Getting a flavour for American Whiskey

Consumers are open to the idea of American Whiskey. It’s relevant, differentiated and credible as a brown spirits category.  Our Industry Report looks at what the on-trade can do to answer the demand for American whiskeys.

According to IWSR, the premium market for North American whiskies is booming.

Total US whiskey was up by 1.9 million cases (or 4.8%) in 2015 (with growth in the premium segment up 1.6 million cases (or 8.5%). Canadian whiskeys showed growth of 2.1 million cases (or 8.6%) with a 1.5 million-case growth in the premium segment, up 26.2%.

American whiskeys comprise a number of different styles.

For some time now, Bourbon has been regarded as being very fashionable, appealing equally to men and women, for example. And when coupled with the growth in popularity of the cocktail, Bourbon’s mixability has helped stimulate world demand.

And then there’s Tennessee whiskey. Tennesee whiskey is everything that a Bourbon is but enjoys the added prestige of being passed through a 10-foot hard sugar maple charcoal filter prior to being put in the barrel.

Indeed bourbon brands are benefitting from renewed interest worldwide.

The US whiskey market offers something new which, together with pricing advantages, provides the consumer with a heady marketing mix.

“The US is likely to continue to grow its market share with whiskey and bourbon brands – Suntory’s acquisition of Beam including their namesake brand Jim Beam last year further underlines bourbon as a growth area,” pointed out Stuart Whitwell, Joint Managing Director of Intangible Business at the time, “Furthermore, I would expect to see more M&A activity as brand owners look to boost their own whiskey and bourbon offerings.”

Other US whiskeys have also enjoyed a boom in sales thanks to a greater brand awareness, heritage and brand perception, all particular strengths for this US liquor.

Traditionally a category that’s been dominated by big name brands, American whiskey has experienced a renaissance of late as smaller and more niche brands have come to the fore, states Charles Duckworth, Account Manager with UK market analysts CGA Strategy.

“The success of these brands can be attributed to the ways in which they hit the key touchstones which resonate with the experience that the modern consumer is looking for.

“American whiskey’s popularity is emblematic of the wider ‘Mad Men’ effect, linking-in with the trend for nostalgic Americana and brands play on their rich heritage and small scale production to appeal to the wider macro-themes of premiumisation and craft”.


Irish consumption

According to Euromonitor International some 42,678 cases of American whiskeys and bourbon was sold here last year.

IWSR figures put the combined case figure at 55,800, up 12.6% on 2014’s case figure of 49,500 cases.

It seems likely that American whiskeys will continue to power ahead of the spirits market with Nielsen data suggesting a 19.5% volume increase MAT to the end of April this year set against a rise of just 0.6% MAT for the spirits market as a whole.

Ian Carrol, Market Development Manager at Jack Daniels distributor Edward Dillon & Company, would echo that view.

“Our research has shown us that consumers, particularly twenty-something males, are open to the idea of American Whiskey because it’s relevant, differentiated and credible,” he explains, “It’s perceived as younger, cooler and more accessible than other categories of brown spirits.

“From a consumer needs perspective, there are quite a few parallels between the growth of Craft Beers and American Whiskey. The sociable characteristics are underpinned by strong brand provenance which satisfies the consumer need for credibility and desire for knowledge. These categories provide an avenue for consumer exploration.

“North American Whiskey is growing in popularity with younger Irish consumers because it delivers against their needs at a transitional point in their lives, those moving away from the carefreeness of youth and embracing responsibilities. Their lifestyle is changing as are their needs during drinking occasions. They’re time poor so they’re looking for small pleasures in life and place a high value on developing passions and knowledge. North American Whiskey meets these needs.”

These seem more cool and a more suitable entry level to the brown spirits market than brown spirits themselves.

This attitude to American whiskeys finds itself in tandem with the general consumer demand for more participation in the craft movement so latently evident in beers and spirits.

The consumer’s desire for strong brand provenance can seemingly be satisfied by American whiskey’s prominent authenticity credentials and the category remains wide open to further exploration.


America’s oldest registered distillery turns 150 in 2016


Jack Daniel’s is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg and around the world in 2016. Through events, special promotions and new products, Jack Daniel’s will share the authentic stories of America’s oldest registered distillery with friends of Jack, both old and new.

In 1866, Jasper “Jack” Daniel had the foresight to place his distillery at a source of limestone water flowing from a cave spring in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Jack Daniel’s has been at the forefront of whiskey-making ever since. Today, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is a true global icon found in more than 165 countries around the world and revered for its individual character and authenticity.

In the 150 years of the Jack Daniel Distillery, the distilling process has largely remained unchanged. From meticulously crafting each barrel to mellowing each drop of whiskey through 10 feet of charcoal, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is made with the same process pioneered and perfected by Mr Jack himself. Today, the quiet town of Lynchburg still produces every single drop of Jack Daniel’s, proof that mastering a craft with a focus on quality can propel a brand beyond borders and across cultures.

“It’s an incredible achievement to be making whiskey in the same way, in the same place, after 150 years,” said Mark McCallum, President of Jack Daniel’s, “We’re looking forward to delighting our brand fans all over the world in some very special ways to celebrate this milestone for Jack Daniel’s.”

Jack Daniel’s 150th year-long celebration include:

  • Commemorative 150th Anniversary bottles
  • Global Barrel Scavenger Hunt
  • Renovations and new facilities at the Jack Daniel Distillery
  • Celebration event in Lynchburg in October


Jim Beam

True to its American roots, the US Congress declared Bourbon ‘America’s Native Spirit’ in 1964. Bourbon is like whiskey’s ‘sweet spot’ because corn is a sweet grain – the more corn, the sweeter the whiskey. It’s also tougher to make bourbon than whiskey. In fact, the US Government actually has standards for ‘Straight Bourbon Whiskey’.

The Beam family has been in the business of making outstanding bourbons for over 200 years. First started by early-American settler Jacob Beam in 1795, Jim Beam has grown to be the world’s Number 1-selling Bourbon whiskey.

Today, Jim Beam is made under the continued supervision of the sixth and seventh generation of the Beam family. It has gained a broad appeal worldwide with contemporary adults who appreciate the authenticity of genuine bourbon. Jim Beam mirrors the self-confident, masculine personality of its consumers.

This and other American whiskey/bourbon brands are available from Barry & Fitzwilliam and consist of:-

Jim Beam – Red Stag

Jim Beam

Maker’s Mark

Canadian Club

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