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Glenmorangie Making Gains In An Increasingly Competitive Single Malt Category

March 7, 2016

While Moët Hennessy USA is best known for its Cognac and Champagne brands, the company also has seen strong progress for its Glenmorangie single malt Scotch whisky brand. Glenmorangie has more than doubled in the U.S. since 2010, rising 7% to 126,000 cases in the 12 months through November, according to Impact Databank. Sister brand Ardbeg, from Islay, has also been on the upswing, moving from 8,000 cases five years ago to 21,000 cases currently.

“There’s more and more competition in single malt, but from a category standpoint, it’s a good sign that everyone is basically doing well,” says Glenmorangie brand director Maxime Balay, contrasting malt’s fortunes with those of blended Scotch, which continues to struggle. “I see the current interest in Bourbon and other whiskies as a long-term opportunity for single malt to draw in new consumers.”

While the core Glenmorangie range continues to advance, led by its 10-year-old Original (around $50), consumers are gravitating to prestige expressions like the 18-year-old, Signet and 25-year-old. Balay notes that the brand’s higher end could probably double in size if allocations allowed. But Glenmorangie Signet, a non-age-stated offering (around $230), is in robust supply, “which makes it our priority now among the higher marques,” he says.

In recent weeks, Glenmorangie unveiled Milsean, the latest offering in its annual Private Edition series. Milsean (Scotch Gaelic for “sweet things”) was matured in ex-Bourbon casks before spending a number of years of extra aging in heavily toasted Portuguese wine casks. The 46% abv entry, of which 1,500 cases are being imported to the U.S., retails at $99 a bottle. Milsean has seen the fastest start of any of Glenmorangie’s annual Private Editions, Balay observes.

Meanwhile, Ardbeg has been benefiting from the vibrant growth in peated malts, with its Uigeadail expression showing particular strength. Later this year Ardbeg will extend at the high end with a $500-$600 whisky that will be among the older expressions to come out of Islay recently, featuring a prominent age statement. “Smoky malts—particularly Islay—are on an extremely positive trend, growing ahead of the single malt category. It’s across the board with Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Talisker, Highland Park and others, and we’re fortunate that Ardbeg is taking a large share of that growth,” says Balay.

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