Posted on | December 3, 2012
Written by | Kristen Wolfe Bieler
How The Dalmore became the fastest-growing single malt Scotch in the world.
Single malts have been posting impressive numbers for years—up 10% in 2011 alone. But only The Dalmore can boast a growth rate of 73% last year, which makes it easily the fastest-growing single malt brand in the world.
“The Dalmore has a very accessible taste profile, which makes its appeal wide-ranging,” explains Chris Watt, The Dalmore’s Global Head of Brand, which he believes accounts for this rise to the top. “Novices in the whisky world expect Scotch to have strong, alcoholic flavors and peaty notes. The Dalmore doesn’t have that—it is very complex, but very approachable from a taste perspective.”
The Dalmore’s signature style—a combination of coffee, chocolate, spice, sweet vanilla and a distinctive orange marmalade note—is the result of maturation in small-batch American bourbon casks and Matusalem oloroso sherry casks. The latter are reserved for The Dalmore by sherry master Gonzalez Byass and are 30 years old on average, hence the single malt’s pronounced sherry flavors.
Recruiting Bourbon Drinkers
Interestingly, Watt sees a lot of single malt marketshare coming from high-end bourbon drinkers, rather than blended Scotch consumers: “We witness a lot of men in their early 20s getting into the business with bourbon, and turning to single malts as they become more knowledgeable. There are more intricacies in production and aging process of single malt Scotch, which they appreciate. One important advantage The Dalmore has is unparalleled whisky stocks. “Distillery managers 50-plus years ago had great foresight to hold casks back, and that gives us some of the oldest and rarest stocks in the industry,” says Watt.
Growth at the High End
And they put these old stocks to good use. In fact, The Dalmore is also the fastest-growing single malt brand in terms of value, thanks to the brand’s more premium expressions. “Obviously The Dalmore 12-Year Old ($50) is the driver of our growth, but increasingly we are seeing the 15- and 18-Year Old [$90 and $160 respectively] become much more important in volume,” says Watt. “It seems we are recruiting new consumers and they are trading up, which is the business model we want.”
Even The Dalmore King Alexander III—a limited release matured in six different types of oak barrels with a retail price of $270—is growing in a significant way. “We have window displays in high-end retail stores, and this variant is really starting to take off,” says Watt.
The Dalmore’s big presence at travel retail has also helped build the brand’s luxury image. “In the travel retail outlet it’s possible to deliver above the line visibility; we are now the fastest-growing Top 10 malt brand in travel retail with year on year value growth of +95%,” Watt describes.
One such product being featured there is the just-released The Dalmore Constellation Collection, a series of 21 cask bottlings of single vintages hand-selected by Master Distiller Richard Paterson. “The difference between this and anything else we have ever done is that these are all single cask, and are natural in strength and color,” says Watt. Extremely limited—and for sale at close to $250,000—the collection is selected from casks produced from 1964 through 1992 and was launched in the high-profile duty-free travel outlet World Duty Free. “Having a collection like this on display creates terrific halo effect for the entire line.”
The Dalmore has also had success with its recently re-launched Cigar Malt Reserve, which had been temporarily discontinued after smoking bans in the U.S. and U.K. went into effect. “We renamed the malt Gran Reserva, but noticed that it was still listed on restaurant drink menus as ‘The Dalmore Cigar Malt’ and there was huge interest in bringing it back,” says Watt. “Bottled at 44% ABV, and finessed in Cabernet Sauvignon barriques, it truly pairs beautifully with fine cigars.”
Same Malt, New Look
This November, The Dalmore rolled out its new standardized package on all expressions nationwide, featuring a new stag (the brand’s iconic royal symbol). Each box will highlight a maturation statement—“Matured in American White Oak and Oloroso Sherry Wood” for example—intending to make things ultra-clear for the consumer. “Our package has always stood out, and now it will have a more consistent look and feel. People often purchase The Dalmore for gifting reasons, but they buy it again for the taste,” Watt says.