In the ongoing war for space in your liquor cabinets, Quartz has just declared whiskey the ultimate winner—yes, even over vodka.
According to Quartz, vodka took the U.S. liquor sales crown in 2007. But whiskey is poised to usurp the clear spirit and knock it from its sales pedestal this year. What’s more, Quartz doesn’t see any signs of whiskey popularity slowing down, and projects that whiskey sales in the U.S. will only continue to grow.
The entire report is well worth reading, but here are the key reasons whiskey is winning.
Different spirits win in dollar value versus volume
Quartz argues that vodka gained popularity because it was a) inoffensive and b) inexpensive. Vodka is a spirit that doesn’t taste like much, and mixes well with lots of things and gets you drunk. Combine that with easy-on-the-wallet pricing, and some clever marketing of international prestige from brands like Grey Goose and Absolut, and it’s easy to see how it became popular. FWIW, vodka is still winning the sales volume war.
But whiskey, meanwhile, is winning over hearts and minds in the battle of perceived authenticity. Every whiskey has a fascinating story behind it. As a result, whiskey is definitely winning the dollar value war.
Authenticity is key
Quartz quotes a Credit Suisse analyst, who calls the consumer shift from vodka to whiskey a “generational rejection.” We’ve seen again and again that younger consumers want authenticity, and that’s what’s driving this choice as well.
Credit Suisse says this point blank: consumers increasingly want their liquors to have “authenticity, heritage, and taste.”
When it comes to whiskey: check, check, and check.
Super-premium bourbon’s popularity is driving up overall prices
Whiskeys priced over $30 a bottle are considered to fall into the “super-premium” category. These are typically filled from single-aged barrels rather than being whiskey blends, and Buffalo Trace is credited with creating the very first single-barrel bourbon in the halcyon days of the 1980s.
Super-premiums like Woodford Reserve are outperforming the bottom-shelf bourbon offerings because of that perceived authenticity. While volume sales of super-premium whiskeys may not be there yet, you have to sell fewer bottles of a premium-priced product to reach a significant amount of cash money.
Flavored whiskeys are winning over inexperienced drinkers
Quartz points out that vodka won over a lot of previous non-vodka drinkers by introducing a plethora of flavored, sweeter products. Pinnacle Birthday Cake Vodka, anyone? Now whiskey is taking a page from vodka’s playbook and doing the same thing.
So while the super-premium whiskey market continues to rise, by Quartz’s projections, Big Whiskey makers like Jim Beam are courting younger, more inexperienced drinkers with flavored options like Red Stag. And apparently Sazerac’s Fireball has been blowing everything else out of the water in this category.