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Jameson Leads A U.S. Groundswell For Irish Whiskey

November 14, 2016

Long overshadowed by its Scottish neighbor, the Irish whiskey category continues to post eye-catching growth numbers, and key spirits players across the U.S. market are taking note—and getting into the action. The U.S. is by far the largest global market for Irish whiskey—accounting for 40% of worldwide volume.

Irish whiskey depletions jumped by 18% to nearly 3 million cases in the U.S. last year, according to Impact Databank, with Pernod Ricard’s Jameson remaining the undisputed leader.

Jameson leapt by 21% to 2.4 million cases last year in the U.S., where it commands an 81% volume share of the Irish whiskey category. About 45% of Jameson’s global volume is derived from the U.S. market, and Pernod has been actively innovating with new releases to stoke further progress.

“Last year, we launched Jameson Caskmates (aged in craft beer barrels), which has been very well received,” says Sona Bajaria, vice president, high end Irish whiskey, Pernod Ricard USA. “Caskmates ($30) is riding the craft beer trend. And earlier this year we launched Jameson Cooper’s Croze ($70), which is at the higher end of the category.” Pernod tells SND it’s seeing a positive initial response from Cooper’s Croze, which is matured in virgin American oak, seasoned Bourbon and Iberian sherry barrels.

This May, Pernod moved to streamline its expansive Irish whiskey portfolio with the divestment of the Paddy brand to Sazerac. Paddy slipped by 14.6% in the U.S. last year, largely because of the decline in its flavor range, which has lost about half of its volume since debuting a few years ago.

The U.S. category’s second-ranked brand, Bushmills, experienced a 3% volume drop last year to 223,000 cases, but owner Casa Cuervo is laying plans for growth. Late last year it announced a $45 million expansion project at Bushmills’ distillery in County Antrim that will double production capacity.

Meanwhile, third-ranked Tullamore Dew—owned by William Grant & Sons—shot ahead 26.4% last year. Tullamore has been busy on the innovation front, with September’s launch of a Single Malt 14-year-old ($70) and Single Malt 18-year-old ($110). Beam Suntory’s 2 Gingers ($20), which the drinks giant acquired in 2012, was also on the rise last year, growing 5% to nearly 60,000 cases. —Kimberly Tharel

U.S. – Top Five Irish Whiskey Brands
(thousands of nine-liter case depletions)
Brand Importer 2014 2015 Percent
Change1
Jameson2 Pernod Ricard USA 2,006 2,427 21.0%
Bushmills Proximo Spirits 230 223 -3.0%
Tullamore Dew William Grant & Sons USA 147 185 26.4%
2 Gingers Beam Suntory 55 58 5.0%
Paddy3 Sazerac Co. 32 28 -14.6%
Total Top Five4 2,469 2,920 18.3%
1 based on unrounded data
2 2015 includes Caskmates
3 acquired from Pernod Ricard in May 2016
4 addition of columns may not agree due to roundingSource: IMPACT DATABANK
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