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Irish Whiskey Weathers The Pandemic, Tops 5 Million Cases In The U.S.

March 28, 2022

The year 2020 had marked the first decline for Irish whiskey consumption in the U.S. in nearly a quarter-century, as the category was hit especially hard by on-premise shutdowns associated with the pandemic. Last year, however, Irish whiskey resumed its long-term growth trend, surpassing depletions of 5 million 9-liter cases in the U.S. for the first time ever, according to Impact Databank. The U.S. is the largest single market for Irish whiskey in the world with about 40% share of worldwide volume, and it accounts for roughly 60% of global shipments on a value basis.

Pernod Ricard dominates the sector with 80% market share in the U.S—primarily due to No.-1 brand Jameson—but the ranks of its competitors are growing, albeit from more modest volume bases. Among them are William Grant & Sons (Tullamore Dew) and Proximo Spirits (Proper No. Twelve and Bushmills). After a rare decline in 2020, Jameson’s depletions surged last year and surpassed 4 million cases in the U.S. for the first time, according to Impact Databank, led by Jameson Original (+17%) and Black Barrel (+11%). Pernod Ricard also saw impressive growth in 2021 from its smaller but more upscale Irish whiskey expressions Redbreast (+18.5%) and the Spot collection (+15%).

Proper No. Twelve, in which Proximo gained a controlling stake last year, has been a category standout lately. It soared 21% in 2021, and is poised to climb to No.-2 overall among Irish whiskies in the U.S. in only its fifth year on the market. Tullamore Dew also weathered tough conditions in 2020, and then registered a solid 8% gain last year. Beyond the top brands, other fast-growing Irish whiskies in 2021 included Teeling (+22%), part of the Bacardi portfolio, and Brown-Forman-owned Slane (+29.5%), according to Impact Databank.

As the market matures, brand-owners are looking to premiumize by increasingly pushing their high-end releases—including single malts, super-premium blends, and Ireland’s signature single pot still whiskey. Newer entries include Dublin Ink (imported by Terlato), Drumshanbo (Palm Bay), Limavady (WhistlePig), and The Busker (Disaronno).

Before the pandemic, Irish whiskey had been on pace to overtake total Scotch whisky consumption in the U.S. by 2025. The unexpected decline in 2020 upended those projections, but with on-premise re-openings again gaining steam Irish whiskey is back on the upswing and reverting to its former rapid progress.—Juan Banaag

 

U.S.—Top Five Irish Whiskey Brands
(thousands of 9-liter case depletions)
Rank Brand Company 2020 2021 Percent
Change1
1 Jameson Pernod Ricard USA 3,564 4,059 13.9%
2 Tullamore Dew William Grant & Sons USA 304 327 7.6%
3 Proper No. Twelve Proximo Spirits 232 280 21.0%
4 Bushmills Proximo Spirits 201 195 -3.0%
5 Redbreast Pernod Ricard USA 47 56 18.5%
Total Top Five2 4,347 4,917 13.1%
1 Based on unrounded data.
2 Addition of columns may not agree due to rounding.

Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2022

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