American whiskey imports continue upward trend

Imports of American whiskeys to South Africa continued to climb in 2018, reports the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.


American spirits imports to South Africa through November 2018 topped $19 million in value. Imports of American whiskeys, including Tennessee Whiskey, Bourbon and Rye Whiskey, grew 44 per cent year on year, and were worth over $13.9 million through November 2018.

This is in line with an upward trend reported over the past three years. In 2017, South Africa imported U.S. spirits totaling $16.1 million, up 15 per cent on 2016.  American whiskey imports to South Africa grew by over 17 per cent from 2016 to 2017, from US$8.9 million to over US$10.5 million in 2017.

‘South Africa serves as one of our most promising export markets for American whiskeys, such as Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey and American Rye Whiskey,’ says Distilled Spirits Council senior vice president of International Trade Christine LoCascio.

The Distilled Spirits Council, which launched market awareness campaigns in South Africa in 2017, reports increasing local interest in American whiskeys – particularly premium brands.

At recent American whiskey tastings hosted for whiskey connoisseurs, importers, retailers and hospitality delegates in Johannesburg and Cape Town, renowned American mixologist Christy Pope of Cuffs & Buttons in New York, said consumers around the world are discovering the authentic flavours and unique mixability of American Whiskeys, including Tennessee Whiskey, Bourbon and Rye Whiskey.

South Africans attending the Distilled Spirits Council’s recent whiskey tastings were polled on their views of American whiskey, and more than 63 per cent reported they had noticed an increase in the presence of American whiskeys in the South African market and are eager for a wider variety of American whiskeys – particularly high-end, premium spirits – to be made available locally. Seventy eight per cent of those polled said they had purchased or consumed Bourbon, 68 per cent had purchased or consumed Tennessee Whiskey, 24 per cent had bought or tried American Rye Whiskey, and 20 per cent had bought or tried American malt whiskey.  Most – around 58 per cent – said they liked American whiskeys in cocktails, and over 53 per cent said they preferred to drink it neat or over ice.

These findings are consistent with earlier South African market research conducted by the Distilled Spirits Council, which found a growing awareness of American whiskeys among middle- to upper-income South Africans and increasing use of American whiskey in the fast-growing cocktail culture.