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Single Malt Scotch Regains Its U.S. Momentum

August 11, 2021

After a forgettable 2020 owing to tariffs and on-premise shutdowns, single malt Scotch has been quietly outperforming most other spirits so far this year, especially in the off-premise sector. For the 26-week period ending July 17 in Nielsen channels, single malt dollar sales registered a 15% increase—versus 6% for blended Scotch—faster than any other major spirits category, other than pre-packaged cocktails (+47%). The only segments to outperform single malt Scotch year-to-date in Nielsen channels were all much smaller in size—Japanese whisky, moonshine and mezcal. In addition, single malt brands advanced a combined 15% by volume in the U.S. market’s 18 control jurisdictions during the first half of 2021, according to NABCA.

For the first time since significant hikes on federal excise taxes on distilled spirits were imposed 30 years ago, the single malt Scotch whisky market in the United States suffered a consumption loss last year, falling 5.5% to 1.74 million cases. Predictably, higher tariffs and the effects of the ongoing pandemic on the on-premise sector contributed to single malt’s decline. But as on-premise reopenings gain momentum and during the current suspension of U.S. tariffs on the segment, major players in the single malt sector are posting encouraging gains.

Total shipments of all Scotch whisky to the U.S. declined 12.3% in 2020, down to 8.7 million 9-liter cases, while import values fell 36.4% to $937.5 million. Single malts have been the main growth driver for Scotch whisky in the U.S. for decades, and in spite of last year’s hiccup, are still projected to account for a quarter of total Scotch whisky volume and half of the sector’s value by the end of this year, according to Impact Databank.

Top Five Single Malt Scotch Brands In Control States Year-to-Date
(thousands of cases)
Rank Brand Importer YTD thru
June 2020
YTD thru
June 2021
1 The Glenlivet Pernod Ricard USA 29 36 24.7%
2 Glenfiddich William Grant & Sons USA 15 18 15.7%
3 The Macallan Edrington Americas 14 17 22.6%
4 Glenmorangie Moët Hennessy USA 13 14 8.1%
5 The Balvenie William Grant & Sons USA 8 9 12.3%
Total Top Five 79 94 18.6%
Other Brands 55 61 10.3%
Total Single Malt 134 155 15.2%
1 Based on unrounded data.

Source: NABCA and IMPACT DATABANK © 2021


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