IT wasn’t long ago that Scotland’s reputation for quality spirits was limited to just the one.
And although Scotch remains the country’s biggest product, in terms of alcoholic drinks, Scottish companies are now producing a wide range of spirits that includes vodka, rum and, in particular, small-batch gin.
It’s a trend that has been driven by consumer demand for locally-produced, authentic products, say drinks firms.
Katy Macanna, UK brand manager at Ian Macleod Distillers, the firm behind the Glengoyne and Tamdhu single malts and the distributor of Edinburgh Gin, said there is now a “demand for a rich, engaging story behind a brand and its origins”.
“The availability of such high quality, premium products in local, Scottish regions has also dramatically risen in recent years, giving the consumer a great deal of choice,” said Macanna.
People want to know where their purchases have come from.
This was echoed by Tony Reeman-Clark, founder of Strathearn Distillery, who said demand for Scottish brands is growing across the country, “as people seek out a ‘story’ or provenance”.
“As has happened with butchers, cheese makers and other ‘craft’ trades, customers want to know where their purchases have come from,” said Reeman-Clark.
“Scotland is synonymous with quality and as a result carries a premium.”
The growing number of Scottish spirits brands is good news for the on-trade, as these products are said to be popular with a broad range of different customers.
“I think the wonderful thing is that Scotland has such a huge feeling of pride anyway, so Scottish produce appeals to a huge range of consumers from young to old, locals to visitors and everything in between,” said Sian Buchan, brand ambassador for Scottish gin brand Caorunn.
“I believe that there are home-grown brands to suit each type of venue – there are beers, wines, gins, whiskies, etc. for all budgets and venues can reflect this in their offering.”
Buchan was supported by Caroline Bruce-Jarron, brand manager at Scottish vodka producer Ogilvy Spirits.
She said that the company’s vodka has proved popular with several age groups, and for similar reasons.
The 25 to 35 age group, said Bruce-Jarron, has generally become more concerned about where products come from and are determined to buy better quality drinks, while consumers aged 45 and above have already been ‘foodies’ for some time, with the passion for ingredients and quality they have for food transferring into the drinks they buy.
“I think consumers are interested in drinking local options of all of the traditional spirits and drinks that bars would offer,” said Bruce-Jarron.
“There are great soft drinks around too, which pair well with Scottish spirits.”
As customers take more notice of the ‘story’ behind brands, it’s vital licensees choose products that are authentic, said Paul Miller, founder and co-owner of Eden Mill distillery.
“A mix of products and brands with great stories and provenance are key,” said Miller.
“The ability to link or ‘match’ with food offerings is also a key benefit in up-selling.”
Consumers are interested in drinking local options of all the traditional spirits.
Bar staff have to know what they’re selling, of course, and so staff knowledge – both in terms of a product’s provenance and topics such as food matching – is important.
“Working with suppliers to ensure staff understand the key features and benefits of local crafted products can significantly improve confidence in telling the product story,” said Miller.
Buchan, at Caorunn, agreed, saying it is “so important” that operators invest time in training their staff in the products they are selling.
“Staff cannot up-sell and explain a product to a customer until they know about it – including history and production as well as taste,” she said.
“For ambassadors or representatives of the brand, they obviously spend a lot of time testing the product in a number of ways and they can tell staff about these experiences and the staff can then perhaps suggest them to customers as different ways to try a product.”