Six very different whiskies presented by Alice Lascelles at her Think Whisky 2018 masterclass: image by Robin Goldsmith
With whisky enjoying a boost in popularity globally, thanks in part to a new generation of innovative distillers, what will be the key trends for the coming year? This was the focus of Alice Lascelles ' masterclass and tasting at the inaugural Think Whisky event, organised by Agile Media, Drinks Retailing News and Harpers. The six contrasting whiskies she chose each represented a taste of the future:-
- Whisky and Soda Highball
Whisky used: Yamazakura (blended whisky from Japan)
Trend description: this is a low sugar and lower alcohol, sessionable way of using whisky. Versatile with food and particularly refreshing in summer, it also taps into the trend for grain whiskies, many of which are designed to go with soda. As a cocktail, the highball is another way to add more theatre and variety to the category.
- New World Whiskies
Whisky used: Starward 'Solera Single Malt' (Melbourne, Australia)
Trend description: this whisky is made from 100% Australian barley and aged solely in Australian fortified wine casks. It's indicative of how these new nations can break down traditional categories, producing whiskies with stylish labels, non-age statements and using language that speaks to modern consumers less bothered by traditional descriptors.
- Age of Information
Whisky used: Compass Box 'The Story of the Spaniard' blended Highland malt (Scotland)
Trend description: consumers are seeking more background data and stories about what they're paying for with details on how their drinks are made. They want to feel a sense of trust with the brand they're buying into, rather than relying on "big corporate, faceless brands". Compass Box has been instrumental in this trend for transparency and sharing of information, as well as providing great packaging for their whiskies.
- The Rise of Rye
Trend description: modern interpretations of old-style rye whiskies are growing in popularity, fuelled by increased interest in heritage brands and cocktails. This one from FEW uses a wine yeast that gives a fruitier profile, along with the characteristic peppery, rye flavours. US whiskey styles are growing in the UK, led by Bourbon, but new, interesting ryes are coming on the market now, including some from European countries such as Britain and Holland.
- Cultural Terroir
Whisky used: Mackmyra Svensk Rök (Sweden)
Trend description: made with 100% Swedish malt, smoked with Swedish peat and juniper and aged partially in Swedish oak, this is a whisky with a 'sense of place'. Representing a growing trend for more experimental whiskies shaped by regional traditions, including home-grown ingredients and influences from local cuisine, this showcases terroir as a cultural rather than geographical concept.
- Independent Bottlers
Trend description: Independent bottling companies now make exciting and intriguing specialist whiskies, often with cool, eye-catching labels. This trend taps into a thirst within the new wave of luxury drinks retailing for limited edition, small-batch whiskies, unavailable online. These 'thrill-of-the-chase' products can only be bought in certain stores which gives them a real cachet.