All About Light Spirits

Light Spirits is an emerging category. These are spirits that deliver for the neglected majority that is interested in cutting back, not cutting out. They are definitively not “No and Low” drinks in style or substance. They are quite specifically and distinctively Light versions of classic spirits.

Creating a new and intuitive choice for consumers

Cut Classic Light Spirits are 20% ABV versions of classic spirits. This is approximately half the typical alcohol level of a full strength spirit. Our objective is to provide consumers with a new option sitting between full strength and ‘no and low’.

Why do UK consumers need that option? In a nutshell because society’s relationship with alcohol, and its perception of where consuming alcohol sits in the balance of health and lifestyle priorities, has evolved rapidly over the past few decades… but the ABV of alcoholic spirits has remained unchanged. If anything, the ABV of premium spirits has actually increased. (Please see our previous article “Bringing Alcoholic Spirits into the 21st Century” for more on this). We live in 2023, not 1923. It is high time that spirits adapted to modern lifestyles - enabling consumers to enjoy the flavours and experiences that they continue to love at an alcohol level that better fits the lives they lead.

Characteristics of Cut Classics

A long drink or cocktail containing a single (25ml) serve of a Cut Classic contains only ½ a unit of alcohol. By comparison a typical-strength medium-sized (175ml) glass of wine contains around 2.3 units, while a 330ml bottle of premium lager contains around 1.5 units.

A serve of Cut Classic also contains only 28 calories; half the calorific content of a typical 40% ABV spirit, and far below the calorie count of beer or wine even when combined with a mixer. The style is naturally softer than a full strength spirit. Yet the fundamental character and flavour of a classic gin, vodka or rum is preserved.

That is the balance that we strive for. Spirits that don’t require consumers to compromise on flavour or experience, but which do align better with health and lifestyle priorities.

Spirits in Style and Substance

With this emphasis on Moderation Without Compromise®, rather than abstention, Light Spirits such as Cut Classics have a markedly different profile to non-alcoholic and very low ABV versions of spirits.

Our drinks are still very much spirits in style and substance. They can be used in the same way as their full strength counterparts – be that in classic mixed drinks, in Light Cocktails or straight up. Their flavour and aroma is what you would expect from a classic spirit. They deliver the buzz and relaxation associated with spirits, but at a gentler pace and in a softer style. They don’t have use by dates or contain preservatives. Nor do they require the addition of flavouring, emulsifiers, stabilisers, acidity regulators and so forth. (Take a look at the ingredients list on the back of the market-leading non-alcoholic gin alternative from a world-famous gin brand for an eye-opening example!)

Cut Classics are simply evolved versions of traditionally distilled spirits.

Setting the Parameters for the Light Spirits Category

It's all well and good saying that the category sits between traditional full strength spirits and the burgeoning no and low sector. But for the Light Spirits category to be understood and positioned correctly, we need to define where the high and low alcohol content thresholds most logically sit.

At Cut Classics we believe that the logical range lies between 15% ABV and 25% ABV. This subjectively feels right – a range that is materially lower than full strength spirits and materially higher than the no and low sector.

However, we fully accept the need to be a little more objective about this important area!

Based on elements of current legislation, regulation and guidance there is actually sufficient information available to define a precise range for Light Spirits:

a.     According to the Spirit Drinks Regulations 2008, a Spirit Drink is a distilled alcoholic drink with an alcoholic strength of 15% ABV or higher. That sets the lower threshold at 15% ABV. 

b.    The EU’s Food Information Regulations 2014 have been retained in large part post-Brexit and address claims made on alcoholic beverages. UK government guidance around the Regulations issued in November 2021 specifically addressed the use of the term Light in relation to drinks with reduced alcohol content. The guidance recommended that a claim to be Light should only be made where alcohol value is reduced by at least 30%. The legislated minimum alcohol content of gin, rum, vodka etc. is 37.5%. Reduce this by 30% and you get to 26.25%.

Using this logic, a reasonable and objective definition of Light Spirits, consistent with the applicable legislation / regulations is: distilled alcoholic drinks with an ABV of at least 15% and not more than 26.25%. Less eye-catchingly simple than our original 15%-25% suggestion, perhaps, but hard to argue with in the context of current regulations.

Light Spirits are not a subset of No and Low – it's time for industry commentators to catch up!

One interesting thing to emerge from delving into the above regulations is that the hosts of various spirit competitions and the organisers of No and Low events are on dangerous ground when they try to shoehorn Light or mid-ABV spirits into the No and Low category, as they typically do. It would actually be a breach of applicable regulations to make a claim to be “Low” in alcohol content when a drink is in the 15% - 26.25% ABV range outlined above. It is also completely illogical. On the one hand you have what are essentially cordials mimicking the taste of distilled alcoholic spirits and containing very little or no alcohol. On the other hand you have what are essentially classic spirits, remastered to deliver at a reduced – but still prominent – alcohol level. They are completely different things.