Dark spirits: The future is dark
With the spirit of gin reigning supreme for the past five years, it’s time to take notice how other drinks, such as the dark spirit category is evolving.
The popularity of dark spirits is growing at a rapid pace, and is set to continue to rise at this escalating rate. Forget notions of whiskey, cognac and dark rum as favourites of the older connoisseur or slightly snobby audience, attitudes have changed.
The recent trending of darker spirits amongst a younger audience likely reflects a generally sweeter tooth amongst this age group, with the rise of spicy and sweeter drinks. For example, Three Barrels Honey, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire and several new spiced rum brands have launched in the UK over the last few years. The appeal of spicy variants amongst millennials follows the recent food trend for spicy food, and audiences looking to expand their flavour profile.
As a consequence, dark spirits’ marketing plans are adapting to talk to this new consumer, with the likes of Jim Beam Apple becoming the first whiskey brand to partner with social media app Snapchat. Users who were over the legal drinking age, were targeted with branded video content, showcasing curated images and videos of the new Apple offering cocktails.
New whisky innovations are also attracting this younger audience, with the rise of a new style of cask finishes, which retain the whisky’s premium status. For example French wine and rum casks, and the likes of Glenmorangie, the Scottish whisky which have launched Midwinter Night’s Dram, matured in Spanish sherry to create a new flavour. These brands are adapting their marketing plans to talk to this younger customer, with the likes of Glenmorangie, partnering with Finlay & Co sunglasses, a brand famed for wooden designs, to celebrate the collaboration between two brands with a deep connection to wood and handcrafted heritage.
In turn an online club YoCo has been launched to make Scotch whisky more accessible to a younger shopper, offering a monthly case of single malts for a subscription fee, again enticing this younger buyer to try the drink.
It is evident that dark rum is now in high demand in the on-trade, with the majority of cocktail menus in bars featuring whole sections dedicated to this spirit. Cocktails such as Dark ‘n’ Stormy and Mai Tai, have recruited a new wave of consumers to the category across all ages and also introduced more females to the drink, who are attracted by the sweeter cocktails. It is now a great opportunity for dark rums to partner with restaurants and chefs, to create cocktails paired to dishes, to widen their audience profile and brand engagement.
The drinks team at Wild Card has had much success devising unique cocktail and food pairings with acclaimed bars and chefs such as Mark Sargeant, The Berkeley’s Blue Bar and José Pizarro with partnerships with Gin Mare, Champagne Laurent Perrier and Four Pillars. There has been an abundance of media and consumer appetite for gin food pairings, and with the rise in rum targeting a younger audience it is a good opportunity for rum to explore this sector.
Consumers who were once daunted by the dark spirits category, and found it hard to navigate, have been drawn in. With the increased versatility of dark spirits in cocktails, and the introduction of new flavours and exciting marketing activity engaging new drinkers it is set to be an interesting and fun time for dark spirits.