Sales results from Viking Line’s fifth Whisky Fair (17-20 January) indicate that not only is the category attracting more attention, but that fans are buying higher-end products.
The fair, now in its fifth year, attracted 4,289 connoisseurs on three 21.5-hour cruises from Stockholm to the Åland Islands in the Baltic Sea, up by +13.8% from last year. In 2011 it attracted 2,819 passengers, on two sailings.
This year passengers spent a total of €1.495m ($2m) on board (including restaurant sales) versus €1.2m last year according to the ferry company, which is a rise of +24.6%.
Anna Wennström (left), Viking Line’s Spirits Campaign Manager, tells TRBusiness.com: “The increase came mainly from sales at the fair: a rise in the numbers of bottles sold, and also more expensive bottles.”
Swedish demand for whisky, especially for limited editions, exclusive or aged products is rising among fans. This year, Viking displayed in the region of 550 whiskies, plus the odd rum, gin and beer, with a strong representation for Swedish brands such as Mackmyra Svensk Whisky.
The brand owners and supply companies with the biggest portfolios on display were Clydesdale, Diageo, Five Eyes, Ian Macleod Distillers, Interbrands/Whyte & Mackay, Maxxium, Morrison Bowmore, Symposion International and William Grant & Sons.
DEBATES & MASTER CLASSES
As previously reported, Maxxium-distributed brands, Laphroaig and Jim Beam, held entertaining Scotch versus bourbon debates accompanied by tutored tastings from Laphroaig Distillery Manager, John Campbell (right) and seventh generation descendant of Jim Beam – and the company’s Master Distiller – Fred Noe (below).
Daily master classes were run by Highland Park’s Martin Markvardsen, Karen Fullerton from Moët-Hennessy, John Glass from Ian Macleod Distillers, plus several others.
Bottle prices at the busy fair ranged from SEK119 ($17.65) for a Jack Daniels Winter Punch (70cl, ABV 15%) up to SEK265,000 ($40,665) for The Balvenie 50 Year Old (70cl).
Wennström says: “We saw an increase in sales in the €200-500 category so the trend this year was that we sold more bottles at a higher price but no really expensive ones. We still have the The Balvenie 50yo left as well as the Ardbeg Double Barrel 1974, but I believe that we have a customer who is very interested in the latter.” Ardbeg’s 1974 vintage Double Barrel presentation set of two 70cl bottles (below right) was on display for SEK109, 000 ($16,726).
CHARITY AUCTION RAISES $11,900
During the fair, Viking Line held a charity auction in which it managed to raise over SEK77,600 ($11,900) towards a cleaner seas campaign. Suppliers donated products and 100% of the proceeds went directly to the beneficiary.
According to Viking Line, the most in-demand item at the auction was Grant’s Stand Fast, a rare item only to be found in Grant’s own archives. Grant’s donated three bottles, one for each sailing, and they went for SEK13,000 the first day, SEK13,500 the second day, with one lucky passenger paying just SEK4,000 on the final sailing.