Time to prepare for a Scotch summer

Whisky looks set to benefit from expected influx of visitors in coming months

• This summer’s spotlight on Scotland could help to boost whisky sales (Picture: Matthew Clark).

THE countdown to the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup is well underway.

And with thousands of extra visitors expected to descend on Scotland for these major sporting events, it seems whisky stands to benefit.
Producers and distributors have told SLTN they expect a sales spike this summer – and they advised operators to prepare for the expected uplift.
Euan Mitchell, managing director of Isle of Arran Distillers, said that with Scotland “firmly in the spotlight” this year, operators can expect strong whisky sales.
“I think this will have a very positive effect on Scotch whisky sales as demand for the spirit across the globe is at an all-time high and it is likely the extra number of foreign visitors will want to try the spirit on home turf,” he said.
“There’s a lot of scope for the on-trade to stage special events and capitalise on the opportunity and help venues to build incremental sales like fun, yet educational whisky tasting events.”
And while an expansive whisky range may not suit every pub under normal circumstances, this year’s events could make a broadened whisky range worthwhile.
“Whisky is growing internationally so there is no doubt that the demand will be there from visiting foreign consumers,” said Phil Keene, on-trade sales director at Whyte and Mackay.
“We can also expect that they will be looking for premium or unusual whiskies that are not widely available to the international market, so it would prove beneficial for licensees to consider their whisky repertoire at this time.”
Breadth of range is important, but should not be to the detriment of quality, warned Frazer McGlinchy of single malt brand Balblair. McGlinchy said the key to stocking whiskies is to provide quality over quantity.
“It is important for bar managers to pick wisely and cover key price-points and regions, giving the consumer choice,” said McGlinchy.

Include brief taste descriptors on your menus, or displayed next to the bottles.

A range that includes premium whiskies won’t just appeal to visitors, according to Ian Peart of Pernod Ricard UK, whose whisky brands include Chivas Regal and The Glenlivet.
Peart highlighted the “continued growth of premium spirits” and suggested publicans “tap into the trend”.
“As the versatility of whisky leaves room for experimenting with long mixed drinks, retailers should ensure they stock premium whiskies that can be used as delicious cocktail bases,” added Peart.
Visibility is key, however, if licensees are to maximise sales of whisky, according to Stuart Westwood of wholesaler Matthew Clark.
“Include brief taste descriptors on your menus, or displayed next to the bottles to guide unsure consumers through your offering,” he advised.

“Use plinths for the back bar highlighting a range or create a whisky flight which can be served with a food matching menu or different taste profiles. Capture an impulse sale by considering a simple food match, highlight the relevance to regions or places in Scotland.”
David McGowan of Diageo, whose Scotch brands include Johnnie Walker and Talisker, agreed that publicans “should always give whisky brands prominent space” on the back-bar and stock a range spanning blends and malts from “entry level brands through to super deluxe”.
Ensuring a bar’s whisky range is visible is, however, only half the battle, according to Nick Barker, brand manager for Auchentoshan.
“It is extremely important for bar managers to educate their staff,” said Barker.
“Ensure they are comfortable and confident to speak to customers about what whiskies they enjoy as well as have the knowledge to be able to choose certain flavours that their visitors and customers enjoy.”
Chris Leggat, head of sales and commerce at Douglas Laing & Co, whose whiskies include single malt Old Particular and Islay blend Big Peat, underlined the importance of staff training.
“People love to hear the story behind whisky so knowledgeable, enthusiastic bar staff make all the difference,” said Leggat.
“They sell the whisky by telling the story and explaining what the taste will be like.”
Jim Grierson of Maxxium UK agreed, stating that “knowledge is power” when it comes to whisky sales.
“Well-trained knowledgeable staff are always more passionate about brands as they are keen to impart their knowledge onto customers, driving brand awareness and, ultimately, boosting sales,” he added.

Bar staff sell whisky by telling the story and explaining what the taste will be like.

Not every visitor to Scotland this summer will be willing to drink their dram in the traditional fashion, but that doesn’t mean they have to miss out on a Scotch experience.
“For drinkers less familiar with the Scotch whisky category, stocking a whisky which works well in cocktails can act as an easy route to the spirit,” said Ray Summers of distributor First Drinks, whose whisky portfolio includes Glenfiddich and Monkey Shoulder.
The firm behind whisky liqueur Drambuie also highlighted the importance of offering whisky cocktails.
“It is important to understand your consumer’s palate and the flavours that they usually enjoy,” said marketing manager Vicki Wonders.
“You can then offer them a style of whisky that they are likely to enjoy.
“Encouraging consumers to try more whiskies is easy once they’re into the swing of things.”