The savoury-sweet flavour profile of peanut butter whisky has risen in prominence in the years up to 2019, and has already gained widespread social media exposure and bartender acceptance in the US. The rise of the savoury-sweet profile seems a natural successor to the spicy-sweet profile of cinnamon-flavoured whisky, which currently dominates the flavoured whisky market in the US, primarily within shot culture.
Innovative flavour profiles gain mass appeal within shot culture
The flavour profiles of popular shot brands have been evolving over recent years; this is due to both innovation by producers and the ever-shifting taste preferences of consumers.
Shot culture in the US has historically tended to consist of straight whisky or tequila, consumed as light-hearted social challenges, dares or celebrations. While many shot brands are successful, their appeal is typically limited to certain demographics (younger LDA males, for example) and consumed during high-energy night-time occasions. As more universally appealing (and often sweeter) flavour profiles have entered the market over the past 10 years, they have helped to shape a more inclusive shot culture.
Strong marketing campaigns have helped to bolster the popularity of new flavours. When shot-centric liqueurs and aperitifs first rose in appeal, their medicinal and herbaceous profiles were the cornerstone of their marketing campaigns. For example, Klaus Nomi’s 1980 Jägermeister ad campaign focused on the idea that having a Jägermeister shot was almost a badge of honor due to its medicinal taste profile. The ad campaign showed people holding a bottle and shot of the product while making various humorous faces, along with captions stating why they drink Jägermeister, such as “I’m drinking German Jägermeister because I can hold my liquor” or “…because it’s my 259th Rocky Horror Show”.
As flavour profiles evolved, they grew in popularity, and cinnamon-flavoured whisky was one that gained mass appeal. Although launched in the 1980s, it was not until the early 2010s that Fireball really took hold as the leader of this flavour trend. A combination of social media exposure, educating bartenders, word of mouth and a small amount of traditional advertising is credited with the brand’s acceptance by mainstream consumers. Today, it’s not uncommon to see people of varying ages and socio-economic groups enjoying shots of the brand.
From spicy-sweet to savoury-sweet profiles
Fireball opened the door to a single-ingredient shot that was familiar and approachable. After its successful re-introduction, Fireball quickly dominated the flavoured-shot occasion space, and reached a 45.7% share of the flavoured whisky category in 2019 in the US. This led to many other cinnamon whisky brands being launched, as well as resulting in the cinnamon flavour reaching a 50.1% share of all flavoured whisky in the US in 2019. Hot on the heels of cinnamon whisky, new single-ingredient shot flavours that also centred on the spicy-sweet profile launched into the market, such as apple, honey, peach and vanilla whisky. Collectively, flavoured whisky grew nearly 19% in the US in 2019.
With the cinnamon whisky space nearing saturation, a surprising disruptor has taken the category by storm – peanut butter-flavoured whisky.
The spicy-sweet profile of cinnamon whisky created a natural bridge to the savoury-sweet profile of peanut butter whisky. To date, Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey is the first major entry to gain a foothold in the market of this flavour profile. Though from a small base, Skrewball grew by more than 600% in 2018–2019. The sudden success of Skrewball has already led to nearly 20 other peanut butter whisky brands entering the market. Some new entrants, including Sazerac’s Sheep Dog Peanut Butter Whiskey, target a lower price point than Skrewball. Others are piggybacking on the irreverent name and backstory of Skrewball by using names such as PB&W, Nutorious, Sqrrl, and Ugly Dog. While the newcomers are trying to find their place on shelves and behind bars, Skrewball currently accounts for approximately 90% of peanut butter whisky volumes in the US.
The rise of peanut butter whisky
The peanut butter whisky arc is still in its infancy, with a 1.1% share of the flavoured whisky category in the US, but is already gaining social media and bartender acceptance. Like other shot brands that became market leaders, strong marketing campaigns are critical to success. Skrewball has an active social media presence, with daily posts featuring funny videos that reflect the brand’s ‘don’t take yourself too seriously’ attitude, as well as recipes for shots and cocktails employing the brand. To demonstrate that Skrewball isn’t just for shots, the brand gives step-by-step lessons on mixing cocktails such as the Peanut Butter Cookie, PB and Bramble (in case, as Skrewball says, you need more fruit in your diet), and its version of a mudslide, the Nutslide. Bartenders have also played an important role in the flavour’s success through the creation of a myriad of shots and drinks that play to their local crowds. Skrewball was even given an on-stage shout-out by the band Foo Fighters in June of last year.
Given the rise of Skrewball and the quick influx of other peanut butter-flavoured brands, there is ample reason to believe the upward trend will continue. “As we see more innovation in whisky flavour profiles, brands should be careful to take lessons from the flavoured vodka boom of the early 2010s,” advises Chris Budzik, Senior Analyst at the IWSR. Rapid innovation and expansion led to a glut of flavours that ran the spectrum from sweets to salmon, with some producers offering more than 40 flavours, causing fatigue, and ultimately contraction, for the vodka category.
You may also be interested in reading:
- Irish Whiskey
- Mixed Drinks
- US Whiskey