Whiskey cocktails the way to woo Down Under drinkers

Tue Apr 3, 2012 7:09am EDT
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By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters) - How to get Australians, a nation of beer and wine drinkers, to switch their tipple to whiskey? Try cocktails to smoothe the way, says Jeff Arnett, master distiller for U.S. whiskey maker Jack Daniels.

While government statistics show that Australians, famous for their association with long cool beers, are drinking less of the beverage than at any time over the last six decades, spirits still make up a minute part of the market.

Enter the fresh-faced Arnett, who has been known to taste 100 whiskeys a day in the course of his job and says his main challenge is simply convincing die-hard Down Under drinkers to give whiskey a try.

"This is a beer country so, are people open to moving from beer to trying something different and what is that pathway in which they will get there?" he said.

"I believe cocktails are clearly one of them," he said.

While a 2011 report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that beer drinking in Australia had fallen gradually but consistently since the 1960s, the larger share of the slack was taken up by wine, consumption of which rose threefold to 36 percent.

By contrast, while the intake of spirits has doubled, it still trails at 20 percent.

Arnett said that his biggest challenge is often challenging a nation's traditional culture of drinking and tipple of choice. In Russia and Poland, for example, people are vodka drinkers of long standing.   Continued...

Jeff Arnett, master distiller at the Jack Daniel’s distillery, looks at a glass of whiskey as he poses during an interview with Reuters in Paris September 9, 2010. REUTERS/Charles Platiau