Flights of fancy for whisky fans

Whisky flights and food pairing can help create a spirited experience for customers

Whisky flight

It is safe to say there are some long-standing traditions attached to Scotland’s national drink.

Yet the customs of enjoying a whisky as a neat single dram on its own or with a drop of water in bars are starting to change as consumers increasingly expect more from the outlets they frequent.

And to help improve a bar’s offer of the water of life, operators have been encouraged to provide whisky tasting flights, pair the spirit with food and switch it up to less conventional serves.

Scott Dickson, marketing manager at Loch Lomond Group, producer of Loch Lomond Whiskies, said: “Whisky flights are a great way of introducing the spirit to beginners.

“Presenting a selection of spirits as a sharing experience is also a successful way to upsell more premium whiskies.”

Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, distributor of bourbon brand Buffalo Trace, echoed that view, referencing Van Winkle bourbon bar in Glasgow, which offers a selection of American whiskey flights.

He said: “Pubs and bars need to find ways to encourage customers to explore the category, particularly at entry level.

“Flights, such as those served at Van Winkle in Glasgow, give customers the opportunity to appreciate the effects of barrel aging and blending.”

And licensees intent on augmenting their overall whisky offering were counselled to pair their selection with food, and also appeal to their patrons’ sweet teeth.

Georgie Bell, global ambassador for Bacardi Single Malts, owner of the Aberfeldy and Craigellachie distilleries, said: “Whisky flights and also whisky and chocolate pairings are great.

“On your menu you could pair whiskies to specific dishes – perhaps starting with the dessert menu – to introduce people to the variety of whiskies on your shelves and encourage them to order one paired to dessert.”

Master blender at Tullibardine distillery, Keith Geddes, agreed.

“Whisky is delicious when paired with different foods like chocolate, cheeses and cured meats,” he said.

“Tullibardine offers a whisky and chocolate tour at the distillery which pairs our award-winning malts with locally handmade chocolate truffles, and visitors often comment on how much they enjoy and learn from the pairing experience.”

Pubs and bars need to find ways to encourage customers to explore the category.

When it comes to freshening up whisky serves in pubs and bars, those who dare to be innovative with new ideas can reap the rewards.

Teddy Joseph, whisky specialist at Edrington-Beam Suntory, which counts The Macallan and Laphroaig within its portfolio, said: “The way we’re seeing consumers enjoy their whisky is continuing to change.

“More and more drinkers are opting for new and different whisky cocktails. “Whilst classics such as the Old Fashioned remain firm favourites, serves like the highball are flying off the bar.”

Similarly Deborah Carter, head of marketing at The Cotswolds Distillery, said: “Refreshing highball serves that are so popular in Japan have opened people’s eyes to whisky as an option for afternoon/early evening drinking rather than the last drink of the evening.

“We’ve definitely seen a trend amongst younger drinkers who haven’t grown up with the views of previous generations about the ‘rules’ of whisky drinking – they don’t buy into the ‘two drops of spring water only’ philosophy, they’re far more interested in exploring flavour and unusual backstories; cocktails, unexpected provenance, different serves.”

Ahead of the festive season, Jo Huergo, marketing manager for Jack Daniel’s, advised operators to put seasonal twists on their serves.

She said: “If licensees can promote their whisky offering through new and inventive, seasonal serves, they’re able to cater to a wider audience.

“Offering valuable promotions on seasonal serves are likely to draw attention.”