William Grant launched Icelandic Reyka Bitters in London last night

William Grant launched Icelandic Reyka Bitters in London last night

An executive at William Grant & Sons has warned that the lines between premium white spirits in the UK have become “blurred” over the past two years, with consumers no longer loyal to one category.

Jonathan Cornthwaite, the brand manager for Reyka Icelandic vodka in the UK, told just-drinks yesterday (25 February) that consumers are instead looking for a good quality product, while “not placing restrictions on themselves”. “People are moving between categories in a way that they didn't used to,” Cornthwaite said.

“Certain categories are getting blurred and, where people would traditionally talk about a premium gin drinker or a premium rum drinker, now they are talking about a premium white spirits drinker.”

Cornthwaite was speaking at the launch of Icelandic Reyka Bitters in London last night. Only 300 bottles are being released, free to bartenders in the city, with the aim of encouraging them to create new cocktails using Reyka vodka.

It is William Grant's first marketing activity for Reyka since the brand was relaunched in the UK 18 months ago following an aborted debut in the country in 2005.

Cornthwaite said that Reyka was pulled from the UK market in 2007 to focus on the US, where the premium vodka now sells about 40,000 nine-litre cases a year. UK sales passed 1,000 nine-litre cases for the first time in 2013, and Cornthwaite said the company has “very ambitious plans for the next few years”.

“We're not going to be the next Grey Goose, selling 1m cases, but that's not what it's about,” he added.

Reyka, which sells in the UK for about GBP26 per bottle (US$43) is also available in Australia, Iceland, Columbia, Canada, Mongolia and Singapore. Cornthwaite said the brand will roll out “in due course” across other markets.

Yesterday, the head of E&J Gallo's European operations supported his firm's move into the UK vodka market with New Amsterdam vodka despite a dip in category volumes in the country.