Berry Bros & Rudd aims high in Asia with spirits brands

UK/ASIA PACIFIC. Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR), the venerable British wine and spirits specialist that boasts an illustrious history, may have been operating as a merchant for hundreds of years, but it’s as a supplier of top-notch spirits brands – specifically The Glenrothes single malt Scotch whisky and No 3 Gin – for which it is gaining a reputation in the travel retail arena.

First, let’s take The Glenrothes, the fast-growing Speyside single malt. BBR wants consumers around the world to fall in love with this 132-year-old malt brand, of course, but it is on Asia that the company is focusing for serious growth.

“BBR wants [The Glenrothes] to be listed among the top five or six single malts in Asia,” BB&R Spirits Business Director – Asia Johnny Roberts told The Moodie Report as he guided us through the historic monument that doubles as the BBR shop in the tranquil, wealthy London district of St James’s.

The word “˜shop’ doesn’t quite cut it, though. As a supplier to the British royal family since the 1870s, the location right beside St James’s Palace exudes tradition and heritage. The old floorboards come from a ship, an ancient weighing machine sits in the centre, and the wine cellar is over 300 years old. A group of Asian buyers who recently visited the boutique were overwhelmed by wonder as they gazed at the living history around them, according to Roberts. The ancient relics on display include the first-ever wine bottles used in the UK – one of which recalls the generously rounded bottle shape of The Glenrothes.

Historic monument: Berry Bros & Rudd’s shop in the wealthy London district of St James’s exudes tradition and heritage

Under an agreement, The Glenrothes is distilled and bottled by The Edrington Group, which, along with Beam Global Spirits & Wines, forms part the Maxxium distribution consortium. BBR and Edrington clearly have a great working partnership; Roberts paid tribute to Edrington’s The Macallan for its luxury branding approach, singling out Edrington’s star performer in the hotly fought single malt whisky segment.

Artisanal: Each bottle features printed handwritten tasting notes on the label, and a year denotes the vintage

Roberts emphasised that The Glenrothes is bottled by the Malt Master, Gordon Motion, at the “peak of perfection” and, as a point of difference from other whiskies on the market and in a nod to the company’s wine heritage, a year denotes the vintage on the label. This is not the same as an age statement, Roberts was quick to note, as BBR believes this becomes less important if the liquid is bottled when the taste is deemed to be at its peak.

BBR wants [The Glenrothes] to be listed among the top five or six single malts in Asia
Johnny Roberts
Business Director – Asia
BB&R Spirits

Indeed, the brand’s marketing tagline is: “Maturity matters, not age”, in a humorous reference to French liquor group Pernod Ricard’s Age Matters consumer education campaign which has sparked a debate in the drinks industry over the subject of age statements on bottle labels.

The product range comprises The Glenrothes Robur Reserve, The Glenrothes Three Decades and, introduced this year, the travel retail exclusive The Glenrothes 1991 Vintage. Each bottle features printed handwritten tasting notes on the label, echoing the practice employed by Malt Masters in Scotch whisky distilleries. These unusual and distinctive labels are designed to add authenticity to the product. The outer packaging is made from a brown recyclable card for a further age-old, artisanal, wholesome feel. In Asia, the firm produces special packs for key gifting occasions.

Roberts acknowledged the huge presence and might of the big brands like Diageo-owned Johnnie Walker, as well as the creativity of the recent Martell Experience, but BBR is determined to forge its own path. The company sets much store by training any frontline staff who come into contact with the product, including store staff and promotional personnel who host tastings or events at airports.

Roberts himself has conducted hundreds of tastings over the past two years, aiming to employ a healthy dose of humour as he takes his pupils through all the elements of the whisky. He observed that many airport hosts will never have tasted a single malt Scotch in their lives, so he must often start the education process from square one.

This “education, education, education” strategy seems to be effective. Although originally established in 1879, The Glenrothes brand was only launched into travel retail in 2009. Today, The Glenrothes is making headway in the channel, and is carried by major airport retailers in Taiwan, at Taoyuan, with EverRIch and Tasa Meng; Hong Kong International, with Sky Connection; and Singapore Changi with DFS Group – where the brand’s performance is “really strong”.

A new listing with King Power Group at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi was recently confirmed to The Moodie Report. Another prized new listing is with China Duty Free Group – “we’re in all the right stores”, enthused Roberts.

“We’ve had a great start to the year. Sales have grown +300% over the past year,” enthused Roberts, who is based in Shanghai and speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese. “We expect to grow strongly in the next two to three years, driven by education – building brands by education and tastings – value-added, strong pricing and great promotion. Quality and service underpin everything we do.”

In terms of promotions, The Glenrothes 100ml miniatures – larger than the usual miniature, and described by Roberts as a “double double” – are used frequently as gwps and are sold in packs of three, offering a sample of each whisky in The Glenrothes travel retail range. A new product development is a limited-edition run of 210 cigar humidors containing eight miniatures that will be available later this year.

A recent, successful promotion comprised a competition staged in the domestic and travel retail arena called Whisky Maker, which selected four lucky winners from around the globe to experience the traditional Scottish lifestyle of hunting, shooting and fishing – not forgetting salmon- and haggis-eating.

Talking of future plans, the next year will be all about consolidation for The Glenrothes. “Over the next 12 months we want to make sure we’re successful in the places we’re already in,” asserted Roberts.

But, always with an eye on further expansion in Asia, BBR is keen to tackle the Indian market in the next 12 months, and discussions are already under way with a potential partner.

Introducing No.3 Gin

This year, BBR introduced its No.3 Gin brand into travel retail at the 2011 IAADFS Duty Free Show of the Americas in March, for which it has high hopes. The bottle features a decorative key inlaid into the glass, a replica of the key to the parlour door in the company’s headquarters in St James’s Street.

Roberts describes the 46%abv product as a “traditional dry gin created by David Clutton, a man with a PhD degree in gin” alongside a panel of experts in the category. The liquid contains three spices and three fruits. Notably, it is the gin preferred by the leading cocktail mover-and-shaker at London’s famous Dukes Hotel bar.

The brand, which retails at around £35.00, has been rolled out in domestic markets in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia, and will make its debut in Japan later this year, said Roberts.

King’s Ginger liqueur repackaged

In travel retail, BBR also sees market potential for King’s Ginger, a ginger liqueur developed in 1903 for King Edward VII. The high-strength 41%abv product was brought into the spirits side of the BBR business only recently and was repackaged a year ago. Bottled by Dutch liqueur specialist De Kuyper, it is carried in major hotels and in London’s top bars.

In conclusion, Roberts noted that as the company seeks to expand its spirits business in travel retail, BBR’s name is known and respected. “We have a good reputation; customers trust BB&R, our liquids and dedication to quality and service,” he said.

Poised for growth: The No.3 Gin brand and King’s Ginger ginger liqueur are newly launched in travel retail

Food & Beverage The Magazine eZine