Close Menu
Top 10

The best-selling spirits in the US market

The US is the most highly prized market for ambitious spirits producers – but which are the best-selling categories in America, and how fast are they growing?

The US is the most valuable spirits market in the world

Last week, trade body the Distilled Spirits Council released data showing that spirits continued to swipe market share from beer in the US last year, with sales hitting US$26.2 billion. In fact, spirits now have 36.6% of the total beverage alcohol market share.

Sales of both domestic and imported spirits were up 4% in the year, while volumes rose 2.6% to 226m cases.

The majority of spirits categories grew in 2017, but some continued to struggle against the tide of changing consumer tastes.

Click through the following pages to discover the best-selling spirits categories in the US last year, listed according to nine-litre case sales.

10. Single malt Scotch

Volume sales: 2.11m cases

Percentage change: -1.2%

Value sales: US$771m

Percentage change: +1.1%

It was a mixed picture for single malt Scotch in 2017 – while volumes declined, values increased, indicating consumers are drinking slightly less single malt expressions, but choosing more expensive varieties when they do.

9. Irish whiskey

Volume sales: 4.25m cases

Percentage change: +11.3%

Value sales: US$897m

Percentage change: +12.8%

Irish whiskey is one of the US drinks market’s biggest success story and experienced the fastest rate of growth in terms of both value and volume sales of any spirit category in 2017. Of course, the success of Irish whiskey is inextricably linked to the soaring sales of category leader Jameson, but the sector is also receiving a boost from innovative new super-premium players that are piquing consumer interest.

8. Blended Scotch

Volume sales: 7.17m cases

Percentage change: -3.3%

Value sales: US$1.39bn

Percentage change: +0.4%

Volume sales of blended Scotch whisky took a hit in 2017 – perhaps due to the challenge for consumer mindshare posed by its American and Irish cousins. However, value sales marginally increased, indicating premiumisation continues to run through the category.

7. Gin

Volume sales: 9.87m cases

Percentage change: -0.6%

Value sales: US$895m

Percentage change: +2.2%

Talk of the ‘gin boom’ is rife in the international spirits industry, but, surprisingly, the category’s volumes struggled in 2017 – could consumer thirst for the juniper spirit be waning? Super-premium craft players are the most likely cause of a 2.2% value gain, edging gin sales in the States close to the US$1bn mark.

6. Cognac and brandy

Volume sales: 13.72m cases

Percentage change: +5.4%

Value sales: US$2.28bn

Percentage change: +7.5%

Cognac and brandy producers hailed solid gains in 2017, though the rate of growth in the states was slightly slower than the global picture. Last month, trade body the BNIC revealed that Cognac exports reached their ‘highest levels’ in 2017, growing by 11% in volume and 14% in value, largely thanks to rebounds in the emerging markets.

5. Tequila and mezcal

Volume sales: 17.2m cases

Percentage change: +8.5%

Value sales: US$2.7bn

Percentage change: +9.9%

Tequila is one of the hottest categories in the spirits world right now, and the US is its biggest market. The Distilled Spirits Council notes that the fastest rate of growth can be seen at the higher end of the spectrum – which is also evidenced by rampant acquisition activity in recent years. Just last month, Bacardi bought pioneering super-premium Patrón in a deal that values the company at US$5.1bn.

4. Canadian whisky

Volume sales: 17.54m cases

Percentage change: +2.4%

Value sales: US$1.99bn

Percentage change: +2%

Canadian whisky may not quite be a household name internationally, but it has a dedicated consumer base in the US. The category is tantalisingly close to hitting sales of US$2bn, which it is sure to surpass this year if the current growth trajectory continues.

3. American whiskey

Volume sales: 23.15m cases

Percentage change: +6.4%

Value sales: US$3.36bn

Percentage change: +8.1%

Americans’ enthusiasm for their domestic whiskeys – including Bourbon – continued unabated in 2017. The Distilled Spirits Council notes that there was strength across all price points in American whiskey – quite an achievement in this age of pervasive premiumisation. The category also added 300,000 cases to sales of its flavoured expressions, while rye whiskey proved to be the fastest growing spirit sub-category of 2017, with growth of +16.2% to US$175m, and 900,000 cases.

2. Rum

Volume sales: 24.64m cases

Percentage change: -0.4%

Value sales: US$2.32bn

Percentage change: -0.3%

Rum may be the second largest spirits category in the US, but it failed to record volume or value growth in 2017. Some of the largest rum players have struggled to keep up with other spirit types in a move upmarket, and it could be argued that the category has failed to achieve the same boost from the cocktail renaissance as that experience by gin and Bourbon. With American whiskey hot on its heels, might rum slide down the leaderboard in 2018? It remains to be seen.

1. Vodka

Volume sales: 71.34m cases

Percentage change: +2.2%

Value sales: US$6.22bn

Percentage change: +3%

The unmoved – and seemingly immovable – spirits leader in the US market is vodka. Growth remained subdued in 2017, but almost 50m cases separate it and its closest volume rival: rum. It’s growth is also all-the-more impressive considering the category continues to face creeping challenges from ‘trendy’ up-and-coming spirits.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No