Beverage Dynamics

Beverage Dynamics Jan-Feb 2016

Beverage Dynamics is the largest national business magazine devoted exclusively to the needs of off-premise beverage alcohol retailers, from single liquor stores to big box chains, through coverage of the latest trends in wine, beer and spirits.

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52 Beverage Dynamics • January/February 2016 stronger, higher-proof whiskies. "Canadian Whisky's lighter fl avor profi le and high mix- ability offer a distinctly different experience compared to Bourbon, Scotch or Irish," says Richards at Sazerac. Unlike the stringent rules governing other whiskeys, Canadian has fewer requirements, and varies from province to province. The whisky must be mashed and distilled in Canada and aged three years in barrel. Grains, notably corn, wheat and rye, are mashed and distilled separately then blended and bottled, typically at 80 proof. The 9.09 percent rule allows up to that percentage of the blend to include ingredients such as other spirits (including Bourbon) and even wine. Proponents say this rule offers greater latitude for innovation. A case in point is Beam Suntory's launch of Alberta Rye Dark Batch Whisky, a blend of 91% Canadian rye whisky, 8% American Bourbon and 1% oloroso Sherry. "Canadian is an interesting category as it has a lot of room for innovation and premiumization," Patel says. The portfolio also includes Windsor and Canadian Club, which has a 100% Rye expression. For Dark Batch, Beam Sun- tory's brand ambassadors are targeting bartenders at high-end whiskey/cocktail bars, with sampling and telling the story of the unique blend. Beam will also wheel out a rye display at certain events. "We are seeing a resurgence of interest in pre- mium Canadian and Canadian Rye whiskies," Patel says. CATCHING IN THE RYE American whiskey geeks and mixologists are starting to ap- preciate rye's spicy dryness, and that segment is small but growing. That's a plus for Canadian whisky, which has been synonymous with rye whisky, because that grain fi gures prom- inently in many blends. "I love rye, which is why I like Canadian whisky," says George Ryals, manager at All Star Wine & Spirits in Latham, NY. The retailer mentions Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye among several examples. Canadian whisky hasn't seen the growth spurt that it should, Ryals says, but he appreciates the softer style of the whisky, which is a value buy. He also cites Seagram's VO Gold. At All Star, there has been an upswing of popularity for Crown Royal. "We sell quite a bit, and a new, younger demographic is coming in looking for it," he adds. "Crown Royal Rye has done well here," echoes David Jabour, president of Twin Liquors, an Austin-based, third-generation retailer. "It appeals to the traditional Canadian whisky drinker who is looking for something a little different." "Crown Royal uses a number of mash bills to create differ- ent styles, which are blended together. Our master blenders have more than a million barrels to create their blends," Mor- gan explains. More innovations are coming from the brand in 2016. [For more on Crown Royal and its distillery in Gimli, see the Trip Report column in this issue.] LOOKING FOR TOP SHELF Much of the product innovation and growth is coming from the upper tiers of Canadian. Indeed, sales of high-end pre- mium were up a healthy 10.9% in 2014, according to DISCUS, while the rest of the category was fl at. "Super-premium is what's driving the Canadian whisky category today," says Heather Howell, brand manager for Collingwood Whisky. The Brown-Forman brand has been made at the Collingwood, Ontario distillery (which also produces Canadian Mist) for just fi ve years. The liquid goes through an extra fi nishing step: the mature blends rest with heavily toasted maplewood staves. "Making for a full-fl a- vored and complex whisky," Howell says, great for sipping neat or mixing in cocktails. "Messaging is critical. Bottles don't yet leap off shelves into carts," she quips. The message emphasizes that Collingwood is a distinct artisanal whisky made at Canada's oldest continuously owned and oper- ated distillery in the village of Collingwood, Ontario, on the Georgian Bay. More sustainable packaging features a new bottle with a smaller cap; the name Collingwood "pops" more and "Toasted Stave Finish" is called out on the label. "Journey Forth" is the new positioning for this brand. "It speaks to the vigor and spirit of Canadian landscape," Howell says. There will be a full range of marketing and advertising activity supporting the brand. FLAVOR IN FAVOR "Like the other categories, Canadian Whisky is increasingly infl uenced by fl avors, as well as a steady drive toward pre- miumization. Both are likely to drive category activity and growth in the coming years," Richards predicts. Sazerac has many different Canadian whisky brands at several price points. Rich & Rare Reserve offers consumers outstanding quality and value, he says. The Legacy brand is an upscale

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