New year, new drinks. Here’s what we reckon we’ll be debating, writing about and, most importantly, sipping in 2019. Tasting glasses at the ready…
There’s nothing we enjoy more here at MoM Towers than a good old chinwag about delectable spirits. And with the earth completing another full circuit round the sun, what better excuse to surmise, debate and generally theorise about the state of booze in 2019? Read on for the lowdown on ten drinks trends we think will influence what and how we consume in the coming 12 months. Enjoy!
Boom time for liqueurs
One of most surprising 2018 trends spotted here at MoM Towers was the rise of liqueurs. Gin liqueurs, cream liqueurs, cocktail ingredients… you name it, you bought it. And you mixed all manner of cocktails at home with it! We sold 32% more bottles of liqueurs in 2018 than the previous year, and this trend looks to strengthen even further as we all keep getting creative with our at-home imbibing. Will those violet and rhubarb concoctions hang about? We’re not sure – remember the fall-out that followed the flavoured vodka fiasco? We reckon 2019 will look a little more classic when it comes to flavours. Liqueurs will grow up, if you will.
2019 looks set to be a big year for Irish whiskey – a whole bunch of liquid from new distilleries is about to come of age. They might not immediately release it, but by our calculations the likes of Walsh Whiskey Distillery, Rademon Estate Distillery and Connacht Whiskey Company will all have legally-defined three-year-old ‘whiskey’ – and with loads more producers following in the pipeline, it’s an incredibly exciting time for the category. The Irish Whiskey Association agrees: its most recent figures showed sales hit 9.7 million nine-litre cases in 2017, putting it well on-track to exceed its 2020 growth target of 12 million cases (or 144 million bottles). Expect to hear a lot from the Emerald Isle in 2019.
Botanical spirits – or ‘gins’ without the juniper
Gin has become a big deal. We know that. But here’s the thing. There’s LOADS of debate right now about gin definitions, what makes gin a gin, and whether or not some of the most popular ‘gin’ products should even be labelled as such (our Henry joined a discussion on this in September). Spoiler alert: if it doesn’t taste ‘predominantly’ of juniper, the powers that be don’t think it should be a ‘gin’. And this is where botanical spirits come in. There is so much potential for deliciousness from spirits made in a similar way to gin but without the juniper. And we reckon we’ll see a flurry of self-declared botanical spirits in 2019. Bring it on.
Category-defying ‘spirits’ in general
On a similar note, drinks that defy the convention of category definitions are becoming A Thing, and look set to nab the booze headlines in 2019. Not sure? Just think about the momentum behind Empirical Spirits right now (Annie took a trip to visit the pioneering team last year) and the antics of the Rebel Rabbet crew. Distillers have realised that you don’t have to play by the category rules to create something outstanding – and if the results are good enough, they won’t be held back by the lack of a simple ‘whisky’ or ‘gin’ label. We’re excited to see what 2019 will bring.
We’re not just talking about Dry January here (but if you are taking it on, we’ve got your back). In 2019, we reckon we’ll all take a much more mindful approach to how and when we consume alcohol, and that will mean that sometimes we’ll opt for the dry version. Perhaps it’s alternating between something boozier, or we’ll just fancy a night off the sauce while still socialising. Which means alcohol-free alternatives will have to taste good and live up to the flavour experience of their fully-charged counterparts. There’s no doubt that Seedlip has paved the way here, but more decent no- (and low-) alcohol options are becoming available. In 2019 we’ll see more savvy brands wake up to this.
Cognac and Armagnac return to the fore
Yes, we know trends are cyclical and that nothing stays out of fashion forever. But we reckon it’s high time some of our favourite brandies came back ‘in’. And if you do a sneaky price comparison between 20 year old single malt Scotch and a Cognac or Armagnac of the same age, Team France has a distinct price advantage right now. Those in the know (perhaps you!) have been enjoying these possibilities for a while, but it won’t stay secret forever (sorry if we’ve ruined the party by pointing it out). 2019 is surely the year lovers of all things rancio turn back to Cognac and Armagnac in their droves.
We’ve already seen an increased focus on fermentation from whisky brands in their marketing and in the increased interest in the likes of kombucha. But we think 2019 will be the year yeast and fermentation become as much part of the drinks conversation as the type of casks used in maturation. Not only is it an incredible part of the flavour story (gloriously funky rums, anyone?) but it’s always fun to drill down and get super geeky about a different aspect of drinks production. So chat to us about yeast this year, please! (Ooo – and look out for fermented cocktail ingredients, too!)
Blended and blended malt Scotch whisky
We think we’ve seen the seeds of something really quite exciting happening when it comes to blended (and blended malt) Scotch whisky. Johnnie Walker’s been up to all sorts this year (releasing Ghost & Rare, opening flagship stores, and there’s the small matter of a tie-up with a random TV show), but others have been proclaiming the virtues of malt plus grain. Compass Box remains at the forefront of blending artistry, and other independent bottlers are all over quirky expressions (Blended Whisky Co., Douglas Laing and R&B Distillers, to name but three). And let’s not forget the continuing popularity of Monkey Shoulder, especially when it comes to mixing. As focus shifts more to flavour and experience in drinks, we predict a greater emphasis on the quality of blended whiskies in 2019. Step out of single malt’s shadow and flourish!
Could agave beat rum to premiumisation nirvana?
We’re sticking our necks out a smidge with this one – but nothing ventured, nothing gained. We think there’s more than a chance that we’ll see agave spirits (especially Tequila and mezcal) overtake rum on the premiumisation ladder in 2019. Both the Tequila and rum categories have worked hard to shake off a hard-partying image, but we reckon the signs are there that our collective perceptions of agave spirits will overtake rum as the next big serious sipper. Why? Rum’s been trying to sort itself out for years, but the sheer number of agave brands commanding a following (consider Del Maguey, Ocho, Casamigos, Tapatio, Ilegal) give them the edge on the cool factor right now. What could be rum’s saviour? Grown-up Tiki. But even so, we reckon 2019 will be agave’s year at the expense of rum.
Perhaps not a ‘trend’, but we think the overriding mood of 2019 will be one of caution. It’s a sense that will have an influence all the way through drinks, from what we all sip at home to how we enjoy ourselves out in pubs, bars and clubs. And the vibe will underpin all the trends above as well. Why? From Brexit to political division in the US, an uncertain economic outlook, and even a consume-less-enjoy-more attitude from all of us will mean less risk-taking from the big drinks firms, which filters right down to all parts of the industry. It’s not all bad, though – it could open the doors for smaller disruptors to come and transform the playing field. We hope so. But for the most part, our crystal balls are suggesting a cautious business-as-usual outcome.
What do you reckon? What do you think 2019’s and shakers will be? Let us know on social or in the comments below!