On St. Patrick’s Day, it may seem appropriate to down a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey. However, when it comes to the luck of the Irish, the American whiskey makers may well have the upper hand.
American-made whiskey is one of the fastest-growing distilled spirits in the United States, with sales rising nearly 11% last year to $5.1 billion, according to a recent report from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS). ). Sales of premium whiskeys from both small and large US distilleries are particularly driving growth as customers increasingly treat themselves to a high-quality drink.
“Spirits consumers appreciate the rich heritage, tradition and authenticity of American whiskey,” Lisa Hawkins, senior vice president of public affairs for DISCUS, told CNN. She added that there is a “shared passion” among whiskey drinkers as they want to know where it is made, the type of grains used and its age.
One of the most recognizable brands is Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. Brown-Forman (BFA), the parent company, said in an earnings call last week that Jack “remained the biggest driver” of revenue, which grew 12% year over year.
Brown-Forman has even expanded its Jack Daniel’s product line to include more expensive whiskeys called Jack Daniel’s Bonded along with the upcoming US launch of its canned Jack and Coke cocktail.
Another factor in the growth of the American whiskey market is small distilleries becoming attractions themselves, where people can taste the whiskey and see how it is made.
“These unique experiences have helped introduce more consumers to American whiskey and fueled excitement for both older and newer brands in the category,” said Hawkins.
Westland Distillery, near Seattle, is one of the distilleries experiencing a boost. Matt Hofmann, general manager and co-founder of the distillery, told CNN that sales are “growing faster than ever” after a Covid-induced slowdown.
Westland aims to create single-malt whiskey that “bridges the gap” between Irish whiskey – which Hofmann describes as “very elegant and approachable” – and American whiskeys, which he says are more “bolder” in taste.
Hofmann also credited the rise in international sales to increasing the popularity of American-made whisky. Whiskey exports grew 30% last year to $1.28 billion, according to DISCUS – a welcome reprieve after retaliatory tariffs were scrapped. American whiskey is the most popular spirits to be exported, with the European Union as the largest market.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Irish whiskey isn’t popular. It generated more than $1.4 billion in sales last year and played a “key role” in spirits sales exceeding beer sales by 2022, DISCUS said.