With the end of the year looming, just-drinks takes a look back at 2019. Here are the ten most-read comment articles written by our spirits experts, led by category commentators Neil Ridley and Richard Woodard, over the last 12 months.

10. How to win the marketing war in spirits

Our brown spirits commentator, Neil Ridley, had his passion for whisky reignited in February, thanks to a trip to the Scottish island of Islay. He’s also concluded that a ‘sense of place’ is the most important weapon in a spirits’ marketer’s armoury.

9. Have international spirits companies finally got China right?

Having witnessed international spirits brand-owners emerge from the Chinese roller-coaster in varying states of dizziness, white spirits category commentator Richard Woodard believes the likes of Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Remy Cointreau and Moet Hennessy are now sitting a little prettier in the front seats.

8. Why being careful is not careful enough for spirits marketers

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When Edrington’s The Macallan was forced to withdraw its major advertising campaign in the UK following a handful of complaints, Neil Ridley wondered if the rules surrounding the above-the-line promotion of spirits are turning us into a nation of naysayers and killjoys, or was there a deeper message here for the drinks industry as a whole?

7. Why vodka’s US woes could soon be drowned out by success elsewhere

For the established vodka brands, the US has long been the outstanding market, initially driving the category’s meteoric growth but now accounting for much of its volumes. As the country remains key for vodka brand owners, Richard Woodard believes the rest of the world is fast catching up.

6. Why white spirits should follow brown and play the ‘brand home’ card

While many brown spirits brand owners have made hay from creating ‘homes’ for their brands, the white spirits category may be missing a trick. Richard Woodard explains.

5. Why Diageo & LVMH’s mooted move for Pernod Ricard won’t wash

A couple of years ago, during a debate in London, former Diageo CEO Paul Walsh said that an acquisition was worth any price, provided you believed in what you were buying. But, would even Walsh – who oversaw some bold M&A moves in his time – have ever considered buying rival Pernod Ricard?. 

4. How the spirits category can make the most of less sugar

As consumers demand to know more about what’s in their food and drink, Richard Woodard believes the spirits industry is well-placed to capitalise on the public’s cravings for less sugar.

3. Why the spirits category should look backwards to move forwards

Can the recent reinvention of ‘classic serves’ help revolutionise dark spirits consumption for a younger, savvier audience in the on-premise? Neil Ridley looked to the past for inspiration.

2. Why single malt Scotch must ignore its core consumer

Despite drawing criticism from certain quarters, the single malt Scotch whisky category must continue to strive for greater inspiration and innovation if it is to maintain its current trajectory, argued Neil Ridley.

1. Could ‘delocalisation’ signal the death of provenance in spirits?

The role of provenance in marketing is widely prevalent in the spirits category – always by brands that have to be produced in a certain location, but also often by those that aren’t tied by rules of definition. Recent global economic developments will likely have many spirits brand owners thinking the unthinkable: “Why don’t we move our production in-market?”

just-drinks’ Top Tens of 2019