5 Trends: Scotch

Thirsty? In just the last minute, more than 2,000 bottles of Scotch were sold worldwide. To keep up with this demand, distillers are producing practically a river of whisky, and much of it is flowing to the US, which is the industry’s largest market by value. But such popularity requires brands to continually innovate and introduce new bottlings, so to help you stay on top of the latest developments, we asked Scotch expert Charles MacLean for the five biggest trends happening now. Here’s what he had to say.

Goodbye, 18-year-olds:

Success brings its own problems for distillers, who are facing a shortage of mature whiskies as well as trying to increase product diversity. As a result, the industry is moving away from defining whiskies by age. Outside the US, The Macallan has released the 1824 Series, which calls its bottlings by their color—Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby. The idea is to encourage consumers to judge a whisky solely by its flavor, and it allows the producer to extend its older stocks by mixing them with younger malts.

Prices are going up:

It’s not your imagination: Scotch is getting more expensive. Shortages of aged whiskies combined with ever-increasing global demand leads to ever-increasing prices. This is occurring not only for highly collectable malts but also for everyday drams. Expect prices to be even higher in the new year.

Scotch is getting stronger:

One way of justifying the higher price of a whisky—especially when there is no age statement—is to raise the proof. While there are some advantages of a higher-proof spirit, like potentially more flavor and better mixability in cocktails, it also likely means the malts are younger, since Scotch loses potency as it ages in the barrel.

More wood finishes:

It used to be that a brand’s product range was solely based on whiskies of different ages. But increasingly, portfolios are filled with a variety of malts that have been aged in different casks (often former wine or port barrels) for the last year or so of their maturation. Glenmorangie is the leader in this game, but you’ll see even more of these interesting malts on store shelves soon.

The ultra, ultra high end:

Super-premium bottlings…at super-premium prices! Distillers are digging through their warehouses to find very rare and very old malts, which are aimed at investors, collectors and oligarchs. Some of the recent limited editions include The Dalmore Aurora 45-Year-Old at $4,000; Bowmore 1964 at $13,500; and Glenfiddich 50 Year Old at $25,000!

Charles MacLean, Master of the Quaich and James Beard Award winner, is the author of ten books on Scotch, including the Whiskypedia.

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Comments

  1. This will all blow over when the hipsters no longer think it’s cool do drink scotch. Hopefully it won’t be long before it’s “played out”.

    • Most in the hipster community will never pay for the high price of scotch. In their world PBR is still the “it” thing because it’s cheap. Hence leaving them more money to shell out on crappy tattoos, making them even more cool. I think the real shift has been that for years scotch was considered a stuffy old man drink. Now, the new generations are embracing the flavors and all the new bottling techniques. As a whole people want better stuff. Look no further than the craft beer movement to see that most drinkers were getting tired of the Buds and Millers. As time moves on prices typically don’t go down, they go up. Scotch will never be “played out.” so sip slow and enjoy.

  2. Bernhard Schäfer says

    I coulnd’t agree more with Charlie.
    One trend he didn’t mention, with the upgoing ABV we will see more un-chillfiltered and uncoloured Whsiky, this is good!

    But expecially the sometime ridiculously augmenting prices is sth consumers should fight against.

  3. I query whether something’s been lost in translation from Mr. MacLean’s comments regarding higher ABV bottlings. Yes, in Scotland a whisky is as strong as it gets when it goes into cask (as opposed to for example Kentucky), but bottling strength can be anywhere between the legal minimum of 40% and theoretically the upper distillation limit of 94.8%. With Glenfarclas having produced a 40 year old expression bottled at 105 degrees UK proof (60% ABV), it is clear that strength is not the obvious correlation to age that one may expect.

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