Whisky, Aging and Cognac: why whisky might have to change its format
It’s interesting that the cognac market has never really followed in the footsteps of whisky, preferring to stick to the age old descriptions of age in the form of VS, VSOP, XO and such like, rather than putting the ages of the products on the bottles themselves. (Although Courvoisier have dabbled as such, with the creation of products such as the Courvoisier Vintage Connoisseur Collection 21 Years, amongst others.)
So it’s interesting to read that Macallan Whisky have created a new range of high end single malts that don’t advertise their age. Known as Ruby, Sienna, Amber and Gold have been created to completely replace the brand’s entire range. And in so doing, getting rid of the age statements for good. Another new product for the brand is Macallan M, once again with no age stated, but retailing at a cool $5,000 Canadian dollars per bottle.
So what’s the reasoning behind this move? Well, as we’ve seen in the cognac market, increased demand for higher quality products is leading to a dwindling supply of older eaux-de-vie, and exactly the same is happening in with whisky. The Chinese market especially is driving this scarcity, as the demand here for older, prestigious cognacs and whiskies is spiraling almost out of control.
And because the consumer has been conditioned over many years to believe that older is better, this is certainly going to create a challenge for the marketers of top quality spirits.
We’ve seen many products come to market in the past couple of years that don’t give any indication of age – C by Courvoisier is a good example – and no-one can deny that the marketers are doing a very good job of pushing consumers (and especially the younger element of the market) into buying what are undoubtedly extremely trendy drinks.
Of course, older cognacs and whiskies will still be available, but as the quantity available gets less and less, so the prices will continue to rise. But this in itself has a silver lining, as many things seem to, in the fact that to invest in older spirits, such as cognac and whisky, really could offer a more guaranteed investment than simply entrusting your hard earned pennies to the banks.
Perhaps the cognac (and whisky) bubble will burst, but at the moment it shows no signs of doing so. And as it stands, the marketing machine for all cognac and whisky houses certainly has its work cut out to continue to create and sell products that capture the consumers’ imagination. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in 2014 and beyond, and exciting to imagine what new products we can look forward to tasting…