just-drinks, in association with The IWSR, presents this seven-part review of the Scotch whisky category. The final part considers the role that innovation could play for Scotch in the future.

Beyond tactical products such as Ballantine's Brasil (launched in late-2013) and Dewar's Highlander Honey (released in March of the same year), Scotch has avoided entering the dynamic 'flavoured whisk(e)y' segment - partly because of tight production rules, and partly because companies fear diluting the category's strong identity and heritage.

Instead, most producers work within the rules to tweak factors such as cask maturation and peating levels, communicating increasingly on flavour in an effort to win over Millennial consumers.

Dwindling malt stocks have also prompted innovation: most new single malt launches have no age statement, using other cues such as flavour and heritage to reach consumers. However, no age statement (NAS) whiskies remain a controversial area for enthusiasts thanks to the absence of information about the product's age.

The search for something new to sell has encouraged more activity in grain whisky launches in recent years, including Haig Club (Diageo), Girvan (William Grant & Sons) and a host of single-grain releases from independent bottlers.

Product key views


Review

Scotch is as yet not making serious inroads into "flavoured whisky" territory, with producers keener to innovate within the existing rules and constraints of the category, using cask influence in particular to tweak flavour.

Insight

Supply constraints are forcing malt producers into an overhaul of branding and consumer communication. Most NPD involves products without an age statement, leaving brand owners to find new ways of reaching their audience. This may boost creativity and innovation in the future.

Future

Expect new Scotch products - both blends and malts - to increasingly use flavour as a branding device and communicator. Theoretically, this should play well with the flavour fascination of the Millennial generation.

Strategy

Necessity is the mother of invention. As the malts shortage makes companies think of fresh ways of creating and communicating new products, they should see this as an opportunity to expand the appeal of all Scotch products beyond traditional markets and demographics.

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All data has been sourced from just-drinks' joint report with The IWSR, Global Scotch Whisky Insights.