Whisky - The Importance of Wood
What makes a great whisky? The distiller, the spirit, time, the environment, and of course, the wooden vessel in which it maturesRead more
The Scotch whisky market has enjoyed incredible growth in recent times, with pre-pandemic exports at £4.9bn, accounting for over 20% of all UK food and drink exports. However, times are changing and a new era is underway; for the last couple of decades, premium whisky distilleries have been popping up all over the world and are offering enthusiasts both quality and diversity.
If the word whisky conjures up an image of middle-aged men putting the world to rights, tucked away in a dim, book-lined gentlemen’s club, then close your eyes, shake your head and clear your mind ready for a new reality. The demographic of whisky drinkers is broadening dramatically with the emergence of a younger (and increasingly female) whisky consumer who already has a good understanding of its traditions, but with a more pioneering spirit for exploring this ‘water of life’ beyond the conventional.
Simultaneously, ‘new world’ whisky distilleries - those from countries not traditionally associated with whisky production (eg. Australia) or who create a style of whisky not typically associated with that region (eg. American single malt) - are creating a new palette, delivering more exciting choices through innovation and appealing to consumers’ inquisitive side. This desire for a new whisky experience combined with the prolific rise of distilleries all over the globe means that the potential influence and growth of new world whisky, even in the current Covid-19 climate, is incalculable and yet era-defining.
Hotbeds of quality artisan producers are popping up on every continent - Australia, for instance, has gone from zero whisky distilleries in 1990 to over 50 today, and Germany now has more than Scotland! Even the most unexpected of places - India, Iceland, Israel, South Africa, Finland, Argentina, Taiwan - are stealing the spotlight and giving us excellent single malts. As the range of expressions on offer from these new world distilleries increasingly allows consumers to broaden their horizons, it is clear that we are on the verge of a paradigm shift much like the new world wine revolution of the past few decades.
New world distillers are innovating with ingredients, distillation, the casks and the maturation process. They are to be found in places far-flung from those usually associated with whisky production. Of course, they continue to respect traditional whisky-making methods but are not constrained by them, enjoying the freedom to combine the best of the old and new worlds.
Inspired by their local climate and environment, these artisan producers have a strong bias towards locally sourced ingredients and raw materials, wanting to give whisky aficionados only the very best of what their locality has to offer. After all, who wouldn’t want to try a beautifully crafted small-batch whisky made using the finest organic Danish barley, or the world’s purest groundwater from the Salpausselka in Finland, or aged in ancient Swedish Oak, for instance?
The pinnacle of this movement is for distillers to be fortunate enough to run a closed-loop operation, meaning they have their own farm and undertake the entire production process all the way from sowing the barley seeds to bottling. As field-to-flask / seed-to-sip / farm-to-bottle / or grain-to-glass (whichever you choose to call it!) producers, these distilleries are able to account for every grain and every drop of liquid in every whisky bottle they release, thus evidencing provenance and terroir at the very highest level. And somewhat ironically, if we go way back into the history books, long before the days of mass production, this is exactly how the Scotch whisky industry began...
In the year leading up to the global pandemic, figures showed the whisky category grew by 7% to 440 million nine-litre cases. This growth is predicted to continue to 581 million cases by 2023. In terms of market share, leading UK-based online retailer Master of Malt’s figures confirm that new world whiskies are rapidly becoming more prominent, with 2018-19 volume growth as follows (compared with Scotch at 10%):
American non-bourbon 64%
The worldwide cocktail culture and whisky’s aspirational image is attracting a fresh, thirsty audience, inspiring a wave of whiskies from emerging distilleries in the 30 plus non-traditional whisky-making countries around the world. With the increasing importance of social influencers, and the new found ease with which consumers can manoeuvre through a wider choice of styles, flavours and regions, new world whisky production and consumption will undoubtedly continue to rise.
At Cask World, we partner with many leading new world whisky producers, bringing you the opportunity to purchase both their maturing casks and bottled expressions. Simply get in touch with the team to find out more.