Why bargain basement Scotch whisky is doomed.

Minimum pricing is coming, it’s coming to Scotland and it will eventually happen across the UK, I think we all know that, and that spells real trouble for those who produce the very cheapest of whiskies, let me tell you why.

Cheap spirits are taken by a few groups of people but they all have one thing in common, they are wanting the most bang for their buck that they can get and Scotch whisky has a distinct disadvantage when it comes playing about with their pricing.

Scotch, as we all know, must be a minimum of 40% abv which will put the cost of the very cheapest whiskies to £14 a bottle so when you’re looking for something which will have the desired effect for the least amount suddenly bottom shelf whisky becomes very expensive indeed, but fear not, because all the other cheap spirits will have to raise their price too, right? No.

The 40% minimum abv doesn’t apply to rum, gin or vodka so what do they do? Well, they lower the abv down a notch, just one percent, maybe one and a half, it’ll still get you smashed, which let’s be honest is why you’re buying it, so why would you buy the whisky? And remember dear reader, we’re talking about as much as three or four pounds which is loads of money when money is an issue.

Sales of cheaper blends are already down, this could kill them off completely, certainly for the UK market but that’s the very bottom, what’s in store for Bell’s, Famous Grouse, Whyte and Mackay and Grant’s?

I was in Tesco the other day, I saw Grant’s under what will be the new price minimum, same with Bell’s and Famous Grouse too so all will no longer be able to do those wee couple of quid off deals which must make them so tempting.

These brands are huge and for a reason, they are well marketed products for a start, they also have a certain heritage, these are the whiskies that many of started our whisky life with, they are the drinks our dad’s and grandad’s took, except they aren’t, are they?

Many of the old favourites just aren’t what they used to be, the more popular single malts become, as they are, the old faithful blends just don’t have access to the best casks, wee bit more grain thrown in to sort out the lumps and bumps of the poorer quality single grains.

Let’s be fair here, if you’re buying whisky because it’s your favourite tipple and you’re in the supermarket then you’re still going to buy your favourite, but what about the drinks you’re having when you’re just having a mid week dram or a weekend sessions with mates? Why buy cheap whisky when you can get cheaper rum thanks to the slightly lower abv?

I can see the really cheap stuff going to the wayside, with sales already struggling there may well be no point in making it and I think, maybe, we might see the big names cheap blends raising their game, making their product actually worth buying, and I don’t mean rubbish like Mellow Gold from Grouse. Grant’s are probably doing the most to improve their product, the new range is okay, worth a punt and miles better than Grouse, Whyte and Mackay are just meh, nothing offensive but why would you bother? But, the 13 year old is one of the best £20 drams I’ve ever tried, an absolute belter of a dram, when it’s on offer then it is absolutely worth buying, perhaps they will concentrate on quality or maybe they’ll just start a Dalmore blend, I’ve heard worse suggestions lately.

This will hit Lidl and Aldi too, and they are selling some cracking cheap whiskies. Both the 8 Year Old Highland Black and Highland Earl smoked Edition in particular are both excellent and both in danger of being forced over a minimum price.

I’m sort of torn on the whole thing, I don’t really think we need a super savers whisky and I’m all for the big boys having to raise their game but I’m also wary that whisky lovers are being priced out of the market and that those on a low income will have no option than to turn to nasty vodka or what have you.

The Captain.

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