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece Interview: WSWA’s Craig Wolf on Southern Glazer’s.