One of the most exciting seminars of the 2015 Nightclub & Bar Show was hosted by Dr. Thomas Turner, Diageo’s Master of Whisky, Dave Herlong, the Las Vegas brand ambassador for Ketel One and Sam Bracamontes, Don Julio’s brand ambassador to Las Vegas. In just under an hour, the three whisky, vodka and tequila experts broke down hot trends, dying trends and likely future trends.
Dr. Turner delighted in telling the room, loudly and in front of Dave, that whisky is the number one selling spirit in America by dollar amount. He did, of course, have to concede that vodka is number one in the US by volume, with rye the latest version of the spirit to see a spike. He also revealed that he has noticed at least 50% of attendees at whisky events are women and that Millennials are very much into exploring this iconic spirit.
Very telling in regards to the whisky versus vodka battle are the numbers concerning flavored vodka and flavored whisky. Flavored vodka is down a staggering 78% while flavored whiskey is up an incredible – you guessed it – 78%. Crown Royal Regal Apple, as an example, has reached 300,000 cases in just a few months on the market. Essentially, according to Dr. Turner, the flavored whisky segment is cleaning up the flavored vodka segment. Dave agreed, pointing out that rather than the backs of bars being loaded with every flavor produced by a particular brand, venues are streamlining, opting to carry just one or two popular flavors such as citron.
When it comes to tequila, Millennials are driving the market as they’re not afraid of the infamous spirit like previous generations seemed to be. They’re educating themselves when it comes to tequila and mezcal and looking to experiment with both. Due to the interest by Millennials, organic tequilas and mezcals are a hot trend while flavored tequilas are definitely not picking up in popularity. Those opting to consume tequila and mezcal seek out traditional expressions of the spirit rather than manipulated, flavored versions. Sam branched out beyond just tequila and mezcal, however, predicting that Mexican spirits Bacanora, Sotol and Raicilla will be hot trends in America rather soon.
What all three presenters agreed upon is that the trend is for quality and not quantity. Quality cocktails with less ingredients, homegrown, local and organic ingredients and spirits produced by traditional methods are hot right now (and for the foreseeable future). They also gave the audience a tip on how to better predict the next trends in spirits: innovations in products are often driven by popularity loss. So, analyze the marketplace, see what’s on the decline and figure out how to get ahead of the next hot trend.