Bourbon Gains Share Point on Drizly; Scotch Down a Bit, Irish Up

Bourbon inched up 1 percentage point to 40% on Drizly thus far this year, as did Irish whiskey, but Scotch whisky lost 2 share points, as Drizly reported its sales in the whiskey category.

Broadly, whiskies overall share of liquor category sales declined slightly during the past 12 months from 36% to 34%, it is still the platform’s best-selling spirits subcategory by a healthy margin, Drizly said. Whiskey is poised for even more growth in 2023 as distillers release new styles and brands for consumers to explore — particularly in the ultra-premium price tier.

With a 40% share of whiskey category sales on Drizly, bourbon is king.  In the same period, bourbon’s closest rival, Scotch whisky, declined to 22% from 23% share .

Irish whiskey and Canadian whisky each gained one point over the previous year to reach 9% and 4% share, respectively. Share for all other whiskey subcategories declined or remained flat.

NielsenIQ (NIQ) figures also show gains for the bourbon subcategory. Dollar sales increased 4.8% in the 52 weeks ending Aug. 12 compared with a 0.3% increase for the whiskey category overall.

Liz Paquette, the head of consumer insights at Drizly, credits the “drink local” movement for the popularity of American whiskey, with bourbon leading the way. “More than half of the whiskey sold on Drizly in the past 12 months was produced in the United States,” she says. “This is supported by an increase in whiskey tourism with many brands opening tasting rooms to allow consumers to connect more closely with these brands.”

Premiumization Still Fueling Growth

The premiumization trend has slowed across most beverage categories, yet higher-end options are a key driver for the whiskey category. On Drizly, the $30 to $40 price category accounts for the largest share of whiskey sales at 18%, holding steady over the previous year. The $40 to $50 tier accounts for 13% share and products priced in the $50 to $60 range comprise 11% share.

NIQ figures track especially impressive growth for whiskey in the ultra-premium category. During the 52 weeks ending Aug.12, products in this price tier saw the largest gain in dollar sales at 1.4%. For the popular bourbon subcategory, the ultra-premium tier saw a dollar sales increase of nearly 14% and a price per unit cost of more than $60. Dollar sales for American whiskey grew just 2.8% overall, while sales of ultra-premium products increased more than 9%t.

Even whiskey subcategories whose sales declined overall saw gains in the ultra-premium tier. For example, Irish whiskey sales decreased 0.7%, yet products in the ultra-premium tier grew more than 19%. Likewise, Japanese whisky declined 2.7% overall, but ultra-premium products saw nearly 5% growth.

Paquette says limited and special-edition whiskeys continue to drive buzz among consumers in this category as fans of brands seek new versions of their favorites.

Drizly's top 10 whiskey markets are New York City, Denver, New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.  Its fastest-growing markets for whiskey sales also span the country, with Fayetteville, Arkansas; Portland, Oregon; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Norwalk, Connecticut.

Consumers aged 35 to 41 make up the greatest share of whiskey purchasers on Drizly at 25%, followed by the 42 to 48 age group and consumers aged 28 to  34. The 35 to 41, 49 to 55, and 63 to 69 age groups all increased share over the previous year.