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Glenfiddich Lines Up Luxury Malt Launches Ahead Of Holiday Season

August 20, 2014

William Grant & Sons’ Glenfiddich single malt Scotch whisky brand is doubling down on innovation activity in the U.S. ahead of the upcoming holiday season, with a pair of new products heading to market.

The first is a permanent addition to the core range, Glenfiddich Excellence 26-year-old. Rolling out this fall, the 26-year-old is the distillery’s first malt matured entirely in American oak casks, resulting in a lighter, sweeter profile. “(Excellence) goes a little against preconceived notions of very old whiskies, which are more often associated with flavors like chocolate and coffee,” says brand ambassador Struan Grant Ralph. “This is very light, and shows a lot of subtle flavors.” The 26-year-old, which is 43.1% abv and will retail at $500 a bottle, will sit between Glenfiddich’s 21-year-old and 40-year-old in the core portfolio. William Grant & Sons USA has an initial allocation of 2,000 cases, which will run through the end of this year into 2015.

Meanwhile, Glenfiddich is planning a November-December launch for a second newcomer, 1963, which will be a non-age-stated “replica” of the first single malt marketed by the distillery. Glenfiddich malt master Brian Kinsman has been pulling from various casks to match the archived liquid and ledger notes from that historic offering in the finished product of 1963, which will retail around $100. “At the time, there was an assumption in Scotland that customers wanted blends,” Ralph says. “But Sandy Gordon (then chairman of William Grant), decided that the whisky at Glenfiddich needed to be available for people to try in its native state, and inadvertently he created the global single malt category. This will be a very stripped-down single malt that will allow people to try the real house style of Glenfiddich.”

While Glenfiddich remains the largest single malt brand by volume worldwide—up 1.5% to 1.1 million cases last year—its growth has trailed that of some key competitors in the U.S. market recently. According to Impact Databank, Glenfiddich rose an estimated 1.5% to 132,000 cases in the U.S. in 2013, while market-leading single malt Glenlivet forged ahead strongly, with volume up 6.6% to 385,000 cases (in the process Glenlivet overtook Chivas Regal to become Pernod Ricard USA’s largest Scotch whisky label). Second-ranked Macallan is also charging hard, with U.S. sales jumping 20% to 186,000 cases last year.

Ralph says Glenfiddich’s new releases will help stoke interest and galvanize the brand in the U.S. Even with emerging markets warming to whisky, “By value and volume, the U.S. is still the most important single malt market in the world, and we’re devoting real focus to it,” he says.

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