U.S. Bourbon, Whiskey Exports Mark Second Year Record
International sales of Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey topped $1 billion for the second straight year in 2014.
Blended together, revenues for bourbon and Tennessee whiskey rose by 9.6 percent to $2.7 billion last year, with domestic volume climbing 7.4 percent to 19.4 million cases during the same period, says the Washington, D.C.-headquartered Distilled Spirits Council (DSC).
Despite the strong-dollar headwinds in the second half of the year, “Premium American spirits are finding new audiences globally, in both traditional and emerging markets,” says Christine LoCascio, the trade group’s senior vice president for International Trade.
Canada was projected as the biggest market for American distilled spirits, based on dollar value, the trade group said, followed by the UK, Germany, Australia and France.
U.S.-KOREA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT ESTABLISHES KOREA AS ONE OF THE FASTEST-GROWING EXPORT MARKETS FOR U.S. BOURBON AND WHISKEY
The DSC says one of the fastest-growing international markets for U.S. bourbon and whiskey is Korea, which saw a 71 percent increase in sales there valued at $14.5 million in 2014, up from the $8.4 million generated the previous year.
The group credits the implementation of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) three years ago with the growth surge.
“The KORUS FTA has leveled the field for U.S. spirits,” says LoCasio, noting that Korean tariffs on U.S-produced bourbon and whiskey were eliminated immediately upon the agreement going into effect.
In addition, the KORUS “included important provisions recognizing bourbon and Tennessee whiskey as products manufactured exclusively in the United States, which helps to insure that only genuine American whiskeys may be sold in the Korean market,” she says.
BOURBON…WHISKEY: SO WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
The U.S. spirits industry combines bourbon and Tennessee whiskey into one category as both are produced in virtually the same way and with similar ingredients. But, despite the similarities, there are some subtle differences in the two products.
The main difference is that bourbon is distilled from a fermented mash of at least 51 percent corn and is then stored in new charred oak barrels for at least two years, while whiskey is distilled from a fermented grain mash, stored in oak barrels, and bottled at no less than 80 proof.
There is one more difference, however. Bottles carrying the Tennessee whiskey moniker follow the same guidelines as bourbon. It goes through the so-called ‘Lincoln County Process’—passage through a bed of sugar maple—just before it’s barreled to age.
An interesting note: Kentucky produces 95 percent of the world’s total bourbon supply with more than 5.3 million barrels of the heady product currently maturing in the state’s distilleries—a number that would mean a little more than a barrel of bourbon rolled out to every one of Kentucky’s 4.4 million smiling residents.