Key Drink Trends 2017

The drinks industry is forever changing, as new ages of drinkers step up, ideas evolve and certain products see a resurgence. Using our expert knowledge, we have forecast our predictions for drink trends in 2017 – Japanese whisky, gin, rum and food pairings are all set to make waves in the drinks industry, click on the tabs below to find out why.

The rise of Japanese whisky is a recent phenomenon in the West, but believe it or not, it actually dates back to the 1920s. However, it wasn’t until Nikka’s Yoichi Single Cast won at Whisky Magazine’s Best of the Best awards that Japan well and truly found its place on the map as a Whisky producing nation. Now in 2017 we predict even bigger things for the punchy oriental spirit! We also forecast that other Asian whisky producing nations will be on the up, up, up – pipping Taiwan as the one to watch in the next few years…

Japanese Whisky


Although founders of Japanese Whisky, Masataka Takesuru and Shinjiro Torii, tried to replicate the much-loved Scottish Whisky, it was the discerning Japanese palette and tweaks made to the recipe, that has made it such a big hit, both at home and here in the West! Its defining characteristics, which set it apart from Scottish Whisky, is a cleaner, less peaty, woodier flavour.

The Japanese claim the fantastic taste of their Whisky stems from three simple things: water, climate and people!

Quite simply, they enjoy fantastic quality mineral water from their central mountain ranges, where many of the distilleries are located. The fluctuation in temperature, from hot summers and cold winters also mean a deeper and more rapid maturation process. This has no doubt impacted on the intense flavour and gives it that woodier taste. Finally, the people of Japan have an innate attention to detail, which means that they are constantly tweaking and enhancing the recipes. They are the masters of experimentation!

Even within one distillery there is a broad range of styles used, which manipulate the flavour and promise something unique and different with every batch. For example, they play with different sizes and shapes of stills, different yeasts, mixes of barley and grain, as well as variation in cask maturation.


In the 1970s and early 80s the Japanese industry was booming and whisky sales were on the up, but by the end of the 1980s the economic downfall in Japan caused this all to change. The whisky trade was severely affected in this time which is often known as ‘the lost decade’ and resulted in the closure of many of the country’s distilleries. In recent years however, Japanese whisky has made a considerable comeback with its reputation increasing and showing no signs of slowing down.

2017 is rum’s year to shine! In previous years, the increase in rum sales has been overshadowed by the boom in the whisky trade, suggesting that the category’s full potential was yet to be discovered. But it seems as though consumers have wised up – so make room in your cabinet for a bottle of the good stuff.

LWC recognised that consumers were becoming more perceptive to the idea of spiced rum, so created their very own, Old J! The spirit is taking the UK market by storm and Duncan the South West rep supplies establishments across the region in all shapes and guises, with the spirit a favourite amongst a wide cross section of drinkers. Edgy Exeter barbers, Lukas, serve up the spirit to their punters, with owner Luka stating:


“We love the stuff, as do our customers! As it already has a great blend of spices, it’s such an easy drinker served up straight and it definitely elevates the experience of visiting our barber shops.”

The signature drink comes in four varieties, Original, Cherry, Gold and Tiki Fire – the latter boasting the world’s first over proof spiced rum at 75.5 ABV; great for tiki cocktails and flaming!



With sugarcane byproduct as its base ingredient, the spirit tends to have a slightly sweeter and rounder taste on the pallet than others, which makes it a good crowd pleaser and easy entry point for straight-up drinking. With its roots in the Caribbean and Latin America the drink also enjoys connotations of the festival spirit, meaning not only does it taste good, but it is sure to put a smile on your face too.

There is massive diversity within the rum making industry, providing us with a great selection of varieties. Of course, the most basic ingredient in the mix can vary greatly – for example the French speaking islands of the Caribbean opt for sugar cane juice, the English-speaking islands use molasses, and other sugar cane syrup. Another key reason for the, sometimes quite seismic, differences in the spirit are the legal requirements imposed by nations for distilleries to be able to label their spirit rum. Mexican rum is expected to be aged in the barrel for at least eight months, whereas Venezuela, The Dominican Republic and Panama have a much stricter two-year policy. There are also legal requirements imposed on the ABV – Colombia has a hefty minimum proof of 50%.

Traditionally, the public favoured white rums and it was also preferred by bartenders who wanted to avoid adding colour to cocktails. However, the age of authenticity is amongst us, and any colour rum now goes! There has also been a rise in popularity of spiced, flavoured and aged rums.

Rum based cocktails have significantly helped to drive sales of the alcohol, with mojitos now a household name and a standard on many bar menus. Bartenders have also given Tiki cocktails a renaissance, all celebrating rum as their spirit base.

Other great Rums to try:
Flor de Cana 12yr, Ron Zacapa 23 or Diplomatica Reserva


There is a dark past to rum! The rum business was intrinsically tied to the Caribbean sugar trade, which involved the exchange of molasses and slaves. Despite this unpalatable link, the popularity of the drink amongst the sea-fairing colonial nations, has spread the joy of rum internationally, playing a part in the culture of Australasia, Polynesia, North America, Europe and the West indies. Because of its value as a commodity, pirates started trading the substance and it soon became their drink of choice too. The association between the two has lived on since, immortalized by literary works such as Treasure Island. But its maritime history doesn’t stop there. For more than 300 years the British Navy gave sailors a daily ration of rum, called ‘tot’ and although this was abolished in 1970, the tradition is still celebrated – raising a glass to her majesty on special occasions.

A new generation of millennials have well and truly helped to put the popular spirit back on the shelf, and it looks to stay there for yet another year! Gin sales have exploded and figures for the last few months show no signs of slowing, with predictions that sales will exceed the £1bn mark in 2017. A winner in both traditional pubs and on trend ‘gin palaces’, it is a drink, alongside sparkling wine, that seems to be very much of the moment.



Centred on the ingredient of juniper, the mixture of the remaining botanicals in the recipe can give each gin a distinct taste and aroma. The fashion has been driven by the new craze of ‘boutique distilleries’ – in recent years the number of gin distilleries have more than doubled, peaking in 2015 when 49 opened in just one year. The success of these modern micro-distilleries comes from working with old recipes and traditional techniques to produce new and exciting products.

As we enter into another year of gin frivolity, new twists are cropping up, with a focus on provenance, flavoured gin and aged gin. The drinking vessel has also become important to the gin experience – allowing maximum nose! Balloon glasses allow for fuller appreciation of the aromas, making for a sense sensation with the skinny stem keeping your drink untouched and cool.

Here in Devon the most popular brands have proven to be Tarquin’s gin, Exmoor gin, Conker and Curio with newer brands such as Salcombe putting up a good fight to join the high flyers.

LWC are preparing to take the local gin scene by storm with the launch of its very own exclusive brand of gin. With a passion for craft gins, Nic Ponticakis, Manager of the South West depot, has driven the project through from conception to reality and, although the recipe is very much under wraps in testing phase, we hope to see this new brand available on the market later this year.


Gin takes its name from the Dutch word for juniper – genever. But that’s not the only connection to the Dutch. Ever heard of the saying ‘Dutch courage’? One of the theories of the origin of this saying comes from the ‘30 Years War’, when British soldiers were fighting on Dutch land and they were bolstered with ‘Dutch courage’, i.e. they drank loads of gin! It was towards the end of the 17th century when across English Channel, gin was discovered in a big way, with many London households making their own. This became known as the ‘The Gin Craze’, an era which saw extreme overconsumption and caused Parliament to put laws into place over the course of 22 years, in an attempt to reduce levels of gin being drunk by society. Also known as ‘Mother’s Ruin’ or ‘Madam Geneva’ caused much public concern throughout the 17th and 18th century.

Popularity continued as society discovered new uses for the liquor. Soldiers and those living in colonial lands used it to mask the unpleasant flavour of anti-malarial medicine – this developed into today’s much-loved Gin & Tonic. Which brings us to the modern era which sees a resurgence in gin popularity, used now by mixologists to form cocktails or to be enjoyed neat or on the rocks. There are many varieties to choose from but some mainstream gins date back hundreds of years such as Plymouth gin while Pothecary Blended Gin Dorset is one of the newest on the market.

Perfect Pairings

Consumers have long matched wine with their meal but today’s discerning drinkers want to know which other drinks will go with their favourite food; matching tasting notes with the ingredients in the dish. A great combination can mean a perfect sensory experience! It’s no surprise that food pairings should be on trend, as it coincides with the interest and importance placed on the ingredients and their provenance that make up our alcoholic beverages.


With most establishments, even traditional pubs and bars, serving food alongside their core drinks offering, there is great opportunity for venues of all guises to up sell using this popular movement.

Many breweries now position their beers to compliment flavours whether that’s British food or more exotic flavours such as Chinese and Indian.  Like with wine and food pairings, the strength of a dish is matched with the strength of the drink – retaining some contrast. For example, a beer with some bitterness will offset a sweet dish.

Craft beers have played a big part in this and like wine they are often recognised for their complex and bold flavours. Younger consumers have also discovered a taste for ‘craft beer’ rather than just ‘beer’ or ‘ale’.


Anchor Saison ale 7.2%- Shellfish, clams, scallops, lobster crab
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – Grilled or roasted meats or medium Cheddar
Malfy Italian Gin- Tapas
Opihr Spiced gin- Moroccan tajine
Laphroaig Scotch Whisky – Roquefort
Glenmorangie Scotch Whisky – Brie
Old J Spiced rum- Apple Pie
Old J Cherry- BBQ Ribs