Alcoholic Drinks – March 2013 Overview of New Product Launches

This monthly summary highlights some of the most interesting product launches in March, with a focus on the direction the alcoholic drinks industry is taking in terms of innovative developments.

Flavoured Scotch (-infused spirit drink): There can be more than one

Scotch had been complacently sitting in its proverbial hillside castle for far too long. The whiskey landscape stretching underneath is radically different these days as the category’s American, Irish and Canadian siblings have all succumbed to the lure of flavoured extensions. Somewhat reassuringly, so did consumers. The radical black-cherry infusion pioneered by Red Stag a mere couple of years ago has now fomented a revolution that is finally reaching the gates of this most conservative of categories. Well, almost.

The introduction of Dewar’s Highlander’s Honey is actually less roaring revolutionary than moderately reformist. First, it’s the flavour. Honey has already proven that it lends itself well to whiskey experimentation. Both Jack Daniels and Bushmills have launched well received honey infused varietals while at the same time safeguarding their heritage credentials from the taint of a gimmicky and saccharine vodka-like overload.

Second, it’s the definition. Cautiously sidestepping the definitional minefield viciously safeguarded by the ever vigilant Scotch Whiskey Association, Highlander’s Honey is branded as a ‘spirit drink’- not a Scotch.

Regardless, all of this is now small print on a bottle that may well change the Scotch industry forever. As we were concluding in the closing paragraph of our whiskey themed feature published back in the summer of 2012:

‘Innovative ventures should take a page or two out of bourbon’s notebook and go beyond subtle nuances in packaging redesign. Times are changing and if Scotch wants to continue providing a soundtrack to young people’s lives, the tune has to change with them. After all, bagpipes have proven to be great in musical genres beyond Scottish folk music; their use still explores radical new angles in rock, jazz, hip-hop, punk and classical music. Take note and prepare accordingly’

Dewar’s Highlander Honey

Bacardi has lined up the launch of a honey-“infused” variant of its Dewar’s Scotch whisky brand. Dewar’s Highlander Honey is described as “Dewar’s Scotch Whisky infused with Scottish Heather Honey filtered through Oak Cask Wood”. It comprises Dewar’s White Label Scotch, mixed with Scottish honey.   According to the Scotch Whisky Association, the expression does not breach laws defining the term Scotch whisky, because Dewar’s Highlander Honey is being marketed as a “specialty” in the US rather than as a Scotch whisky.

The product will initially only be available in the flavour-obsessed US market retailing for US$23.99 per 75cl bottle.

Tequila Flavours: Each to their Own

If a hint of honey is currently the flavour du jour driving innovation in whiskies, rainbow sherbet (is that even a flavour?)  is but the latest in vodka’s increasingly decadent and surreal expressions while fruits are reshaping the cider category , tequila has largely stayed out of the flavoured fray. As maturity, saturation and the historically unsurpassable geographical barriers limiting the category to its US and Mexican strongholds are upping the pressure, the hunt for tequila’s partner is on.

It has been poignantly said that Cinnamon bites and kisses simultaneously. And if there is one major alcoholic drinks category that can claim the same, that would be tequila. Following patient experimentation with tequila based liqueurs and RTDs on the industry’s side-lines and the niche success of Patrón XO Cafe Dark Cocoa , cinnamon can be the bold game-changer opening the floodgates for the category much like irreverent bourbon concoctions did for whiskies. Flavours are indeed taking over.

Peligroso Cinnamon Tequila

The 42% abv Tequila, an infusion of cinnamon and “other secret ingredients”, is described as having ‘a savoury and spicy flavour with sweet heat on the finish’. Made in Mexico from 100% blue agave, Peligroso Cinnamon Tequila goes on sale this month in key US, with the brand being rolled out in additional markets in the next few months.

This monthly summary highlights some of the most interesting product launches in March, with a focus on the direction the alcoholic drinks industry is taking in terms of innovative developments.