There’s quite a difference between an established company introducing a new expression vs. launching an entirely new product and associated brand. A new product line will need to find a customer base – it’ll invariably be competing with a wide range of pre-existing companies. But, introducing a new expression will often be positioned as an extension of an existing brand – leveraging underlying reputation, authority and loyalty to improve visibility, boost customer connections and of course to drive additional profits. British information and data measurement company Nielsen suggest that brand extensions are up to 5 times more successful than new launches.
We see this strategy employed all the time by the largest whisky producers and distributors – range extensions which offer new types of expressions, at differing prices points and sometimes in differing territories. It seems like ‘just another bottle of whisky’ – but rest assured there’s a strategy behind every launch and extensions to ranges are far from guaranteed to succeed. Pick the wrong expression to tie to your parent brand, over stretch or misjudge the price sensitivity of a market place and you risk damaging the reputation of your parent brand.
It needs to feel natural and ‘in tune’ with the brand image that you’ve already created – Colgate’s dire foray into frozen meals won’t ever be remembered kindly by history.
One of the ‘ripest’ arenas for brand extensions within the whisk(e)y world is global travel retail. The market offers very different dynamics to that of either specialist retailers or supermarkets. It’s world where the shelves are packed to the gills with bottles upon bottles, and the average attention span of a consumer is greatly reduced by the necessity of them having to get to their departure gate.
But, it’s also a playground for brand extensions - a place where consumers don’t expect to be picking up the same old, same old - the days of duty free just being the same stuff, but cheaper are long gone. Nevertheless, brand extensions into travel retail still come with the same associated reputational risks – get it wrong and the ripples may well extend outside of the aiport.
Jameson’s latest foray into travel retail comes in form of the Jameson Triple Triple – triple distilled as per, but now with an additional cask component of Malaga wine added to ex-bourbon and ex-sherry. Malaga wine, hails from Spain – the most widely planted wine producing nation in the world - though overall yields still put it behind France and Italy in terms of volume. The Malaga region (situated just to the East of Gibraltar) is known for its production of sweet, fortified wines made from Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez grapes. Despite the fact that the two grape varietals are grow throughout the region, all Malaga wines are aged in Malaga City itself.
Malaga is a particularly historic wine producing region – with records dating back 3,000 years to the time of the Phoenicians – before the Greeks and Romans exported wine making techniques further across Europe. In the 19th Century there was around 112,000 hectares of vineyards in Malaga – currently this numbers a mere 3,800. The reason for the decline? A devastating insect plague - phylloxera vastratix – tiny aphids who attach themselves to the roots of the vines and suck on the plant sap. One aphid = no problems, but phylloxera multiplies quickly and when there’s enough insects feeding on the roots of a vine it will quickly become damaged eventually snuff it. Phylloxera entered Spain in the 1870s and near wiped out its entire wine industry. The solution? Planting American vine types which are more resistant to Phylloxera, and then grafting on European varietals their roots – you’ll still see this technique employed today.
Anyhoo….back to the whiskey.
Jameson Triple Triple is being released (right about now) across global travel retail. The expression is bottled at 40% ABV and comes in a litre bottle with an RRP of €32.
Nose: Fruit notes of foam strawberries, pear syrup and crushed red berries are sweetened further with a layer of icing sugar, cotton candy, meringue and vanilla essence – all rather confectionary. Running throughout grainy corn, praline and delicate licks of cinnamon spicing.
Taste: As thin as you’d expect from 40%, but at the same time still possessing a softness and silkiness. Again leading off on fruits – strawberries and cranberries which moves towards toffee and toasted oak in the mid palate, before presenting pepper and cinnamon spicing, roasted cereals and slightly metallic graininess in the back.
Finish: Short to medium in length with fading red berry fruits, and tea-like astringency from the oak. Foam sweets with park benches.
Jameson Triple Triple rather surprised me with its genuinely different take on an industry stalwart bottling. The Malaga wine cask has added some real berry sweetness to the underlying pot still and grain whiskey composition resulting in an expression which feels transformed enough to merit its own bottling. This said, whilst the flavour profile has been changed up, the quality level is, as you might expect, very similar to the standard Jameson’s expression. Sure it’s ‘smooth’ (one could equally say underpowered), but it’s also uneven and at times uneasily youthful (particularly the grain component).
But, let’s remember – this isn’t a bottling that’s been designed for hard-core malt enthusiasts. It’s an expression designed to offer the everyday Jameson’s drinker something a little bit different. And in that regard I find it particularly successful - at €32 for a litre I can’t see anyone complaining too vociferously.
Review sample provided by Richmond Towers on behalf of Irish Distillers
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