Diageo is looking to shake things up in the whisky category with the launch of a new extension to its Bell’s brand.

Bell’s Special Reserve will hit shelves in the next few weeks ahead of the spirit’s crucial Christmas trading period.

A blend of pure malts, it will retail for £14.99 for a 70cl bottle - at least £2 more than Bell’s 8-year-old blended Scotch.

A spokesman for the company confirmed it was “designed to offer blended whisky drinkers an opportunity to trade up to a more premium product for special occasions”.

The launch will also help bolster Bell’s, which despite the 8-year-old being the second best selling spirit last Christmas, notching up off-trade sales of £34m, was still down by 4% on the previous year [ACNielsen, Nov/Dec 02].

Meanwhile, rival Pernod Ricard has unveiled a raft of plans it hopes will give it an edge, especially within whisky.

A press campaign for Jameson Irish Whiskey, which reproduces sandpaper in pages of consumer titles, will feature alongside a bottle of the spirit and the line ‘triple distilled for extra smoothness’. A series of competitions, including the chance to win 1,000 free flights, are also planned.

In the malt arena, Pernod Ricard’s The Glenlivet will be packaged in gift tins aimed at cash and carries and independents, while press advertising will spearhead its seasonal push on Martell backed by PoS kits and special packaging. The company has also teamed up with Asda to offer shoppers a free glass promotion until December.

Pernod Ricard’s marketing director, Mark Davis, said the company would ramp up its sampling activity to get “brands in consumers’ hands”.
Rosie Davenport