Can single malt, stereotypically the tipple of ageing detectives and Scotch snobs, have street cred? The UK's top brands – and some of our most prominent celebrity drinkers – seem to think so.

Spurred on by a year of record sales, drinks companies are pouring cash into rebranding the drink, billing it as "the new champagne".

Upcoming launches of flashy super-premium whiskies, starting at £300 a bottle, see firms branch out from their traditional consumer base, targeting the young, beautiful, and very rich.

Nor is whisky a male preserve. Female fans include actress Scarlett Johansson and presenter Alexa Chung. Even so, Charles Allen, of drinks group Diageo, which produces Johnnie Walker and J&B whiskies, said: "We know... our whisky is drunk by women, [but] we never try to sell whisky as a feminine choice. It's advertised with F1 racing and the like."

It is no accident that Jameson, the Irish whiskey, chose trendy London members' club Shoreditch House as the venue for the launch on Tuesday of its most expensive whiskey ever. The £295 Rarest Vintage Reserve is aimed at "metropolitan" types, aged 25 to 34. It's all about as far from the traditional profile of a whisky drinker as it's possible to get.