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World Spirits Report 2023: World whisky

A younger generation of drinkers has given whisky makers outside of the usual suspects (Scottish, Irish, and American) a chance to shine, with curious consumers now turning to all parts of the globe.

world whisky in a glass
Whisky made in countries such as England and New Zealand are attracting more adventurous drinkers

Kaitlyn Tsai, global brand ambassador at Kavalan, believes a noticeable trend of more ‘open-minded’ drinkers has made a difference, people who are seeking unique profiles and want to delve deeper into a brand’s background. This has opened up ‘significant opportunities’ for the Taiwanese distillery.

One was in South Korea, where the brand’s Kavalan Solist Oloroso Sherry made a cameo in the film Decision to Leave. Kavalan experienced a major sales leap in the country this year – up by 169% – and Tsai says the move “tapped into a broader audience”.

Josh Wortman, whisky portfolio director – North America for Distill Ventures, agrees, saying: “New consumers entering the category for the first time represent a real avenue for growth.

“These whisky drinkers are younger, more diverse, and more adventurous in their tastes. They are less constrained by what they think a whisky should be, and this opens the door for new world whisky to shine.”

In an increasingly difficult financial landscape for many, Dave Worthington, global brand ambassador for That Boutique-y Whisky Company, adds that the lower price points can help farflung whiskies in reaching customers, especially with the current fad for making cocktails at home.

Jess Williamson, content manager for UK retailer Master of Malt, backs his point. She says: “Australian whisky has increased by 12% year on year (excluding Q4), strongly led by Starward Left-Field.

“It also suggests that, while many traditional whisky-making countries have long struggled to shed dusty images, and encourage consumers to embrace cocktail making (looking at you, single malt Scotch), newer countries on the world whisky scene don’t appear to have this problem.”

She also notes that England is the highest-growing world whisky-producing country on the Master of Malt website, increasing its sales by 13% in the first nine months of 2023, compared with the same period last year. After England, the other best-selling world whisky countries on the site in 2023 were India and Wales.

According to Euromonitor International, Canadian whisky growth has been steady, and is predicted to continue from 23.5 million nine-litre cases sold in 2023 to 23.8m nine-litre cases in 2024. Meanwhile, in Japan, the forecast growth has it hitting 17m nine-litre cases sold in 2024, in comparison with 2023’s 16.5m figure.

Click here to read our World Spirits Report for the American whiskey category.

World whisky brands to watch in 2024

Cotswolds Distillery

The English producer might have opened nearly 10 years ago, but 2023 felt like the company’s breakthrough year. It opened a second distillery on its 5.7-hectare site, received undisclosed investment from Berry Bros & Rudd, and launched its first whisky-marketing campaign, which will roll out internationally next year. Its position as ‘England’s leading whisky producer’ looks to be secure.

Good Money Whisky

No matter what you think of Floyd Mayweather Jr, there’s no denying the boxing legend gets people talking. Celebrity involvement in spirits is a virtual guarantee for moving sales, especially with someone of Mayweather’s name recognition, and we’re curious to see how the brand fares next year when it expands from its current availability in 11 US states to 44 by the end of 2024.

Scapegrace Distilling

Jess Williamson says New Zealand has seen “exceptional growth” on Master of Malt throughout 2023, up by 167% year on year. The country is starting to surface as a whisky-maker to pay attention to, and Scapegrace is at the fore. The company sold more than 100,000 nine-litre-case sales in 2023, and predicts a 30% sales rise next year. A new £13 million (US$16.3m) distillery in Central Otago should see it climb to new heights.

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