J&B Urban Honey was unveiled today

J&B Urban Honey was unveiled today

Diageo has said rapid growth in the North American flavoured whiskey category convinced it to create J&B Urban Honey despite previous claims it had “no plans” to enter the flavoured Scotch sub-category.

Scotch-based “spirit drink” Urban Honey, which targets rising demand for flavoured spirits, was unveiled earlier today (27 March). Speaking to just-drinks after the launch of Bacardi's Dewar's Highlander Honey 12 months ago, however, Diageo's head of whisky outreach, Nick Morgan, said the company had "no plans for 'flavoured' variants of any of its Scotch brands”.

“(Scotch) is a global category built over 100 years and based on integrity and authenticity," said Morgan at the time. "While the consumer views American and Irish whiskies as more 'relaxed', that latitude is not extended to the Scotch whisky category.”

Today, Diageo defended Morgan's comments, telling just-drinks that it had no plans “at that time” to launch a flavoured whisky.

“We never said we would not launch a spirit drink,” said Peter Smith, Diageo's director of public affairs for whisky. “Things move on, categories change and opportunities change.”

He added: “There has been such rapid growth in spirit drinks that it really makes sense for us to do something like this.”

Smith said Diageo has worked closely with the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) to adhere to rules over the labelling of spirit drinks. According to the SWA, flavoured Scotch cannot be described as such and must clearly differentiate itself from its parent brand on packaging.

Asked if Urban Honey threatened the integrity and authenticity of Scotch, Smith said: “Absolutely not.

“The rules are there for a reason - to protect against cheap and low-quality products. The SWA does not have a problem with flavours, you just can't call it Scotch whisky.”

Smith said Diageo has no plans for further Scotch-based spirit drinks "at this time".

Urban Honey follows the launch of Pernod Ricard's Ballantine's Brasil earlier this year. Ballantine's brand ambassador told just-drinks earlier this month that the company had worked “hand in glove” with the SWA over Brasil's packaging.