A Double, Neat, with a Twist: Understanding the Millennial Whiskey Revival

A Double, Neat, with a Twist: Understanding the Millennial Whiskey Revival A Double, Neat, with a Twist: Understanding the Millennial Whiskey Revival A Double, Neat, with a Twist: Understanding the Millennial Whiskey Revival
by Rick Leech
Who comes to mind when you hear the word “whiskey?” Until recently, the image conjured up was likely some variation of an older man, sitting in nice armchair and holding a rocks glass full of his favorite scotch or bourbon, talking about the way things used to be. Whiskey had the reputation of the “grandfather” of the liquor world; not as suave as rum, as wild and fun as vodka and tequila, or as stuffy as gin. Among Gen X-ers, vodka was the go-to spirit for good times, and in the 1990s, the mixed drink was all the rage (as evidenced by the spike in popularity of the Cosmo, largely due to the influence of Sex and the City).

But the times have changed, and a new generational group has come of age—and to the forefront of American consumerism; the illustrious but esoteric Millennial. Defined as aged 18-34, the Millennial cohort has received a lot of press recently, and has ushered in a new definition of “cool.” By analyzing our BAV Demographic and Psychographic data, we can compare the differences between Millennials and the general population. For example, Millennials are more likely than the general population to describe themselves as dynamic, arrogant, trendy, and glamorous, but less likely to see themselves as being respected, traditional, and reliable.

We can gain a deeper understanding of their habits and personalities by looking into the 4C’s Values Segmentation. The 4 C’s evaluates consumers’ personality traits and preferences and categorizes them into one of seven distinct groups based on their responses. Looking at their results, we see that Millennials are much more likely than the general population to be Explorers (who value spontaneity, novelty, and discovery) and Aspirers (who value status, prestige, and style), while the general population is more likely to be either the Resigned type (generally older people who are set in their ways and value tradition, familiarity, and nostalgia) or the Mainstreamer Type (who value economy, security, and established “family” brands).


Millennials’ drive for prestige, novelty, and discovery carry over into the brands they prefer and use, and especially to what they drink. If we look into the BAV data, we see a fascinating trend emerging in recent years. As shown in the pillars above, Millennials view Whiskey as a whole as being much more Differentiated than the general population does, and surprisingly, find it much more Relevant. Despite this relevance, the general population has higher Knowledge of whiskey and has higher Esteem for it, revealing an interesting opportunity for purveyors of whiskey: an economically powerful group who is ready and willing to give them a shot.


Delving deeper, we find that Millennials tend to view whiskey in a drastically different light from the general population. If we look at the above chart, we see that Millennials see whiskey as being Charming, Dynamic, and Different, revealing their more modern and contemporary view of a seemingly older product. On the other hand, the general population sees whiskey as being traditional, arrogant, authentic, and original; all values that show they view whiskey as nothing new, simply an old-standby.


Additionally, if we look to the brands that share associated imagery with whiskey, we see that among Millennials, brands like Polaroid, BBC, and AMC (home of Mad Men and possibly this generation’s answer to the 90s’ Cosmo/Sex and the City trend) pop out, revealing a sense of nostalgia for older, more “retro” brands. On the other hand, whiskey seems old and outdated but reliable to the general population, being associated with brands like Dockers and Grey Poupon. To them, whiskey is something they aren’t necessarily ecstatic about, but are glad to have around when they need it.
From what we see in the data and in the headlines, it certainly seems like we are on the verge of a full-blown whiskey resurgence, with the Japanese Suntory Holdings group acquiring American spirits company Beam Inc. (makers of Jim Beam, Knob Creek, and Maker’s Mark) earlier this year for $16 billion. And it’s no surprise that sales of Fireball whisky are through the roof, especially among Millennials, who see the brand’s tagline (“Tastes like Heaven, burns like Hell”) as representative of what whiskey is to them, and not the image of their grandfather sitting by the fire with a glass of 21-year-old single-malt Scotch. Whiskey is on the verge of becoming the go-to drink for this generation; it just needs a little shot to make the revolution complete. Cheers!


All Content © 2017 BrandAsset Consulting

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