The Whisky of the future – 10.04.20
by Tim Foster – Sales Manager, Lindores Abbey Distillery
On a recent business phone call, the conversation turned to the future of Whisky post covid-19. It got me thinking about Future Whisky.
Our industry can take a bashing at times for lacking the foresight of innovation, which you could argue is a little unfair. We’re tightly regulated by the Scotch Whisky Regulations, which lays out the precise rules by which each Whisky producer must adhere to if they’re to label their product ‘Scotch Whisky’. The regulations ensure that our world renowned product cannot easily be replicated, alas though the tight controls do not allow for much ‘creativity’. That said, there are some excellent examples out there, if you care to look.
We’ve seen the likes of Glenmorangie experiment with wild yeast and there are distillers playing with different yeast strains, creating nuanced flavours. Our old friend barley is being put centre stage once again and there are plenty of amazing Whisky’s that showcase barley selection (Kilchoman, Glenmorangie, Arran, Daftmill, Bruichladdich to name a few). There are also a handful distillers experimenting with other grains such as Rye (Lonewolf, Inchdairnie, Arbikie) and even heritage grains like Bere (Arran, Bruichladdich).
Then we have cask selection, for the malt enthusiast there is nothing massively innovative about the term ‘finishing’ (re-racking a mature malt into a second cask for a shorter period of time to ‘finish’ the Whisky).
Taking Whisky from a 1st fill bourbon (or even 2nd/3rd fill) and letting it rest of a fresh ‘sherry/wine/rum/port’ cask for a few more months, has opened up the Whisky category and given the consumer more choice. The Scotch Whisky Regulations have been updated recently to allow the use of even more cask types, anyone for a ‘tequila’ finish? The next few years could see some really interesting developments in flavour from this relaxation of the rules. I dare say there will be some more ‘unusual’ products too.
Historically the Whisky industry has embraced efficient processes (the Coffey Still is a great example of this) and continues to do so. I’m certain we’ll see much more innovation in this space. Heat recovery systems, energy production from waste materials, green energy sources and sustainable packaging materials will all play a far bigger role. The financial and environmental benefits arguably are key drivers, but the consumer will play a far greater role in driving this innovation.
We’ve recently seen how fragile our food production and global supply chains can be, so perhaps this is a time for us to refocus on home grown solutions to our production and packaging needs? As mentioned Bruichladdich, started their agronomy endeavours under the tutorship of industry disrupter supremo Mark Reynier. Organic barley and local barley feature heavily in their product line up. I’m certain we’ll see more of this. Reduced carbon footprint may also see a greater emphasis on the use of micro maltings, an avenue that we here at Lindores have been investigating.
The future Whisky drinker and marketing
This bit is tricky, the dichotomy posed by the modernisation of Scotch Whisky marketing, without losing touch with the path that put us here. I did a bit of research and the following quotes resonated with me.
“As an analogy, Scotland has historically been portrayed to foreign tourists as a land of kilt-wearing, haggis-eating, bagpipe players – a far cry from the industrious modern country that exists today” – Halliday, D.J., Tradition and Innovation in the Scotch whisky industry, Distilled Spirits – Tradition and innovation
“Sometimes in our desire to continually reinvent, we ignore the great store of experience and challenge that our predecessor in this industry have developed.” Driver. J, Changing Perceptions in Marketing Spirits, Distilled Spirits – Tradition and innovation
It’s a tricky balance, especially when we factor in changing consumer habits and societal trends. But it can be done. I say, we celebrate the history of Scotch and herald our Friar John Kor for his remarkable contribution to our industry. We recognise the ambitious, enterprising figures who established our wonderful category and celebrate the unique characteristics that define Single Malt Scotch Whisky. We continue to champion relatable stories of times gone by.
Yet it must resonate with a new audience, one that is not quite as enticed with the lure of a chesterfields, mahogany bookcases and stags. Not that there is anything wrong with those things (I would love a chesterfield). There are great examples of modernisation, look further afield and you see how the Japanese Whisky industry was revolutionised with the ‘Highball’. ‘Mix my single malt?’ you say? ‘Add ice?’, I can feel the heat radiate from the brow of a hot faced malt enthusiast. ‘You must drink it neat!’, they below – must I? No. We are all entitled to drink it however which way we please. Sure, my go to is a neat whisky. But I will on occasion pour myself a highball (you’ll be amazed at how different they are from malt to malt) and am partial to fixing up a cocktail when the mood takes me – but that is just me, we are all different. Embrace difference.
I applaud the ‘disruptors’ of our industry, brave enough to break down barriers and pave the way for the future Whisky drinker. So what is the future of Whisky? I see an industry which is inclusive, sustainably responsible, respectful of tradition yet unafraid to challenge what no longer serves it. The changing landscape into which we will emerge presents great opportunities for growth – I for one very much look forward to enjoying #FutureWhisky with you all.
#whisky #singlemalt #scotch #1494 #futurewhisky #whiskycask