Why is Whiskey Winning?

by MAi Research November 3, 2019

 

When you look at spirit sales, whiskey is right there at the top of the heap in terms of success. According to the New York Post, in 2016, sales of whiskey were up 7.7 percent, which outpaced the rest of the spirits industry quite handily. With those numbers staying on track, the question everyone seems to be asking is why are whiskey sales continuing to stay strong even in an uncertain economy? What is whiskey doing that other spirits just aren’t managing to copy?

 

Reason #1: Variety of Product

Variety is the spice of life, and when it comes to alcohol sales, it might also be the lifeblood of a successful product. One of the reasons whiskey does so well is that it comes in a variety of sizes, prices, flavors, and styles. (You can even get a whiskey brand made in collaboration with Metallica or Alice in Chains.)  According to The Black Label, this means people are more likely to try a variety of whiskey to find the one that suits their tastes. This creates a broader appeal, and it means that whiskey has captured a larger share of the potential drinking audience. Because while Dave might prefer a classic, barrel-aged whiskey straight out of an old-fashioned gentleman’s club, Bob might prefer the vanilla-citrus twist. Both of them are pumping up the spirit’s numbers, though.

Reason #2: Appealing to Younger Drinkers

When you think of whiskey, the first image that comes to mind is probably an older, well-to-do man with white hair and a cigar relaxing at the country club. Or it’s a flashback to an older era, perhaps the 1960s as depicted by Mad Men, or the days of the Old West as seen in every spaghetti Western ever made. However, contrary to the stereotype, whiskey appeals to younger drinkers. Which means Millennials.

 

Why are Millennials so fond of a drink that, at least according to its reputation and stereotype, is reserved for older, patriarchal figures? According to the chief economist of the Distilled Spirits Council of The United States David Ozgo, Millennials’ preference for “authentic” brands is a key reason. And given that whiskey producers make it clear where the product is made, what experience it’s offering, and what image it’s projecting, Millennials do seem to be more likely to pick up what these brands are laying down.

Reason #3: Whiskey Fits Every Occasion

There are some alcohols that you really only consume in certain surroundings, or with certain groups. For example, you might not expect to see fine wine being served in a cheap bar that caters mostly to college students. Or vodka being poured out to toast a college graduation. Whiskey, on the other hand, is more able to fit a variety of occasions. Whether it’s a quiet evening with friends, going out on Friday night for mixed drinks, or being given as a house-warming gift, it’s a spirit that seems appropriate for almost any occasion.

 

The Lessons Other Spirits Could Learn From

These aren’t the only reasons that whiskey is seeing a surge in sales and popularity in the current climate, but they are some of the more prominent ones. Importantly, these reasons are not directly tied to the product being sold, but rather how that product positions itself in the market, and how it has branded itself socially. These are important lessons that any brand can learn from, regardless of what they’re selling, or even what kind of economy they’re trying to make their sales in.