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The Macallan, Highland Park Spur Demand With Limited Edition Malts

October 26, 2012

Global single malt Scotch whisky exports surged 29% to £744.6 million ($1.2b) last year, with high-end whiskies—especially limited bottlings—becoming an increasingly important driver of premiumization within the category. The Edrington Group’s Macallan and Highland Park labels have been among those aggressively targeting the connoisseur segment in established and emerging markets alike through limited production releases.

“Both brands are growing at double the rate of the premium/super-premium malt category,” says Edrington Group director of malts Ken Grier, who attributes that growth to expanded availability to new outlets, new drinkers and premiumization of the portfolio through specialty whiskies like Macallan’s Masters of Photography series and Highland Park’s Valhalla Collection. The current editions of those limited franchises—Masters of Photography’s Annie Leibovitz installment ($2,750 a bottle) and Highland Park’s Thor ($199)—are both on pace to sell out during the holidays. The ongoing strength of Macallan 18-year-old and above and Highland Park 12-, 18- and 50-year-olds has also helped keep up momentum at the high end, Grier adds. By volume, Macallan, a Speyside malt, rose 9% to 146,000 cases in the U.S. last year, according to Impact Databank. Highland Park, from Orkney, was flat at 12,000 cases.

But while ultra-premium bottlings and limited editions capitalize on rising connoisseurship among consumers, the scarce nature of single malts also provides challenges for the industry. With interest in single malts spreading in both established markets like the U.S. and in emerging economies across Asia, effectively managing stocks to ensure adequate supply in the years ahead will be paramount.

There’s an “ongoing shortage of stock for all players in single malt,” says Grier. “None of us could have foreseen its current appeal. It’s up to us to make the best use of quality stocks and price up to a level that reflects the cachet of the category while directing supplies to aspirational points of purchase around the world.”

One solution to help mitigate supply constraints is shedding age statements for some new whiskies, as Macallan has with its 1824 Collection. “We have and will continue to produce some innovative expressions with superb flavor under umbrellas like the 1824 Collection, which unshackles our whisky maker from working purely within age-stated whiskies alone,” he says.


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