The Distillers’ City Debate 2015

Just how innovative is the whisk(e)y industry? is the subject of this year’s Distillers;’ City Debate on May 14.

The City of London livery company asks this of a panel drawn from companies with a reputation for innovation, city analysts with so-called ‘agent-provocateur’ Ian Buxton.

Compared with white spirits, whisky is often perceived as aiming its appeal to mature drinkers and concentrating on tradition and heritage.

Damien Heary, William Grant & Sons’ for innovation and planning director and Edrington’s director-blends, Glen Gribbon, are expected to highlight moves by the scotch whisky industry to to appeal to new potential consumers looking for excitement, prestige, value, and even flavours, never previously dreamt of.

While spirits writer Buxton, and Nomura International’s managing director global beverage analyst Ian Shackleton will question whether they are as innovative and effective as they think.

Heary and Gribbon are expected to point to the focus on the global travel retail sector: - where much of the innovation begins, often at very prestigious prices; range explosion which encourages consumers to discover new lines; replacing age statements with exotic names to escape the comparative ladder of age as the sole measure of value and limited editions appealing to the growing market of collectors.

There is also grain whisky, once perceived as the least exciting part of the whisky which now commands a premium.

The debate will be chaired by Trevor Stirling, beverage analyst at Sanford C Bernstein. He said: “The whisky industry faces something of a paradox in subjecting itself to very tight definition to preserve its heritage and guard its long term future, while re-inventing itself all over the world to broaden its appeal to new consumers. This discussion will focus on whether the two are compatible”

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