First there was craft beer. Now there is craft spirit – whether it be a new Kentucky bourbon called Angel Envy, New Zealand rum Stolen Spirits or a Crafthouse ready to pour cocktails, mixed to a recipe from one of America’s top bar tenders.
Since the credit crunch, there have been varying reports on the performance of – and prospects for – luxury brands but one premium product category seems to be going from strength to strength: spirits. Ivan Menezes, CEO of Diageo, the world’s largest premium alcohol group, says that demographics favour spirits (more people in the developing world are starting to drink them), that drinkers are more willing to experiment and that “everywhere in our business, the consumer is trading up, drinking better”.
The craft spirits boom has not yet threatened the market share of big groups such as Diageo – partly because they have been investing in start-ups or acquiring them (Angel Envy was snapped up by Bacardi for $150m) – but, according to Jonny Forsyth, global drinks analyst at Mintel, they reflect a demand for “more authentic, more distinctive, more local looking, less processed and more interesting brands”. This trend is particularly prevalent among Millennials who want a “quality, niche brand with a quirky backstory”.
Global demand for gin, whiskey, bourbon and tequila was strong in 2015, while vodka and rum were among the worst performers. The boom in bourbon was kickstarted by its consumption in the TV series Mad Men, just as, in Japan, a TV drama about a woman running a whisky distillery helped change the drink’s image and revive the market.