CLASS speaks to Andrea Montague, head of advocacy at Edrington UK about the growth of aged spirits in summery drinks.

Traditionally, we think of aged spirits as being wintery, unaged spirits as summery. Why do we have these associations, where do they come from?

Aged spirits were perceived as being wintery because of the depth, complexity and flavour that you gain from the casks - which are generally classified as being more warming, and therefore better suited to colder days. However, increasingly, dark spirits are being considered for year-round drinking due to their versatility and the consumer desire for longer, more natural dark spirt serves.

What aged spirit serves are you seeing starting to buck this traditional perception?

I think the Whisky Highball is something we've seen growing in popularity over recent years, particularly in the UK where Japanese whisky and Japanese culture has been growing rapidly in terms of focus and understanding. We are also seeing increasing creativity around the highball, from the flavour of soda or mixer and the creation of new syrups that bodes well for a delicious dark spirit combination.

What tips do you have for matching (or perhaps contrasting) with the oak profile of aged spirits?

A good place to start is to think. What grows together goes together. For instance, Brugal 1888, hailing from the Dominican Republic, goes well with notes of coffee and chocolate. If you are unaware of where it comes from, it is best to think about the flavour aromas. Grassier, more mineral notes will pair best with lighter less flavour intensive foods.

Whisky highballs have seen some traction in recent years - do you think this serve has the ability to not only take some of the G&T market, but to usher in new drinkers into the category?

Absolutely, one of the biggest hurdles for new consumers to the whisk(e)y category is that it is often seen as too strong, harsh, burns etc, so the highball offers a new drinking opportunity that is lighter, brighter and more refreshing than drinking neat, whilst still highlighting the flavours and nuances of the base spirit. This is the same for a G&T. it’s drinkers would not necessarily drink gin if it was served neat as this would be too harsh or too strong. The addition of tonic brings consumers into a category that would perhaps not be as explored.

The versatility of dark spirits enabling them to be mixed and drunk in creative ways is an exciting time for consumers to enter the category to explore a new world of flavour.

What drinking occasions are unexplored and offer growth potential to aged spirits/ flavoured soda brands?

We tend to associate celebratory occasions with popping open a bottle of champagne/sparkling wine to toast to the birthday/wedding/new job etc. but I see a real opportunity for aged spirits to begin to tap into this consumption occasion.

For example, cracking open a bottle of 18-year-old whisky for someone's 18th birthday, toasting with a few neat glasses of premium sipping rum in the summer when enjoying a summer break from work. Particularly when you look towards the super-premium products and brands that exist within spirits, like Brugal rum, these offer a fantastic opportunity to celebrate occasions with a little splash of luxury.