Cutty Sark and the Real McCoy

Cutty-Sark_bannerWine and Spirits Daily had an interview with the global head honcho of Cutty sark, which is owned by The Edrington Group (Macallan, Famous Grouse, others). In the interview and a previous story, he talks of the turnaround of the brand. In fact, he predicts 5% or higher growth over the next five to ten years.

Is this hype or real?

Cutty+sarkLet’s take a close look. After all, this is a brand that has had 25 years of decline from 2 million cases in the 1950s and 60s to less than 150,000 recently.

What the brand has going for it is the recent movement to Remy Cointreau and their knowledge and focus on scotch. They should be able to push the brand as part of their scotch portfolio and have a vested interest in keeping the Edrington people happy. So check the box on leverage and clout.

A number of side benefits also come with the move to Remy. As a new brand with a full, strong portfolio behind them, they will fill distribution gaps and move into important brand building accounts.

But, wait a minute, isn’t it a bit early to declare victory on the path to a turnaround? From the data I saw, for the four-week’s performance to Feb 24, the brand grew in SymphonyIRI data by 3.2% compared to a -5% for the year.

1967 ad
1967 ad

What about the consumer? What are the motivations that Cutty Sark provides to get a call for it? WSD suggest that its occasional presence on Mad Men, and the retro drinking influence may be helping. That could be, but is it enough?

As I read the article, I became more and more puzzled by the empty pronouncements of success just over the horizon. I can’t figure out the basis on which young consumers are discovering Cutty Sark. Is there a cocktail or signature drink that’s driving the brand? We’re told that Cutty “was created to be easy-drinking, easy-mixing and not particularly challenging.” So is water.

Here’s my favorite quote and an example of world-class marketing BS – “For me, I’m not looking to take business {from} the Scotch category, I’m already seeing us take business in bars from the Irish category.” Really? Cutty Sark is taking business from brands like Jameson that is among the fastest growing brands in the country?

Cutty Sark is an excellent brand with an interesting history. Legend has it that it was Cutty Sark that helped to create the expression the Real McCoy. The story goes back to prohibition and I found it here.

“One man who regularly sailed between Nassau and Rum Row was Captain William McCoy, of Scots origin and living in Florida, who began running liquor in 1921 using a schooner named Arethusa. By this time suppliers and distillers were often meeting the immense consumer demand with very poor quality liquor, and McCoy decided to make his reputation by supplying high quality products, chiefly Scotch whisky. This strategy worked well, to the considerable financial benefit of McCoy, whose name entered the English language as a result of the reputation he acquired.”

“In particular, McCoy ran large quantities of Cutty Sark…”

So there you have it. A brand built on authenticity and known as the Real McCoy
 is the subject of hype and marketing BS today.

Hey, Mr. Global Head Honcho of Cutty Sark: you have a brand with a great story. Why not try to leverage that provenance instead of making empty claims?

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Scotch: Blends, Malts and Your Father

dewars distillery

Single malts have driven the Scotch category for more than a decade with steady and consistent growth. Brands like The Glenlivet, The Macallan, Glenfiddich and Glenmorangie seem to drive malts and, in turn, malts drive US scotches.

Blended whisky is still the backbone of scotch, but even brands like Johnnie Walker, Dewar’s and Chivas Regal can’t seem to stop the hemorrhaging of this segment.

What does this have to do with your father?

Well, back in the day, those in the booze business felt that given 1) the difficulty of overcoming the taste hurdle of scotch and 2) it’s lack of mixability — if you found a scotch drinker, then you can be sure that his/her father introduced them to it.

That’s a problem today since most fathers stopped (or never started) drinking scotch in the first place. Besides, “my father’s scotch” is right up there with Oldsmobile. So much for modern day mentorship as a motivator for drinking scotch.

DHH Bottle FinalEnter Dewar’s Highlander Honey, the subject of my last posting.

I gave many reasons why I see this as a success so I won’t repeat them. Scroll down and see for yourself.

However, since writing that post, I’ve had occasion to speak with Arvind Krishnan, VP Brand Managing Director, Dewar’s and to taste the product along with some friends and scotch aficionados.

First, the Dewar’s people have done a great job of blending the taste of Dewar’s with fantastic notes of honey. This stuff is not artificial tasting and, the honey and scotch combine to provide a whole new flavor. As a result, they have also combined experience and exploration – as in the experience of enjoying scotch and the discovery of how pleasant and desirable it can be.

Here are two thoughts on the flavored spirits world. The Huffington Post wrote this week about flavored vodka under the heading, Flavored Vodka Companies Continue To Debut New Flavors, But Why? You can find it here.

heather

When you get away from the kiddie flavors in vodka, you come across serious flavored American whiskies that are growing rapidly. Just this week I read that Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey has sold close to 500,000 cases in just two years.

I predict that not only will Dewar’s Highlander Honey succeed but also there will be a host of others on the market in the not too distant future. You can bet on it.

Oh, and that taste test?

It’s best summed up by the statement one non-scotch drinker made, “I had no idea scotch could taste so good.”

 

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New Booze Products: Brilliant and Dumb

Wine and Spirits Daily had two announcements about new spirits product recently. One makes sense and the other, well, you decide.

Highlander honeyGood Idea

The flavored whiskey category has been on fire with brands like Wild Turkey American Honey, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, and Jim Beam Red Stag among others. Now the folks from Dewar’s Scotch (owned by Bacardi) are entering the flavored whisk(e)y category with Highlander Honey, a scotch infused with honey.

Imagine, they have the audacity to try to break down the stuffiness and out-of-date sacred walls of the blended scotch category. Never mind that blended scotch growth has been declining to flat in the past decade while other whiskies (including malts) have been growing. It’s not about adapting to changing tastes, it’s about a stiff upper lip refusing to swallow change.

Check this out. The Diageo head of whisky outreach (huh? I think that’s a way of saying, ‘can I buy you a drink?’), was quoted as saying Scotch has too much “integrity” and “authenticity” to get into flavors. Diageo and integrity in the same sentence? My word! Also, the Scotch Whiskey Association is not very happy about it. Better to go down with the ship, eh, what?

Hey, it’s a good idea for the reasons I shared with Wine and Spirits Daily,

“It’s a terrific idea and well worth trying,” long-time industry exec Arthur Shapiro told WSD. ” First, the blended scotch market is declining and this could be a shot in the arm. Second, the flavored whiskey (US) brands have ‘greased the skids’ so consumer acceptance would be easier than it might have been before these brands came on the market. Third, it adds contemporariness to the scotch area and removes the stuffiness. Fourth, probably makes for a good mixed drink. Finally, I like the ‘seriousness’ of scotch and the fun of a flavored scotch product.”

Put that in your copper still and cook it.

Mama WalkerYou gotta be kidding me

Pernod Ricard, who until recently earned my respect for terrific innovations and new products, has launched what seems to be an April Fool’s joke.

They are introducing a line of new products under the Hiram Walker name called Mama Walker’s breakfast liqueurs. Apparently it’s intended to “tap into the comfort food, sweet and savory flavor combinations” trend (or is it fad?) not to mention the confectionary/cake vodka flavors. This breakfast of champions is available in Maple Bacon, Blueberry Pancake and Glazed Donut.

Come on folks, are you serious? Next thing you’re going to tell us is that they hardly taste artificial.

Can’t you just see the ad campaign?

“A bit hung over from a hard night of drinking? Looking for something to smooth out the rough edges? Forget about the all night diner and the bacon, eggs and pancake special. Try some of Mama Walker’s breakfast liqueurs… we’ll perk you right up with our original comfort booze. Just remember… your Mama knows best.”

Or:

“Tired of the same old breakfast? Cereal, eggs or fruit can be soooo boring… Start you day off right with Mama Walker’s breakfast liqueurs. What a great way to face the stress of what awaits you. Boss on your back? Kids on your nerves? Mama can help…Comes with or without a brown paper bag… But, remember, don’t eat breakfast and drive!”

Any thoughts on either product?

 

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