US rye whiskey volumes increase by 778%

Since 2009, rye whiskey volumes in the US have increased by 778% from 88,000 cases to almost 775,000 cases in 2016, equating to a 900% rise in revenue, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.

According to the US industry body, supplier revenue generated from rye whiskey has increased from over $15 million in 2009 to almost $160 million in 2016.

The council predicts that double digit growth will continue in 2017 driven by large suppliers such as Bulleit, Jim Bean and Wild Turkey, “as well as many small producers that have sprung up since the reconstruction of George Washington’s Distillery” in 2007.

Over 400,000 people have visited the Mount Vernon distillery since it was re-opened and, since 2008 when Virginia legalised spirits sales at the distillery, more than 23,600 bottles of whiskey and brandy, as well as 8,000 whiskey gift sets, equating to almost $1.5 million in revenue, have been sold.

Distilled Spirits Council president and CEO, Kraig R. Naasz, said: “American rye whiskey is retaking its rightful place among the world’s great distilled spirits, a place that was lost to Prohibition.

“The growth of rye whiskey has also benefitted American farmers, and underscores what George Washington knew, that producing distilled spirits is the essence of value-added agriculture.”

Following a request from the Distilled Spirits Council, the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) recently unveiled a new export code for exports of bottled rye whiskey to reflect the growth in the category.

The new code, the council reveals, will allow the US government to track exports of American rye whiskey in the same way as they do with bourbon exports.

The American whiskey category in general has been performing well in recent years. The Distilled Spirits Council revealed earlier this year that the value of American spirits exports had increased by 10.6%, up more than US$67 million to $698.5m, in the first half of this year, with growth driven in particular by the American whiskey category.

The category, which includes bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and American rye, increased in value by nearly $27 million to $464.6 million – a rise of 6.1%.

While Canada remained the single largest market for US spirits exports (valued at $87.6 million) with growth also reported in the UK (39% to $64.8 million), Germany (33% to $55.4 million) and France (21.4% to $51.8 million), it was Brazil that achieved the biggest growth, with the value of imports of American spirits increasing by a huge 313.8%, albeit from a small base.

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