Could the launch of Dewars Highlander Honey signal the start of a new era in Scotch?

Could the launch of Dewar's Highlander Honey signal the start of a new era in Scotch?

You may have seen us get rather excited late last week when we broke a(nother) exclusive on just-drinks. When we found out that Bacardi has lined up an extension for its Dewar's Scotch whisky brand in the US, we initially started to go through the gears to get the usual information for a news story. But, when we discovered that the new variant comprises “Dewar’s Scotch Whisky infused with Scottish Heather Honey filtered through Oak Cask Wood”, then we started to get a bit more interested.

Of course, blending whiskey – note the spelling there – with honey is nothing new at all. In the US, Brown-Forman has formulated Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey, while Beam Inc has created Jim Beam Honey. Also, over in Ireland, Diageo has followed the honey trail with Bushmills Irish Honey, which was launched in the US a year ago.

What is of particular interest to us with Bacardi's move is that it represents the first time - that I can think of, at least - that one of the major spirits companies has gone about flavouring a Scotch whisky.

(I need to be careful with my words here: In seeking clarification from the Scotch Whisky Association about how the new product sits with legislation controlling the definition of Scotch, it quickly became clear that Dewar's Highlander Honey is not being defined as a Scotch, so it cannot be referred to as a 'flavoured Scotch'.)

Our regular brown spirits commentator, Ian Buxton, is set to weigh in with his thoughts about the gravity of this move for the Scotch industry later this week, so I'll leave that particular riff to him.

Many industry observers have dismissed Bacardi's move as lacking the spirit of innovation – indeed, one such observer told me: “If you're going to open up the market, do it with something that has more impact than what Beam or Brown-Forman have already done.

But, consider this: If the likes of Bacardi is prepared to “infuse” (their word) Scotch whisky with honey, then why on earth would any of the other larger Scotch producers not follow suit, be it with honey or any other 'flavour'?

If one considers that the developed markets for spirits will provide only limited scope for growth for Scotch, and couple that with the ongoing success of the flavoured American whiskies, then throw in the often-prohibitive growth of M&A in such markets, then the Dewar's move must surely have a sense of inevitability about it?

Organic growth usually comes in several forms, one of which is in brand extensions. With the Scotch Whisky Association giving Dewar's Highlander Honey its blessing, then don't be surprised if the variant is the first of many in the Scotch whisky category.