Top flight brands are a festive tonic

Premium products look set to lead the way this Christmas

• ‘Tis the season: Soul in Aberdeen
• ‘Tis the season: Soul in Aberdeen

THE festive season is well known as a time of indulgence, when customers are willing to spend a little more time and money in the on-trade than at other times of year.

And so it’s perhaps no surprise that premium brands are said to be one of the best ways to make the most of the season.
Operators and wholesalers have told SLTN they fully expect Christmas customers to treat themselves this year, regardless of the economic climate.
“A lot of our Christmas bookings don’t get out much,” said Sarah Wheeler, general manager of PB Devco-owned bar and restaurant Soul in Aberdeen.
“I don’t mean that in a nasty way, but they are kind of seasonal drinkers, so when they go out it is a special occasion for them.”

Premium products such as malt whisky prove more popular around Christmas.

Wheeler said beer, wine and spirits all tend to perform well in Soul over the festive season, with the outlet proving popular as a destination for Christmas nights out.
The venue will be introducing specially-designed Christmas drinks menus for tables, featuring around six drinks selected specifically for the festive season.
“We’ll look at how long they [the drinks] take to make, how they look, what’s in them and whether the stuff that’s in them has proved popular – whether that’s last Christmas, the Christmas before or throughout the year,” explained Wheeler.
“We look at current trends – what people are into, but also trying to do something a little bit different, because we only get to run it [the drinks menu] for a month so if it doesn’t work it’s not that bad.”
Wheeler added that premium spirits such as single malt whisky usually see an uplift in sales around Christmas.
This was echoed by Martin Scott, general manager of Juniper, the recently opened bar at the Royal British Hotel in Edinburgh, who said he expects consumers to turn to “a lot more dark spirits and smoky flavours” this Christmas.

• Browns are upbeat about Christmas 2013.
• Browns are upbeat about Christmas 2013.

“I think that’s quite in this year,” said Scott. “I think people are going quite retro from what I’ve seen.
“More whiskies, more red wines –we’re going heavy on the dark Spanish red wines – and we’re going to create some mulled wine cocktails.”
Top-end wine and spirits are also expected to sell well at bar and restaurant group Browns.
Caroline Boscott, marketing manager for Mitchells & Butlers-owned Browns, which has outlets in Glasgow and Edinburgh, said the business is anticipating an increased demand for Champagne, Prosecco and cocktails over the festive season.
And she added that consumers can often change their drinks choices at Christmas, opting for products such as red or mulled wines in place of their regular orders.
“We also get more [demand for] ‘special’ drinks: glasses of Prosecco, premium spirits – superior gin and tonics, but also drinks like brandy, whisky and after dinner drinks,” she said.
And it isn’t just operators who are stocking up on premium brands ahead of Christmas. An increased demand for premium products also puts pressure on wholesalers to ensure they have the right stocks to keep up.

We get demand for special drinks, glasses of Prosecco or premium spirits.

“Premium brands have regularly performed better at this time of year, and as a consequence of that Wallaces Express has extended its ranges on premium rums, vodkas, gins and liqueurs,” said Brian Calder, managing director of Wallaces Express.
And the optimism towards Christmas 2013 has been reflected in increased orders through wholesalers, according to Martin Race, operations director at Batleys, who said orders of vodka, whisky, rum and Tequila are “well up on the same time last year”.
“Premium spirits and wines will continue to do well at Christmas as both dining and gifting increases and consumers loosen the purse strings in favour of having a great time and trying new things,” said Race.