Emerging Trends in the World of Spirits Deciphered by Fanny Darrieussecq

8 July 2024

The spirits industry continues to evolve rapidly, influenced by the changing preferences of both amateur and connoisseur consumers. Spirits enthusiasts are in constant search of new taste sensations. According to Sowine barometer data, 63% of French people consume pure spirits and 63% consume cocktails.

These figures remain stable, but trends are evolving. The year 2024 promises to be a prosperous period for spirits enthusiasts and professionals, with several emerging trends set to reshape the landscape of the spirits sector. Fanny Darrieussecq, founder of WiSP Campus, graduate of the prestigious Master of Science (MSc.) in Wine Management from the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV), certified WSET trainer since 2009, and author of the book Vinographie (Hachette), enlightens us on these trends.

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Growing Interest in Asian Spirits and Japanese Whisky

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While Asian spirits such as Japanese shochu, Korean soju, and Chinese baijiu are among the most consumed in the world, they are still relatively new in many regions. Following the trend observed with Japanese whisky, Asian spirits are expected to gain momentum in 2024 as consumer interest continues to grow, particularly among Generation Z. Datassential’s report shows that 50% of consumers are interested in soju, 37% in baijiu, and 40% in shochu.

L’exemple du Saké illustre parfaitement l’intérêt croissant pour les spiritueux japonais. Chez WiSP, on peut même se former au saké. Cette formation WSET niveau 1 Saké permet de découvrir les principaux ingrédients utilisés pour la production du saké, découvrir les différents styles particuliers de saké et de reconnaître les termes d’étiquetage japonais.

The example of sake perfectly illustrates the growing interest in Japanese spirits. At WiSP, you can even train in sake. This WSET Level 1 Sake course allows you to discover the main ingredients used in sake production, the different specific styles of sake, and recognize Japanese labeling terms. This fascinating training is open to all enthusiasts, novices, and professionals.

In the World of Whisky, Other Countries Are Emerging

Alongside the growing popularity of Japanese and Taiwanese whiskies, other less publicized whisky-producing regions are now capturing attention: Stauning from Denmark, Milk & Honey from Israel, Starward from Australia, and Black Whiskey from Peru, for example. Whisky is set to dethrone vodka in terms of sales volume in the United States for the first time in twenty years, with the increasing arrival of world whiskies on the American market.

Innovative Aging Trends in Various Casks

One of the most exciting trends in the whisky world today is experimentation with innovative aging. Distilleries are exploring various casks, notably those that have held great wines or are made from exotic and unconventional woods. These techniques create unique and enriched flavor profiles, attracting the most curious and demanding whisky enthusiasts.

Aging in wine casks, for example, brings fruity and tannic notes that complement and complexify the whisky. Bordeaux, Burgundy grand crus, as well as Port and Sherry casks, are increasingly popular for this approach. This method infuses whisky with distinct characteristics such as red fruit, caramel, and toasted oak aromas, creating a rich and multidimensional tasting experience.

Additionally, using exotic woods such as Japanese Mizunara oak, cherry wood, or even acacia wood casks offers unprecedented flavor profiles. These woods, less conventional than American or European oak, provide complex aromatic nuances like floral, spicy, or coconut notes. Distilleries thus push the boundaries of tradition to offer innovative and refined products.

Though they do not enjoy the same popularity as their Japanese counterparts, there is growing interest in French whiskies, particularly among wine merchants looking to expand their range. With nearly 200 distilleries soon in operation, the offer is abundant. Brittany remains the historical reference in this category, but peated whisky remains the big trend, regardless of origin. All distilleries have at least one peated reference.

Rum Still Reigns Supreme: The Favorite Spirit of the French

Rum remains a reliable choice for the French, closely followed by whisky. According to the SOWINE barometer, 81% of spirit drinkers consume rum, and 68% consume whisky. Vodka and liqueurs also maintain their popularity with 63%. Rum, constantly evolving, follows in the footsteps of whisky with the emergence of new appellations, stricter regulations, and an upmarket shift, particularly through limited editions. It thus remains the preferred choice of the French in terms of spirits.

There are three main categories of rum: agricultural rums, molasses rums, and “navy” rums. Agricultural rums, produced in French-speaking islands from fresh sugarcane juice, are renowned for their authenticity and aromatic richness. Molasses rums, rounder and more accessible, offer a varied aromatic palette that appeals to a wide audience. Finally, “navy” rums, with their powerful aromas, somewhat reminiscent of agricultural rums, include emblematic varieties such as those from Jamaica.

Rum continues to evolve and adapt to new trends and consumer demands. This capacity for innovation, coupled with a well-established tradition, ensures rum a privileged place in the spirits market in France.

The Rise of Tequila

Tequila confirms its rise, particularly high-end tequilas and mezcals. Although this phenomenon is still largely North American, the quality of the products increasingly seduces French palates. It is now savored pure and in cocktails.

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In France, Among Brown Spirits, Armagnac is Gaining Ground

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In France, Armagnac is experiencing a resurgence, especially among whisky enthusiasts. Benefiting from an authentic image and a flavor palette sometimes similar to whisky, Armagnac attracts a new generation of consumers, more curious and open than their elders. Despite still modest sales volumes compared to its big brother cognac, Armagnac has seen significant progress in bars and restaurants in recent years.

Finally, the Enthusiasm for Craft Spirits is Increasing

Consumers in search of authenticity are increasingly turning to small distilleries and independent producers, seeking superior quality products that respect tradition. They also wish to create their own spirits and tailor-made cocktails by selecting each ingredient, distillation method, and label with precision.

Mixology Trends: What’s New?

Innovation and boldness reign supreme in the world of cocktails. At the same time, the French are adopting a more considered consumption approach, where quality takes precedence over quantity. There is also a significant rise in eco-responsible cocktails. Moreover, bartenders are trained to create custom-made cocktails, reflecting each customer’s tastes and preferences to offer unique sensory and taste experiences. Finally, the trend of light and low-alcohol cocktails continues to gain ground.

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Fanny Darrieussecq deciphers for us the emerging trends that are redefining the bartending and mixology landscape in this fascinating article.

At WiSP, we are passionate about the world of spirits and always eager to train professionals and enlightened amateurs in this universe to make them experts and thus promote the spirits sector worldwide. Discover our WSET spirits training from Level 1 to 3 here.




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