A scotch whisky distiller, when asked recently if he made any blends, was gloriously sniffy and dismissive of blended whisky. It would have been interesting to see and hear what he would have made of the Johnnie Walker Directors Blends, which I got to taste last Thursday (November 28) in London.
At a recent briefing in London, international brand director, Andrea Neri, said that the company had taken the aperitif, branded “Aperitivo, poco alcoholico” due its modest 11% abv, from 500,000 nine-litre cases in 2004 to two million cases.
The growth had come almost entirely from its Italian homeland along with sales in neighbouring Austria and Germany. It was rolled out in Switzerland last year. He said the plan now was to roll out the brand into Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.
He said: “We started going out to Bavaria, southern Germany, Austria. The circle is getting bigger. We are moving out to the rest of western Europe. Also the Czech Republic and Hungary.”
The brand team are pushing, promoting the Aperol Spritz, which comprises three parts Prosecco Italian sparkling wine, two parts Aperol, a splash of soda and ice. Neri said there is a ready-to-serve version of the spritz but it is currently only available in the Italian off premise sector.
The orange, orange peel and rhubarb-based drink was invented at the turn of the nineteenth century. As with most traditional aperitifs, it has been little known outside its heartland.
It is not unlike Campari, being red, although a lighter red and in a waisted bottle. Neri sees it as a more mainstream drink. Whereas Campari with its classic Negroni cocktail, is aimed at more affluent, more sophisticated and probably a slighter older consumer.
Neri sees huge potential for Aperol and Aperol Spritz in the UK. Multiple retailer Sainsbury’s has an exclusive listing in 300 stores until Christmas. Otherwise, seek listings in upmarket Italian restaurants. The plan is to promote the drink has low in alcohol and modest in calories at 91 per 100ml.