A new report shatters the stereotypes and suggests where we'll be seeing more of the good stuff.
Whisky Glass
Credit: © Peter Scholey / Alamy Stock Photo

There's a certain pride in being the nation that drinks the most whiskey—and it's a badge of honor that would mean something different if you swapped in vodka or gin or rum. So who drinks the most whiskey? Your first guess would be Scotland or Ireland, right? Because that's where the good stuff has historically been made. Or the United States because we're a huge nation with a notoriously strong thirst for brown spirits? Or maybe it's China because they are hardcore aficionados of spirits with money to burn? Wrong, wrong, and wrong. The answer is France.

Yes, a country best known for its balanced wines and impeccable Cognacs is downing whiskey like it's free Champagne. The French drink an average of 2.15 litres (73 ounces) a year, according to retail consultants Bonial. Second place goes to Uruguay—not a country I would have guessed—with 1.8 litres (61 ounces) followed by the United States at 1.4 litres (47 ounces).

According to the French Federation of Spirits, whiskey accounts for almost 40 percent of the spirits market in France, too. The market for cognac: 0.5 percent.

What does this mean—beyond tweaking your vision of the average French bar scene? It suggests that we will be seeing more whiskey made in France. Right now, 90 percent of whiskey consumed in France is made in Scotland. But the French have the land, the work force, and the skills to make their own quality whiskey. And there are already a smattering of such distilleries in France, including Glann ar Mor, Warenghem, and Guillon. One question remains: If enough new whiskey brands emerge from France, would they ever consider giving the drink a new name—as Canada (Rye), the U.S. (Bourbon) and Scotland (Scotch) have done?