The Scotch whisky brands to watch in 2019

Scotch whisky has enjoyed good fortunes, with global exports growing in volume and value terms. We predict which brands are worth keeping an eye on in 2019.

According to HMRC figures released by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), overall Scotch exports grew in both volume and value terms in 2017. Volume rose by 1.6%, with 1.23 billion bottles shipped out of Scotland, while value grew by 8.9% to reach £4.36bn (US$6bn). Global interest in single malts rocketed, with exports up by 14.2% last year to £1.17bn.

Joseph Walsh, UK commercial director at Distell International, producer of Scotch brands Bunnahabhain and Deanston, says: “Blends have seen a minor resurgence globally, which is encouraging for the industry, but malts continue to be the rising star of the category as consumers seek out greater levels of luxury and craft, which are both features of single malt whisky.”

The industry was dealt a blow when the Scottish government implemented minimum unit pricing (MUP) in Scotland, which came into effect on 1 May 2018. The UK’s Supreme Court rejected the SWA’s years-­long challenge against MUP in November 2017.

Another issue prevalent in the Scotch industry was the question of whether the laws that govern the category need modifying. In January, a story in The Wall Street Journal claimed the world’s largest spirits producer, Diageo, had assembled a “secret task force” to assess potential changes to the law. Within the alleged proposals was the creation of a new category of blended whisky to cover flavoured or lower-­abv line extensions of existing brands, as well as the ability to finish Scotch whisky in ex­-Tequila barrels.

A big player in the Scotch category is William Grant & Sons-­owned Glenfiddich, whose sales increased by 4% to 1.3 million cases last year. The brand witnessed “strong growth” in “attracting the next generation of premium whisky drinkers” through new releases such as Winter Storm.

Nadège Perrot, international senior brand manager at La Martiniquaise-­Bardinet, producer of Scotch whisky brands Glen Moray and Label 5, believes cocktails “can be the key for a younger generation to start enjoying Scotch whisky. It’s an accessible way to start enjoying the specific malt and peated notes of Scotch.”

Looking to 2019, Clare Inkster, global strategy and insights manager for William Grant & Sons, says: “There continues to be opportunities for innovation in taste and finish. There are challenges around maintaining share of voice in an increasingly competitive environment.”

Gordon & MacPhail’s marketing director Ian Chapman is optimistic about the category’s future. “Increased competition breeds innovation so expect more experimentation with production and maturation techniques, delivering options for consumers to trial. This approach will bring more consumers into the category, which is great news.”

Click through the following pages to see which brands we believe are ones to watch in the year ahead.