kira webster, winner of st. louis united states bartenders guild glenfiddich competition photo courtesy william grant & sons global brands

Diversity revolutionizes whisky industry

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Whisky has come a long way over the past 100 years. The industry remains rooted in tradition, but technology and innovation are enhancing everything from distillation to maturation to finishing techniques.

The face of those educating and promoting whisky has also changed. No longer is it only a seasoned gentleman behind a bar telling the story behind the label. While that individual is still loved, there are now younger generations from myriad backgrounds sharing their love of whisky with their peers, and this changing dynamic of imbibers is increasingly reflected in the global representation.

With more diverse backgrounds now helming prominent companies like William Grant and Sons, Beam Suntory and Brown-Forman, it’s easy to understand why the industry continues to grow. The increasing variety of thought is evident in everything from product innovation and advertising demographics to distribution. 

“The rest of the world might envision a guy in a smoking jacket holding a cigar, drinking whisky while eating steak, but that demographic has been changing for awhile,” said Meredith Barry, beverage director at a local hotel and restaurant. “Unfortunately, there is still somewhat of a stereotype, but we’re pushing the boundaries. Ordering whisky as a woman doesn’t make me masculine. It doesn’t mean anything except I enjoy whisky.”

meredith barry, beverage director at a local hotel and restaurant // photo courtesy william grant & sons global brands

The entire landscape is morphing as true game-changers have recently joined the scene: single malt cocktails. Flavor imparted by the wood during maturation, along with inventive combinations enlisted by malt masters, usher in a new world of flavor ideation. Notes of nuttiness and dried raisins from sherry casks paired with baking spices and tropical notes from Caribbean rum casks are ideal in cocktails, and these styles are now being incorporated into single malts. 

“The experimentation of using different barrels and aging statements is piquing the interest of more and more people,” Barry said.

Last year, Glenfiddich launched Fire & Cane, a rum cask-finished, highland peated scotch that opened the doors for cocktail creation, ranging from elaborate tiki-style drinks to traditional classics.

“I like a float of Fire & Cane on a Penicillin made with [Glenfiddich] 12 Year,” Barry said. “It’s got ginger, honey and citrus notes for a perfectly smoky-sweet drink.”

During the initial cocktail boom, single malts were often left behind due to price point and stigma. With the growing demand for quality over quantity, however, the need for a higher-end spectrum is greater than ever. Single malts deserve a veritable place on cocktail menus to meet the burgeoning demand, as well as expose more people to the category. 

“The 15 Year [Glenfiddich single malt] Solera VAT is phenomenal,” Barry said. 

This summer, be on the lookout for free #UnlearnWhisky passports at your favorite cocktail bars in town to experience the impact 15 diverse bartenders have on creating exceptional and progressive cocktails utilizing the wide range of Glenfiddich whiskies.

“If you like it, drink it,” Barry said. “It’s not for any particular group; whisky is for everyone.”

photo courtesy william grant & sons global brands

Fire and Rain

Recipe by Kira Webster 
Winner of St. Louis United States Bartenders Guild Glenfiddich Competition

1¼ parts Glenfiddich Fire & Cane

¾ parts Punt e Mes

½ part salted cinnamon almond dram

½ part rainwater madeira

3 dashes Scrappy’s black lemon bitters

2 dashes Jerry Thomas decanter bitters

• Stir and serve with a flamed orange peel.

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