2023 “has shown real opportunity for growth within the spirits category,” reflects MD of WG&SA

January 29, 2024
By Cody Profaca

Colin Rochester, Managing Director ANZ at William Grant & Sons, discusses an eventful 2023 and the company’s current positioning moving forwards.

“Once again, I’d like to thank our WG&S family and our trade partners for their support in what has been an exciting and challenging year in many respects but also one that has shown real opportunity for growth within the spirits category. 

It’s been fantastic to see the reinvigoration of the on-premise landscape and the opportunities for us to engage with consumers through our customers and invest in long-term brand building over the bar as well as across the retail and food channel more broadly. 

Our commitment to building brands is a core strategic pillar for our business that is supported by a highly capable team and a continuing priority on brand investment into activations and advertising campaigns that deliver significant reach into our Australian market. 

Looking back over 2023, we saw the continued acceleration of premiumisation and thirst for luxury spirits globally. WG&S continued to solidify our credentials as a leader in this space through both innovation of liquid and local brand partnerships. 

Our Single Malt portfolio, headlined by Glenfiddich and Balvenie, represented key growth drivers in this premium and luxury space through both organic growth and collaborations. 

Glenfiddich continued its successful partnership through Australian Fashion Week with rising Australian designer Jordan Gogos by creating a bespoke Glenfiddich textile inspired by the iconic Glenfiddich 12YO colourway and crafted from repurposed uniform fabrics. 

Balvenie partnered with renowned chef Lennox Hastie from the award- winning restaurant Firedoor with an immersive culinary experience of “Fire, Food & Whisky”, featuring the Balvenie 12YO Double Wood and 19YO Cask & Character finish. The experience was elevated through significant media investment in luxury food and lifestyle publications and targeted OOH campaign. 

We also successfully launched The Balvenie 60-Year-Old, a luxury whisky of impeccable pedigree, with Dan Murphy’s at their Prahran store. This unique liquid is just one of the rare malts underpinning our luxury credentials within the Balvenie portfolio created by Malt Masters David Stewart OBE and Kelsey McKechnie. 

Further supporting our luxury credentials, WG&S acquired Silent Pool Distillers, a craft gin producer from the UK that will extend our reach in the premium and super premium gin categories. 

Another highlight was WG&S being recognised as Distiller of the Year for the eighth year in a row at the prestigious International Spirits Challenge 2023. The industry-leading awards are known for setting the international benchmark for quality and recognising excellence in spirits worldwide and to achieve such an accolade year after year is a testament to our commitment to excellence.

This commitment to excellence is best expressed through our age statement whisky including Glenfiddich 14 YO Bourbon Barrel, which was a Father’s Day favourite and our continued innovation through the Hendrick’s Cabinets of Curiosity range with Flora Adora.

Hendrick’s Flora Adora came alive at the start of Spring through several customer groups including Solotel and Tilley & Wills, with venues being transformed into floral gardens and bespoke Flora Adora cocktails for a truly experiential activation and consumer experience.

Our blended malt expression Monkey Shoulder continued its journey to disrupt the whisky category with standout activations at the Great Australian Beer Spectacular (GABS) and its “Made for Mixing” advertising campaign that showed up big, bold and orange over the eastern seaboard, making it one of our most exciting and prominent mixable whisky brands.

Our Brand Ambassador team continued their excellent work in advocacy, hosting some of Australia’s top bars at Tales of the Cocktail, the world’s premier bar trade event. Bars and brands collaborated to curate a captivating array of beachside paradises and luxury resort-inspired activations with the theme “Wish You Were Here”.

Our ambassador team also received a boost as we welcomed Rachael Bartlett on board as Brand Ambassador for Monkey Shoulder & Sailor Jerry, reinforcing our commitment to advocacy and engagement with our bartender community & customer base.

The theme of on trade reinvigoration was also evident through the return of the highly successful Sydney Bar Week and Bartender of the Year Awards, sponsored by Hendrick’s and Monkey Shoulder.

The revamped Bar Awards program was held as the prelude to The House of William Grant, the premier party of Bar Week. Over 700 on trade professionals packed into The Abercrombie Hotel to see the Bar Awards finals, won by Merivale’s James Irvine, and experience our brands in what was a fantastic nigh to celebrate our hospitality trade.

In 2022 we had a strategic focus on mixology and cocktail culture, and this was embedded into our business with a full year of distribution of the DeKuyper’s portfolio of premium liqueurs and schnapps. To showcase DeKuyper’s position as a premium liqueur offering, we hosted the legendary Ivy Mix of Speed Rack fame with a series of masterclasses and dinners during Sydney Bar Week.

Ivy spoke of her journey through the hospitality industry, the cocktail creation process and the importance of consistency when creating drinks that premium liqueurs such as De Kuyper offer. 

All these activities combined have made for a fantastic year to showcase our brands to the Australian consumer, and we could not do it without the ongoing support of our trade partners and our wider WG&S team – we are also collectively proud that our efforts and work with our customers was acknowledged in the latest Advantage survey and our commitment to further improve will continue! 

Going forward, our challenges remain to stay ahead of the consumer and customer trends and to bring our brands to life in the most creative, distinctive, and engaging ways. Driving our Triple Win strategy for Consumers, Customers and William Grant & Sons. 

We are well placed for growth in 2024 with a wealth of opportunity for our whisky brands as new consumers continue to explore the category. With the breadth and depth of the portfolio across multiple categories and consumer occasions, we will remain focused on investing in the growth of our brands as we have since the first production of Glenfiddich in 1887.”

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