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Interview, Part 2: Diageo North America Scotch Director Brian Cox

September 29, 2015

In this second part of our interview with Brian Cox, the Diageo North America Scotch whisky director expounds on the vibrant market for single malt, progress on the recently launched Haig Club single grain brand and the continuing momentum of Buchanan’s.

SND: How is the climate for single malt Scotch as we head into the holiday season?

Cox: We see sustained momentum at every level of the single malt category. We’re particularly strong in the super-premium-plus end, and with our West Coast island malts including Lagavulin, Caol Ila and Talisker. Clearly there’s appetite in America for the peatier, smokier, more briny maritime-influenced malts. We’ll be celebrating Lagavulin’s 200th anniversary next year, and we have a hefty program set up for that, including some important innovations.

ND: What’s the update on Haig Club, Diageo’s joint venture with David Beckham and Simon Fuller?

Cox: With Haig Club, a single grain whisky, we’re opening up a new category within Scotch, but the brand also competes in a much bigger area—contemporary super-premium spirits—going up against vodkas and gins in addition to other Scotch and North American whiskies. We’ve taken a seeding approach initially, nurturing Haig Club in the on-premise first. So far the results are very encouraging, and we’re seeing a good rate of turn in key accounts in the nightlife and bar area. Miami is a key focus, as well as Los Angeles and other dynamic urban markets.

SND: The Buchanan’s blended Scotch brand has been on a tear, up by 65% to nearly 400,000 cases since 2011, according to Impact Databank. Do you see further growth ahead?

Cox: Buchanan’s has now had over 13 years of consistent double-digit growth and has been a tremendous success across the board with its 12-year-old, but also its 18-year-old and Red Seal expressions. It’s benefiting from very strong tailwinds in the Hispanic demographic across all the key states. The brand’s strength is the result of consistent marketing both in Latin America and here in the U.S., both above-the-line and through “in-culture” activations like our sponsorship of the Latin Grammys. Buchanan’s has broad appeal across different Hispanic segments—whether with Dominican consumers or first- and second-generation Mexicans, for example. While the Hispanic community is the core of the audience, we’re also seeing it expand into the general market.

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