Wednesday 31 December 2014

Martin's 2014 Whisk(e)y predictions revisited

In December 2013 I wrote up my "10 predictions for whisky trends in 2014" (5 serious, 5 not so serious). 365 days later, after a fantastic year for whisky (and this blog), and after an amazing week of whisky distilleries and bars in Japan, it's time to re-visit those predictions and see how accurate the crystal ball was...


1. The rise and rise of NAS (Non-Age Statement) whiskies.I'd feel comfortable saying this one was relatively accurate. We continue to see NAS whiskies proliferate in travel retail (especially in Asia), but increasingly in off-premise too. Suntory's "Distiller's Reserve" Yamazaki and Hakushu releases have replaced the 10yo / 12yo (depending on the market) as the "base level" whiskies, and they're absolutely fantastic. On the Scotch side of things we've seen new Glenmorangies, Ardbegs and The Macallans (to name just a few) in retail markets, all with no age statements. Not just at the "budget" end of the spectrum either, with whiskies like Ardbeg's 2014 Supernova and The Macallan's "Masters of Photography: Mario Testino Edition" (tasting notes up shortly) commanding premium prices.

They haven't all been winners, but the majority (including those mentioned above) certainly have been, and as the global whisky market continues to grow, I see no issues with the continuing rise of NAS long as they're good whiskies.

2. The rise of "New World" whiskies.We didn't see Indian whiskies particularly increase their status (that's not to say there weren't already some good ones), but we certainly saw the overall category of "New World" whiskies grow, with increased recognition of Australian whisky in particular. Just look at the Sullivans Cove win, and the rise of craft distillers like Peter Bignell's Belgrove. Not to mention New World Whisky Distillery (makers of Starward single malt), and their truly excellent young single cask releases. I expect we'll see big things from these guys in the future. Global awards perhaps? In time, I think so.

Add in Sweden's Mackmyra (who have done some very interesting things this year) as just another example, and I'd say this prediction overall was accurate.

3. Craft / quality Bourbon (and American whiskey in general) will grow in popularity in Australia. This one may take some more time, as I wouldn't say Australia has yet fully embraced Bourbon / American Whiskies as wholly as single malt just yet, but I definitely think we're seeing the start. American Whiskey tastings (like those at Shirt Bar) frequently fill up, and we even saw a SMWS Bourbon release this year sell out in a short period of time.

Give this prediction another 2-3 years and I reckon it'll be spot on.

4. Flavoured whiskies. This one definitely eventuated (ref: Ballantines' "Brasil", J&B "Urban Honey" and JD's "Tennessee Fire"). Though hey, if acts as a "gateway" to get people more interested in whisk(e)y, I've got no issues with it.

5. Stronger whiskyI wouldn't really say this one came true, though in retrospect, given the taxation on alcohol and its relation to strength / ABV in many markets, that's not really surprising.

Sarcastic / not so serious:

1. An Australian whisky will win a global award, and we won't hear the end of it for months.
Wow did this one come true!

2. The 2014 releases of Port Ellen and Pappy Van Winkle 23yo will cost an absurd amount, and will still sell out in minutes. My guess is £2,000 for Port Ellen, though £2,500 wouldn't surprise me.
£2,200 for the Port Ellen, $249USD for the PVW (though good luck finding the latter for that price). Incredibly difficult to get a hold of either. Fair to say this prediction was pretty close.

3. A new "world's most expensive / oldest" whisky will be released (and will probably taste like eating a chunk of wood).
While we did see a number of very old Original Bottlings in 2014 (two 50yo Balvenies and a 50yo The Glenlivet to name three), I don't believe we saw anything older than 70yo come out in 2014.

4. William Grant & Sons will release at least 3 new Global Travel Retail editions for 2014...and I'll try to buy them all.
Perhaps not three, but we did see a new Kininvie (17yo Batch 1) hit the Asian travel retail market, of which I may have bought one or two...(tasting notes up shortly).

5. Jim Murray will make a controversial statement in 2014, everyone will talk about it, but deep down, no one will really care.
Oh certainly did, and it was the talk of the town. Did anyone care? Some probably did, but not me. I knew Japanese whisky was playing on the world stage years ago - I didn't need Mr Murray to tell me that (for what it's worth, having tasted the Yamazaki Sherry Cask*, I'd have to say it was good, but the single cask 11yo Spanish Oak Yamazaki I tried in Japan last week was much better! Notes up in January).

As we end 2014, dram in hand, we'd just like to say thanks for all your support this year. 2014 saw Steph and I move to a new country, explore new whisky markets, and saw Hendy come on board to continue coverage of the Australian whisky scene (captured not just in words, but also through his stunning photography). It's been a great year for us, and we hope it has been for you too.

Hope you have a fantastic New Years celebration, and an equally fantastic 2015. Stay tuned for more posts in 2015 (covering both Asia and Australia) and expect a barrage of Japan posts (distillery tours, whisky bar reviews and 40+ tasting notes) starting in the next few days!


* Admittedly the 2014 release and not the award-winning 2013 release.

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