February 3, 2015 – The “Bourbon Boom” and growing interest in American whiskies helped boost US spirits sales by four percent during 2014, according to the annual economic report released today by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. During a briefing at the New York Yacht Club, DISCUS CEO Peter Cressy also cited growing sales of so-called “high-end” and “Super Premium” spirits, with “high-end” defined as those priced $18-30 per bottle and “Super Premium” selling for $30 or more. Both segments recorded volume gains of more than 5 percent during 2014, with “high-end” volume up 5.8% and “Super Premium” volume up 5.1%. By comparison, “premium” spirits priced between $12-18 per bottle were up 3.1% and “value” spirits fell by 1.3%.

Listen to the DISCUS Briefing:


DISCUS Chief Economist David Ozgo credited the shift in sales to improving economic conditions, noting that as consumers feel better about their economic status, they tend to switch to more expensive spirits. While the volume data reflects all spirits categories, whisky helped lead the way with Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey volumes gaining 7.4% over 2013 with sales of more than 19 million 9-liter (12 750ml bottles) cases. Irish Whiskey showed continued strength with a 9.1% gain, while Single Malt Scotch Whisky volume was up by 6.4%. Canadian Whisky dropped one percent, while Blended Scotch Whisky volumes were off by three percent.

The trend among younger consumers to favor flavored whiskies and other spirits continues to grow, with sales of flavored whisky growing by about a third to 2.8 million cases, outpacing rum (up 1.9 million cases) and vodka, where sales fell by almost a million cases. Ozgo predicted continued growth in the sector based on economic data showing income growth in the 21-34 year old age group, noting that while flavored whiskies are taking some sales away from traditional products, they are attracting new consumers to the market.

Whisky continues to account for 70% of all US spirits exports, with a projected 3.4% gain in 2014 export results when all data is received. Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey accounted for $1.02 billion in exports during the year according to Commerce Department data, up slightly from 2013. Sales of other American whiskies gained slightly, based on increased exports of whiskies from craft distillers. Canada remains the largest export market for US spirits ($212.6 million USD), followed by the UK, Germany, Australia, and France.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include audio of the DISCUS briefing. A problem with the phone line for the conference call resulted in the first part of the briefing not being available. For that reason, we have included links to PDF files of the entire presentation.

Links: Distilled Spirits Council of the United States | DISCUS Briefing Summary | DISCUS Supplemental Tables