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Interview, Part 2: Dan Leese of Hotaling & Co.

December 9, 2020

In the second part of our interview, Hotaling & Co. president and CEO Dan Leese discusses other whiskies in the portfolio, as well as Hotaling’s positioning in gin and its national sales footprint.

SND: Nikka is a gem in the Hotaling portfolio, but availability has been an issue for Japanese whiskies. Are inventories catching up?

Leese: Nikka has been expanding capacity to rebuild stock while controlling the speed of growth to keep pace with production. The blends are the key area to watch, with Nikka From The Barrel— winner of Whisky Advocate’s “Whisky of the Year” award in 2018—and the new Nikka Days, a blend for any casual day. It launched in July with a profile and a look that aims to convey everyday drinking. It’s approachable, and can be enjoyed in a highball or cocktail. But it’s also rich and complex, and can be taken neat or on the rocks.

SND: Hotaling is well positioned in the gin space. What are your priorities there?

Leese: We’ve got a range of super-premium gins from around the world—our own Junipero as well as No.3 London Dry from the UK, Nikka Coffey Gin, Dingle Gin, Caorunn from Scotland, Ungava from Canada, Luxardo Sour Cherry Gin, and Luxardo London Dry Gin. We’ve been showcasing how each gin works in cocktails to demonstrate the range of flavors and character.

SND: What changes have you made since Covid-19?

Leese: We’ve been focused on the off-premise, of course, but we’re also looking to the on-premise as accounts try and reopen. Our team has added four new on-premise people this year to support that. Most of our brands have national distribution, and we have 34-strong national sales team covering the markets. We’ve also integrated e-commerce into our sales and marketing to ensure we have the retail distribution and online presence to drive sales. We’ve moved our event budgets to targeted social media ads and e-commerce partnerships in order to drive traffic to purchasing platforms.

SND: The Hirsch whiskey brand is an interesting new pickup, with all its heritage and branding. What are your plans there? And elsewhere in the whisky space, how is the Canadian portfolio doing?

Leese: The new Hirsch series was launched with The Horizon Straight Bourbon, backed by a digital ad campaign with outdoor settings inviting consumers to explore new horizons. Next year we’ll see other new expressions, as well as expansion into Colorado and Florida. In Canadian whisky, we’re releasing a limited allocation of Corby’s Rare Range Releases this fall, including Lot No. 40 Cask Strength: Third Edition, Pike Creek 21-Year-Old Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish, Pike Creek 21-Year-Old European Oak Finish, and Gooderham & Worts 49 Wellington. They’re all being released in the U.S. for the first time.

SND: What other products are key?

Leese: Luxardo’s modifiers, spirits, and cherries are a key part of the portfolio. Innovations like Bitter Bianco and Luxardo Sour Cherry Gin have given bartenders flexibility and visual and flavor versatility, and Luxardo cherries have become a cocktail essential. Next year Luxardo celebrates its 200th anniversary, and we’ll have programming across retail, bars, digital and social.

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