A Festive Dram
Whisky is synonymous with Christmas. To make sure you maximise your sales this Christmas and encourage your customer engagement, Take Stock spoke to Phil Huckle, UK brand ambassador Scotch whisky for Pernod Ricard about what’s happening in the world of whisky, and how you can make this festive season a memorable one for your outlet.
Scotch whisky is once again very fashionable. Ever since blended whisky arrived on the scene in the late 1800s and started to spread like wildfire around the world, scotch has been only heading in one direction, with one or two dips in popularity around American prohibition, WW2 and the arrival of vodka on the scene. However, this magical spirit has always bounced back, thrived and innovated, and today is a true golden era. Growth is rampant in the emerging markets of Asia and South America, the choice for consumers is incredible with so many new brands and distilleries opening. The luxury end of the market is thriving and in many countries scotch is seen as the ultimate in sophistication, wealth and status.
The UK market however is tricky. Consumers still have some perception problems with blended whisky, and single malt whisky while growing fast is still seen as complicated for many. For an outlet that wants to really take advantage of the scotch renaissance and grow sales (especially to a younger under 30 crowd) then here are a few vital steps to follow:
This is your chance to shine, as this is the foundation to impress your customers. Scotch whisky is arguably the most diverse of spirits, so you should stock a number of alternatives. The product doesn’t spoil and your gross profit is strong, also having an impressive backbar is only going to help the perception of the venue.
What to stock
Single malts – look for about 10 to start with. Have roughly half from Speyside because this is the most popular style – sweet, fruity and floral. Have a mix between the most popular single malts (Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, Macallan, Balvenie, Aberlour) and several smaller distilleries. Also mix up the age statements from 10 year to the ceiling of what your customers can afford. Don’t forget to also vary the cask varieties with representatives of American, sherry and double casks.
Smoky Islay – have several of these whiskies together with several interesting varieties from the Highland region. Providing a reasonable variety means you are appealing to more consumers and starting to become the bar to attract whisky lovers.
Blended whisky – as 80-90% of the global market, two premium blends which dominate the global scene are Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker. Both brands have a wide range, so my advice would be to stock them both. Then, depending on your establishment, you might want to have several entry level blends. For example, if you run a premium bar then Chivas 12 is a good entry point.
These are so important to sell whisky. Most bars just list what they stock, with the price, however I’d suggest you also:
• Expand and include the tasting notes, its provenance and even a little of the history, as this makes a big difference. Brands like The Glenlivet have incredible heritage so including this encourages your customers to purchase.
• Simple things like whisky flights and whisky of the month are all tried and tested, and work.
• Beer and whisky go well together so recommendations of pairings can enhance sales.
• Cheese and chocolate make good pairings for whisky, so if you have a restaurant there is another option for the menu.
• Starting a whisky club and offering tastings will get your customers trying whiskies they may not have tried before.
Use your suppliers to train your staff. Your staff are your frontline sales people and not just the bar team. Floor staff are just as important. Start a sales incentive encouraging your team to upsell.
Cocktails & mixed drinks
Many customers don’t realise the mixability of this great spirit. Soda water, ginger ale, and ginger beer etc, all work well. The great classic cocktails like a whisky sour, blood and sand or a Rob Roy are all wonderful drinks. However, there are an infinite number of modern, contemporary cocktails which your staff can create or are available in cocktail books or online. Mixed drinks and cocktails will bring your younger customers into the category.
Soda water is back! It mixes very well with Scotch whisky, because it doesn’t mask the flavour of the whisky, carrying it instead. A really refreshing way of drinking whisky, soda water also doesn’t have any calories and this again appeals to the younger demographic. The scotch and soda highball is seeing rapid growth and a whole new generation of drinkers are discovering it. Use bottles rather than the gun and good quality ice, glass and whisky will make all the difference. This drink is popular again in America and over here the major drinks companies are starting to heavily promote it. I would start thinking of a highball menu now with the classic style and a few innovative twists. One of my favourites, as an example, is 50ml Chivas Mizunara, 10ml peach liqueur, soda water and lemon to garnish. Simple, delicious and refreshing.
Ice or water
Finally, should you serve with ice or water or neat if drinking straight? It depends on your mood and what you like. All are fine in my opinion, but then I’m not a devout purist. I think with a good quality single malt or blend, a little water is a recommended way of drinking it. The water opens up the whisky and releases more flavour. How much? Anything from a tiny drop to 2 parts whisky to 1 part water works quite well. Ice will make the whisky smoother to drink but you lose some of the flavour. Either way, however you drink your whisky this versatile spirit is well worth exploring.