Sales of Irish whiskey are growing worldwide, led by U.S. sales that grew 20% last year to 860,000 nine-liter cases. That is according to David Ozgo, chief economist for the Distilled Spirits Council, an Irish industry trade group.
"Though small by bourbon or scotch standards, Irish whiskey has been one of the fastest growing spirits categories for five years," he said.
Ozgo notes that the biggest player by far is Pernod Ricard's Jameson Whiskey, which grew almost 23% in the U.S. to 540,000 cases in 2007, according to Impact, the Canadian trade magazine. No. 2 Bushmills was far behind at 164,000 cases, but up nevertheless up by nearly 9%.
"Irish whiskey is still relatively small, but it's growing rapidly," said David Fleming, editor of Impact. "Jameson has a strong following with younger consumers, which is particularly impressive in light of vodka's continued popularity."
"Irish whiskey is on an incredible trajectory," Wayne Hartunian, brand manager for Jameson, told the Dow Jones Web site Market Watch. "It is the fastest-growing category in the U.S. by far."
The category also is expanding, following the "premiumization" trend, he noted. A typical bottle runs in the mid to high $20 range, but new offerings like its Gold Reserve go for $60 and the top-end Rarest Vintage Reserve at $250 and up.
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