Whisky Month presents an opportunity for licensees
AS a vehicle for marketing Scotland’s national spirit, there’s never been anything quite like it.
Running throughout May, VisitScotland’s Whisky Month initiative includes established festivals as well as new, one-off events.
And whisky firms reckon there is an opportunity for operators to use the activity to increase footfall and whisky sales in their outlets.
David Sinclair, whisky ambassador for Reserve Brands at Diageo, said this month presents “a real opportunity for every outlet, whether it be a bar, restaurant or retailer, to celebrate Homecoming with our own spirit”.
“There has never been a more vibrant time for the whisky category as a whole and the demographic of people appreciating whisky has never been as diverse,” said Sinclair.
“Many people are looking to experience whisky in different ways, whether it be the traditional half and half, a cocktail serve or a great food pairing, all of these give every outlet an opportunity to showcase whisky in different ways and connect with consumers.”
Key to making the most of the month will be taking steps to find out what events, if any, are taking place in the locality, according to Scott Fraser, visitor centre manager at The Tomatin Distillery Company.
When introducing consumers to new whiskies, product knowledge is vital.
“Speak to your local distillery visitor centres and also to VisitScotland and they will let you know what is on in your local area and how you can benefit from other Whisky Month-related events,” he said.
There could be an opportunity for outlets to create their own events to coincide with those already scheduled close to their premises.
“Partner with the events or participate in them,” said Amanda Ludlow of whisky merchant The Great Whisky Company.
“If possible, cross-market with the events, align what you’re doing to what is happening [there] and make it an extension or after show [party].”
It’s not essential for operators to tie up with other events, however.
Introducing even a small whisky-themed offer could be worthwhile this month, said Cara Laing, head of brands marketing at independent whisky bottler Douglas Laing & Co.
“Obviously if there’s a nearby event it’s great to piggyback and really make the most of it, but even running a simple malt of the month promotion or highlighting classic whisky cocktails on the menu and using Whisky Month as the rationale and story behind is equally powerful,” she said.
Not every outlet can be a whisky specialist, of course, but stocking even a small range that includes some premium single malts as well as blends can be advantageous.
“Most tourists want to try luxury whiskies and to buy limited edition products that they can’t buy in their homeland,” said Phil Keene, on-trade sales director at Whyte & Mackay.
“That said, it is still important for outlets to have blends behind the bar for those who want to try something different.”
Offering samples to customers is another way to encourage whisky fans to try whiskies they may not be familiar with, said Sarah Clark, trade marketing manager at International Beverage, parent company of Inver House Distillers.
And when introducing consumers to new whiskies, product knowledge is vital.
Clark said education is “extremely important, as consumers who are unsure are more likely to be reassured and converted to buy by a barman who is knowledgeable and can act as a brand ambassador”.
Education was also cited as vital to growing whisky sales by Frazer McGlinchey, brand advisor at Balblair, particularly with regard to a brand’s provenance, history and flavour.
“It is important to educate consumers about the difference in palate and process of whiskies to help them make an informed decision,” he said.