Sales of Irish Whiskey Booming

DISCUS Irish WhiskeyEarlier this week, we noted the decline of on-premise alcohol sales (“Restaurant Alcohol Sales Decline”) with experts suggesting that properly positioning spirits could be the way to combat this worrisome trend. That said, sales of Irish whiskey are booming.

In 2013, over 2.5 million 9-liter cases of Irish whiskey were sold in the U.S., according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) report “Irish Whiskey: The Emerald Spirit.” That’s up from 2.16 million cases sold in 2012, and a big step up from 2011’s recording of 1.75 million cases sold.

The largest sales increases of Irish whiskey are occurring in the high-end premium and super premium categories with those increases occurring in both volume and sales statistics. According to the report, “Since 2002, high-end premium and super premium Irish whiskey grew a staggering 459 percent and 1825 percent, respectively.”

Irish Whiskey Rebounding

The Irish Spirits Association (ISA) reports that Ireland currently exports 6.2 million cases of Irish whiskey to over 100 markets and that figure is expected to double by 2020 (The Sprits BusinessIrish Whiskey Sales to Double by 2020”). The ISA recognizes four distilleries currently producing Irish whiskey, and that number is expect to grow to 15 in the next few years. Peter Morehead, ISA chairman, said, “What’s especially exciting is the fact that the Irish whiskey industry has been flourishing as of late, experiencing somewhat of a renaissance. This has led to extremely positive growth prospects.”

Irish whiskey sales were in decline for most of the 20th century due to uprisings against Britain, two World Wars, the depression, and American Prohibition. According to Pittsburgh Post-GazetteSpirits: Irish whiskey going ‘through the roof’,” the distilleries in Ireland that survived by 1972 consolidated as a single entity: Irish Distillers, Ltd. Jameson created a bridge between sweeter spirits and the bold flavor of Scotches, and subsequently, sales exploded.

The UK and U.S. are the largest markets for Irish whiskey exports; however, both Russia and China are emerging, providing real potential for the growth explosion to continue. Growth is also anticipated from younger drinkers due to Irish whiskey’s smoother, sweeter taste than Scotch or bourbon.

DISCUS senior vice president, Frank Coleman suggests that the resurgence of Irish whiskey is also due in part to the large numbers of U.S. citizens with Irish roots. “It brings a sense of authenticity to the table,” he said (quoted in the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatchSales of Irish whiskey jump 400%”).

Expanding offerings and having more than Irish coffee on the menu seems to be a start to combatting alcohol sales declines and tapping into the regained popularity of Irish whiskey and booming sales.