North American whiskeys & bourbons trade on

Consumer demand for bourbon worldwide can be attested to by the 260% growth in the number of distilleries producing it over the last 10 years, part of an industry worth $8.6 billion. Before the US-EU trade tariff war bourbon exports to the EU had enjoyed annual growth of nearly 40% so demand is certainly there for North American whiskeys & bourbons. We review the market.

The US/EU tariff trade war over Boeing & Airbus has hit the European market for North American whiskeys and bourbons but the good news for bourbon producers in Kentucky is that a rapprochement may be in the offing.

The EU’s ‘retaliatory’ tariff on American Whiskeys, now in place for over two years, has caused severe damage to US exports and has negatively impacted jobs in the US, but the decision by the United States Trade Representative not to increase tariffs on EU beverages can be seen as a softening of approach and may merit a return of the compliment by the EU.

“It’s not just jobs in Ireland that are threatened by these tariffs,” Drinks Ireland Director Patricia Callan pointed out recently, “Revised figures produced by the consulting firm John Dunham Associates earlier this year suggested that the tariffs on liqueurs and cordials alone would lead to a total of 14,230 lost jobs and $582.7 million in lost wages. On top of this, the cost to the American economy could be nearly $2,040.6 million in economic activity. Simply put, these are US tariffs that are costing US citizens their jobs.”

She added, “It’s worth noting that former USTR Robert Zoellick, who filed the initial US complaint against European support for Airbus more than 15 years ago, has said that the US and Boeing’s intent all those years ago was to seek a negotiated solution with the EU. The decision not to add new tariffs can be seen as a decision not to escalate an already difficult situation and we continue to call on the EU Commission and US administration to take advantage of this and to seek a negotiated solution to ongoing trade disputes with a view to ending all recently-imposed tariffs on both sides of the Atlantic”.

And American whiskey and bourbon distillers would call “Amen” to that.


Kentucky Distillers Association

The Kentucky Distillers Association puts the total annual economic impact of the distilling industry there at 20,100 jobs, with annual payroll of $1 billion in producing $8.6 billion-worth of economic output.

In its fifth state-wide study of distilling conducted since 2009, the KDA tallied 68 licensed distilleries operated by 56 companies there as of May 2018, with several more licence applications in the pipeline.

“This is triple the number of distilleries documented in our 2009 study,” it stated.

Kentucky continues to produce 95% of the world’s bourbon and Kentucky distillers shipped over $452 million-worth of product “abroad” – that’s out of state to you and me – in 2017, with whiskey accounting for about 84% of total Kentucky shipments.

But unlike most other distilled spirits there, Kentucky bourbon is aged in barrels and stored in warehouses for years before being bottled and shipped to customers.

About 1.7 million barrels of new bourbon were produced and added to warehouse inventory last year so that now there are 8.1 million barrels of spirits aging gracefully in Kentucky warehouses, with nearly 7.5 million of those barrels being bourbon.

Globally, the leading importers of Kentucky whiskey last year were Spain, Japan, Australia, the UK, Canada and Germany.


The making of American whiskeys

Generally speaking, American whiskeys are fermented from a mash of cereal grain and distillation depends on which type of cereal has been used (malt, wheat or rye). In the case of bourbon, it’s corn-based whereas Jack Daniels, the top-selling American whiskey in the world, would be a rye whiskey.

In keeping with just about every other premium spirit, flavoured bourbons have now begun to trend across the globe. This has ‘revolutionised’ the bourbon market by opening it up to new demographics and new consumer occasions.

Much like Scotch or Irish whiskeys, traditionally, bourbons tended to be drunk neat or as part of a cocktail, but the desire from consumers to experiment with a range of different whiskey categories – including bourbon – has led to a swathe of flavoured bourbon products now hitting the market.

This expansion of flavour, in turn, has introduced a whole new demographic of consumer – including women – to the appeal of bourbons.


Bourbon in Ireland

Obtaining figures on the fortunes of American whiskey’s fortunes here in Ireland is difficult.

Figures from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States places a factory gate value on American whiskeys and Bourbons from the US of €190,000 ($224,424) between January and December last year.

But – no doubt due to the tariff wars and the EU’s 25% tariff on American whiskeys – this figure was well down, by nearly 25%, on the 2018 figure of €248,961 ($293,481).

The Central Statistics Office here puts bourbon’s retail value figure somewhat higher – at €3.8 million.

Drinks Ireland|Spirits put bourbon consumption in Ireland at around 70,000 cases by volume last year but Euromonitor International has estimated that by this year, 2020, bourbons and other US whiskeys should be selling 34,600 cases in the off-trade (up nearly 3% from 33,600 in 2018) and 13,471 nine litre cases in the on-trade (up from 13,100 in 2018).

In terms of value this means that some €14.1 million-worth of it is going across the off-licence counter (1.4% up on the 2019 figure of €13.9 million) while €9 million-worth is going out via the hospitality channel, understandably well down on the 2019 figure of €16.5 million.

In its just published report for 2019, Drinks Ireland|Spirits put American whiskey’s share of the overall Irish spirits market at between 3% and 4%, ahead of Scotch at around 2%, so there’s plenty of potential for growth in the Irish on-trade and off-trade.


Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey Honey & Apple

With the addition of a new flavour variation in 2020, Jack Daniel’s now offers the perfect range to complete any backbar. With three expressions, each lending itself to a different consumer palate and occasion, Jack Daniel’s is the perfect range to add versatility and excitement to a cocktail menu. Each product has a unique production method and distinctive flavour making it unique while still unmistakably Jack!

Tennessee Whiskey Charcoal mellowed drop-by-drop through 10-feet of sugar maple charcoal, then matured in handcrafted barrels of our own making, our Tennessee Whiskey doesn’t follow a calendar. It’s only ready when our tasters say it is. We judge it by the way it looks, its aroma and of course by the way it tastes. It’s how Jack Daniel himself did it over a century ago.

Tennessee Honey A little bit of honey. A whole lot of Jack. A blend of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and a unique honey liqueur of our own making for a taste that’s one-of-a-kind and unmistakably Jack. With hints of honey and a finish that’s naturally smooth, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey offers a taste of the unexpected.

Tennessee Apple Real crisp apples, real Jack Daniel’s, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple has the unique character of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey coupled with crisp green apple for a fresh and rewarding taste. It’s bold, refreshing and exceptionally smooth.


Woodford Reserve





A spectacle for the senses, this perfectly balanced taste of our Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is comprised of more than 200 detectable flavour notes, from bold grain and wood to sweet aromatics, spice, fruit & floral notes. With its brilliant honey amber appearance, complex flavours and silky-smooth finish, Woodford Reserve is a ‘must have’ on any cocktail menu. Serve in an Old Fashioned for a classic American cocktail that’ll exceed your customers’ expectations.



Q&As with Nikki Maguire – Jack Daniel’s Market Development Manager at Edward Dillon & Co


  1. What can consumers expect from a North American Whiskey?

There’s so much choice in the North American Whiskey category and this really leans into current consumer trends to explore and try new spirits and to experiment with flavours. Whether someone is drinking a fine bourbon like Woodford Reserve, a premium Tennessee Whiskey such as Jack Daniel’s or a flavoured whiskey like Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, they can expect variety to meet different taste preferences. Consumers also select different drinks for different occasions and whiskey is so great because it provides something for everyone!

  1. What’s new with Jack Daniel’s?

We just launched Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple in May. Despite launching during a global pandemic, we’ve built strong off-trade distribution and are very happy with the performance to date. It’s a new and approachable way to enjoy Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey while also introducing new consumers to the Jack Daniel’s family of brands.

This new flavour is great in a long refreshing serve: Jack Apple & Premium Tonic garnished with a wedge of fresh apple is a great alternative to a flavoured gin and tonic. Whilst our Signature Serve is with tonic water, it can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks or in a great cocktail.

It’s a great drink if you’re looking for an alternative to our famous serves like the classic Jack & Coke or Jack Daniel’s Honey & lemonade. Whatever you choose, make sure to sip slowly and take your time.

  1. Why Apple in a Tennessee sipping whiskey?

We know that consumers seek new flavours and offerings with their spirits and that’s especially evident from the growth of flavoured gins over the last number of years. In addition, we’ve seen huge momentum behind Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey with it growing year-on-year. So, we know there’s an appetite for flavoured whiskey and Jack Daniel’s offerings in Ireland. Made with real Granny Smith, McIntosh and Red Delicious apples, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple is fresh and approachable in character. The sweetness of the apple will likely appeal to those new to the whiskey category or the Jack Daniel’s family of brands.

  1. What should mixologists here know about Jack Apple?

The great thing about flavoured whiskey is that it’s very versatile and can be used in a range of cocktails. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple delivers on the unique character of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey coupled with the taste of real crisp apples so it stands out in a cocktail. Although our Signature Serve is with tonic water Jack Daniel’s Apple can give a unique and simple twist to well-known classic cocktails. Take the very popular Old Fashioned; by replacing with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple we’ve introduced a simple ‘Orchard Old Fashioned’, introducing the consumer to a very different flavour profile, not usually associated with this classic cocktail.



Maker’s Mark

Maker’s Mark Founder Bill Samuels Sr chose the site of his distillery because there was a spring-fed lake right on the grounds – a plentiful source of limestone-purified water. Marker’s Mark bourbon is all about great taste. The product uses Red Winter Wheat to create a flavour that finishes in the front of the palate where the sweet taste buds are located.

Every barrel of Maker’s Mark is aged to taste, not time. It’s left to the team’s tasting panel in Kentucky including their master distiller to determine when the bourbon is fully matured.

It usually takes between six and seven years for the whisky to be ready. After the bottles are filled, each is hand-dipped in its signature red wax. Every delicious drop of bourbon is the same. The hand-dipped red wax bottle is every bit as recognisable as the Maker’s Mark name. Every bottle of Maker’s Mark is still made the same way as its founders intended over 65 years ago, making each bottle as special as the bourbon inside.


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