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Young drinkers are mad about whisky

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No longer the reign of stuffy old men, premium whisky is finding an audience with young men and women in Australia.

Every month Australians drink almost 19 glasses of whisky, that’s up from three million over the same time period in 2009, according to a new Roy Morgan survey.

While it may be coincidence, when the images of Mad Men’s charismatic Don Draper, Roger Sterling and Joan Holloway sipping single malt hit screens in 2007, more 25-34 year olds started drinking whisky.

Though some may argue it was Ron Burgundy in 2004’s Anchorman that kick started the thirst for scotchy, scotch scotch in the younger age bracket.

The Roy Morgan survey found 25-34 year-olds were the most likely group to be whisky drinkers, followed by 18-24 year-olds (11.9 per cent), with 35-49, 50-64 and 65+ groups remaining comparatively steady.

Angela Smith from Roy Morgan Research said “metrotechs”, (otherwise known as young urban professionals), were also considerably over-represented in the premium whisky market.

In terms of brands Johnnie Walker Red leads the nation at 22 per cent “throat share”. Grant’s, Black Douglas and Ballantine’s declining over the past five years, now overtaken by Jameson, Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker Black.

But among 25-34 year-old whisky drinkers, Jameson at 22 per cent replaces Johnnie Walker Red at 13 per cent as the most popular brand. In this age bracket Johnnie Walker Black had almost the same share at 11 per cent.

Tasmanian whisky producer Belgrove Distillery owner Peter Bignell said younger men and women had changed their tastes.

“It’s certainly coming into the younger people’s tastes, it used to be stuffy old men, but now some of the better whisky judges are women, they have much better palates.

“I’ve been trying to promote my product a lot and when you show them how to drink it properly, I reckon I’ve converted a fair few myself.”

Drinking it “properly” means neat – and definitely no cola. Just like Don Draper, or Ron Burgundy – though both have been seen to down the glass in a single gulp.


“All spirits, especially whisky, they should be just sipped neat and not shot down, like the younger ones do it. Down it all goes I think they are trying to skip the taste buds.”

Mr Bignell started producing whisky in Tasmania in 2010. He was the seventh in the state to start distilling, the first being Lark’s Distillery 21 years ago, and there’s now 10 Tassie whisky producers with more on the way.

He says it’s partly the businesses responding to market demand, and partly a thirst for something new.

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