Guests are taking a shine to imported whiskey
Most of the whiskey talk—and sales increases—these days may be coming from the unprecedented resurgence of what’s made in America. But the whiskey output from the rest of the world is also getting plenty of attention.
For instance, Irish whiskey continued its annual surge last year, up nearly 8% in total, with numerous brands adding double-digit increases, according to the Beverage Information Group’s 2015 Liquor Handbook. Single malt Scotch whisky increased nearly 4%, though blends continue to sag.
Canadian whisky’s massive volume (15.5 million nine-liter cases, including whiskies bottled here and in Canada) declined last year, perhaps suffering from the increased interest in bolder, stronger flavors.
More important than volume is value; as reported by the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., single malt Scotch and Irish whiskey’s value increased about 10%.
And now it’s the turn of the Japanese: Beverage Information Group data about sales in control states puts the top five Japanese brands with an increase of more than 75% last year, and all but the leader, Yamazaki, up more than 100%.
Much of the growth on-premise is down to customers’ newfound love of whiskey exploration, according to spirits specialists.
“The biggest thing is that the craft beer segment has really opened up people to experiment, and it’s carrying over to the whiskey drinker who is exploring and much more curious,” says Dean Hurst, in charge of spirits and cocktails at two operations, Bern’s Steak House and Haven, both in Tampa, FL. “They are far more open to what else is out there in the world.”
That adventurous spirit is opening many doors. Indian, Taiwanese, Tasmanian, even English and French whiskies are becoming objects of connoisseurship, says Andrew Abrahamson, general manager of the Seven Grand whiskey bars, one in Los Angeles and the other in San Diego.
“The whiskey trend in general is so insane right now,” says Abrahamson. “It’s a very strange time to be a whiskey enthusiast, because after all these years of trying to get people interested in some of these international whiskies, the stuff you once loved and bought freely isn’t as easily available any more.”
Pictured Above: At Bern’s Steak House, a fine-dining venue in Tampa, FL, Scotch whiskies—especially rare single malts—still lead the way.