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U.S. Market’s Top Single Malt Brands In Growth Mode

September 25, 2018

While the overall Scotch whisky market in the U.S. slipped 3% to 7.56 million cases last year—weighed down by the struggling blended segment—single malt Scotch continues to advance, rising by 4.5% to nearly 1.7 million cases, according to Impact Databank. Last year capped a strong decade for single malt, in which the category doubled in size amid a consumer shift toward more premium products. In the U.S., single malts now account for 22% of the total Scotch market, far above their global share of 7.41%. According to the Scotch Whisky Association, the U.S. consumes 26% of all single malt exports.

The Glenlivet still sits atop the U.S. single malt category at 419,000 cases, up 1.2% last year. The Pernod Ricard-owned brand is nearly 170,000 cases ahead of The Macallan, the market’s second-largest single malt brand. “The Glenlivet accounts for nearly a quarter of the category,” notes brand director Patrick Caulfield. “We anticipate that 2018 will be a big year, as we continue to introduce innovations—both with and without age statements.” In March, the brand released The Glenlivet Code, a non-age-statement whisky that invites drinkers to input the scents and flavors they taste into a website before the company reveals more information about its components later this year. Retailing at $120 a 750-ml., The Glenlivet Code is the second “mystery whisky” from the brand—released without cask information or tasting notes—following The Glenlivet Alpha in 2013.

The Macallan depleted 250,000 cases in the U.S. last year, growing by 6.6%. The brand recently opened a new £140 million ($183m) distillery and visitor center on the Easter Elchies estate in Speyside. The new facility will allow The Macallan to increase capacity by one-third to 15 million liters of alcohol. The distillery is part of a $674 million investment in the brand by Edrington, which includes outlays in whisky, warehousing, and Sherry-seasoned oak casks. Sam Leotta, brand director, Americas, for The Macallan says the company expects the brand’s tourism to double in the first year the distillery is open to the public.

William Grant & Sons’ Glenfiddich had an especially strong year in the U.S. in 2017, growing by nearly 13% to 201,000 cases, outperforming the category. In July, Glenfiddich expanded its Experimental Series with Fire & Cane ($50), a non-age statement blend of peated and non-peated whiskies aged in ex-Bourbon casks before maturing an additional three months in rum casks.

The Balvenie, also from William Grant & Sons, was at 106,000 cases last year, up 5.3%. In August, The Balvenie released Doublewood 25-year-old, a limited offering bottled at 43% abv and matured in American oak before a three-month finishing period in ex-Oloroso sherry casks. The whisky retails for a suggested $600. In early September, The Balvenie appointed Kelsey McKechnie, 26, as apprentice malt master under David C. Stewart.

Fourth-ranked Glenmorangie declined slightly last year, slipping 1.3% to 133,000 cases. But the Moët Hennessy-owned brand found success with a series of luxury releases including Glenmorangie Pride 1974, Spìos, and Astar, which was named Whisky Advocate’s No.-2 whisky of 2017. Last year, Moët Hennessy made a multi-million dollar investment in the brand to add a new still house with two additional copper pot stills and new facilities for mashing and fermenting. Construction is slated for completion in 2019. —Shane English

U.S. – Top 10 Single Malt Scotch Whisky Brands
(thousands of 9-liter case depletions)
Rank Brand Importer 2016 2017 Percent
1 The Glenlivet Pernod Ricard USA 414 419 1.2%
2 The Macallan Edrington Americas 234 250 6.6%
3 Glenfiddich William Grant & Sons USA 178 201 12.8%
4 Glenmorangie Moet Hennessy USA 135 133 -1.3%
5 The Balvenie William Grant & Sons USA 100 106 5.3%
6 Laphroaig Beam Suntory 74 72 -3.2%
7 Oban Diageo North America 49 53 8.5%
8 Lagavulin Diageo North America 46 51 10.0%
9 McClelland’s Beam Suntory 40 35 -11.2%
10 Tomatin Phillips Distilling Co 23 35 52.2%
Total Top 102 1,294 1,355 4.7%
Total Single Malt 1,599 1,671 4.5%
1 based on unrounded data
2 addition of columns may not agree due to rounding


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