Americans Are Drinking Lots of High-End Whiskey, Not So Much Cheap Gin

© Chrissy Lau
By James Oliver Cury Posted February 10, 2016

New sales numbers show what the country drank in 2015.

If you've ever wondered what fellow Americans are drinking these days, the answer has just come in from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a trade organization that industry types call DISCUS.

Whiskey is booming—no matter where it's made. In particular, super-premium bottles saw a 25.2 percent increase in sales in 2015. American whiskey—bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, rye, and white/corn whiskey—performed very well too with sales rising 5.2 percent. Canadian whiskey didn't fare poorly either; the category was up 2.5 percent and 17.8 percent in the super-premium arena. And Irish whiskey had a great year with 16.1 percent increase in volume. Single-malt Scotch is up 13 percent, too, but blended Scotch stalled; sales were down 1.3 percent. The best-selling single malts in the U.S. last year were The Glenlivet 12 Year Old, The Macallan 12 Year Old and The Glenlivet 15 Year Old.

Tequila and Cognac were other winners. Tequila was up 7.4 percent in 2015, Cognac rose by 14 percent, and super-premium Cognac climbed a whopping 20.3 percent—thanks in part to a new focus on the U.S, market now that the Asian market is somewhat skittish.

Last year's losers seem to be gin with a 1.8 percent decline and rum, which was down 1.5 percent. (It's worth noting, however, that the super-premium gin market grew by double digits.)

Vodka occupied a weird niche in 2015: The general category grew by 1.8% and the high-end expanded by 11.1%, but the super-premium sector—where everyone else excelled—declined by 13.2%. The culprit: flavor fatigue. It turns out that consumers aren't actually clamoring for liquor that's been made to taste like marshmallows or whipped cream.

A look at 2015 in general reveals that spirit sales beat beer sales for the sixth consecutive year. Millennials are the driving force behind the numbers; they seek innovation and premium goods, and liquor laws are changing to allow for easier access and distribution.

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