It is that time of year again when many of us are wondering of what’s in store for us in the New Year. When it comes to the whiskey industry, it is not easy to tell. Will there be new trends, releases, and changes this year? Who knows? It is still a mystery.
However, as we have witnessed how the whiskey business had gone the past year, we may be able to make an educated guess of the things that could happen this year.
Here’s what 2020 might hold for Whiskey.
Expect more discontinuations
One of the most talked-about whiskey news last year was when Japanese whiskey maker Suntory had announced to discontinue Hibiski whiskey as supplies have run dry.
It was in summer of 2018 when Suntory had confirmed to discontinue the Hakushu 12-Year old effective June 2018. From September 2018, they also had announced to remove the Hibiki 17, famously drunk by Bill Murray in the film “Lost in Translation”, from its core range of products.
Another dismaying news last year was about the Yamazaki Limited range. When the Yamazaki Limited Edition 2018 was not included in the Suntory Summer Collection, fans still had high hopes for it to be released in the second half of 2018 but it sadly didn’t push through. The Yamazaki Limited range had been bottling each year since its inception in 2014.
Nikka Whisky, Suntory’s rival, had also discontinued their aged range of Yoichi and Miyagiko single malts.
This whiskey shortage in Japan can be traced back to the fall in whiskey consumption when it peaked in the early 1980s when drinkers did it “Mizuwari” style wherein they mix spirits with water. According to George Koutsakis, a Japanese whiskey specialist, that had led distillers to decrease the production of whiskey back then.
Look forward to expansions
Other whiskeys are indeed expected to roll out in the near future. Even after experiencing some struggles, there are still expansions on the way.
For instance, Moyvore Whiskeys got its go-head on their appeal for their 138- million euro expansion project covering 12 Irish whiskey maturation warehouses. Its Phase 1 is expected to be completed August this year.
For our Japanese whiskey makers, according to Koutsakis, $250 million has been invested since 2013 to expand Suntory’s facilities and ramp up the production at Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries. Let’s also acknowledge the fact that there are also newer distilleries that have started distilling and taking creative approaches in production that could help to further define Japanese whiskey in the years to come.
No Age Statement (NAS) Whiskies Coming into the Limelight
When it comes to whiskeys, age matters — or does it? The arrival of NAS whiskey has caused an uproar among whiskey fans and confused the amateurs.
Back then, old whiskey is the only “real deal”. But since the demand for old whiskey has risen for the past years, distilleries could not keep up. So some distilleries have chosen to blend old whiskey with the younger whiskey to make the stocks last longer. However, the law states that whiskey makers should put the youngest whiskey blended on the label. That means even if it is mostly made of old whiskey, if it had even a little part of a younger whiskey, say a 5-year old, you would have to label the bottle as a 5-year old one or choose not to display any age at all.
This was when NAS whiskeys were born. It is evident that more people are slowly accepting it. After all, it’s one good solution now that the whiskey barrels are running a little dry.
We can also observe how NAS is taking over today. When the Hibiki 12-Year-Old was discontinued last 2015, Hibiki Harmony, Suntory’s no-age expression, was introduced in its place. Macallan is also another famous distillery who produces NAS whiskeys. Even though these are NAS whiskeys, whiskey fans were still hooked.
Today, many whiskey makers would argue that NAS whiskey is more flexible and gives more ways to push innovation to produce an even better drink by experimenting on different malts and directing on other ways to improve its taste and not focusing just on its age.
So, it just makes sense to expect that with all the discontinuations over the past years, the production of NAS whiskeys will continue to grow in the future. After all, more and more consumers now understand how to judge based on the quality alone and not on the age each bottle of Whiskey says.
Whiskey Industry and the Global Economy
With all that has happened in the past years that had huge impact on the global economy, we expect it to be felt this year more than ever. Take for instance the trade wars between China and the United States.
Here are the facts that we collected:
- According to CNBC, the new whiskey tariffs are hitting states like Tennessee and Kentucky the hardest.
- China’s new 25 percent tariff on US whiskeys had taken effect and had a serious impact on America’s bourbon industry. Around 95 percent of the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky. The tariff has taken away jobs and hurting it from being exported to other countries.
- Based on data from the Distilled Spirits Council, American spirits exported to China grew by almost 1200 percent between 2001 and 2017.
In 2017, American whiskey accounted for more than $1 billion out of the $1.6 billion total US-made spirits that were sold overseas.
Brown Forman, the owner of giant companies like the Woodford Reserve, Jack Daniels, and Old Forester, believes that China is essential for future growth. Even the small players feel the pinch as well. With the unstable relationship between the US and China, the whiskey industry might experience a slight slowdown this year.
While it is impossible to tell what will happen in our economy this year, things are not looking quite good. According to whiskey makers across the world, it was now becoming apparent that 2019 could be a slow year.
Above all, we still anticipate new releases and further development for the whiskey industry across the globe. With these trends, we expect the popularity of whiskey to increase as the New Year unfolds.