International Whiskies in the UK Market

let’s begin

Scotch dominates the UK Whisky market, which is probably unsurprising. Let’s take a closer look at some of their competitors.

International Competition

While Scotch might be champ when it comes to the Whisky market in the UK, it has a number of other countries biting at its heels. International Whiskies in the UK are growing rapidly.

America is the next biggest, by a big margin. It eclipses its biggest rival, Ireland, by nearly £100 million.

This is unsurprising, considering Jack Daniel’s is one of the most popular International Whiskies in the UK, outselling even Scotch. But then again, for those who aren’t really into drinking high quality Whisky, a “Jack & Coke” seems like a cool thing to drink.


In 2016 it was reported that the UK consumed incredible amounts of US Whisky, with the market reaching over £1 billion in sales that year. In the same year, Scotch sales in the UK declined by 1%.

We might pause to wonder why they elected a wotsit for president, but we certainly don’t balk at their Whisky. Rather we welcome it with open arms.

Different Audiences

Where US Whisky is concerned, it seems to reach a younger audience. It has been around for the same length of time as Scotch, but it has been able to shake the image of old men a lot easier.

It’s probably the images created from pop culture that has allowed US Whisky to move on in such a way. It also doesn’t carry a lot of the more traditional, exclusive feel that Scotch sometimes does.

You can argue that Scotch is fresh and youthful as much as you like, but let’s be honest, a millennial is more likely to pick up a drink with the New York City skyline in its advertising than the rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands.


The Irish Whisky market is considerably smaller than Scotch and American Whisky, but it is catching up. In terms of International Whiskies in the UK, it is up there with the main players.

Once an Island with only 2 or 3 successful, working distilleries on it, Ireland now has a total of 18 functioning distilleries and 18 more planned.

The category is rising faster than any other category of Whiskey, all around the world, not just in America and the UK. Last year alone, Irish Whisky sales rose by over 10%. That’s a crazy big number, especially since Scotch only grew by something like 1%.

Coming up quick

And in 2016, the number of bottles of Irish Whisky sold in the UK rose to 4.09 million. This is massively dwarfed by the 43.92 million bottles imported by the US, but the size of America alone accounts for most of that.

Although it has been best picked up in the US, the UK share of the Irish Whisky market is not insignificant.  The two places being neighbours, and let’s not forget the shared border in Northern Ireland, the Irish Whisky market is important in the UK, and vice versa.


Much like the boom in Ireland, Japan is also seeing a massive increase in interest for their Whisky; so much so that many bottlings are being discontinued due to a lack of resources.

And that could be because Japanese Whisky sales in the UK shot up by an insane 232% in 2017. That’s massive.

Japanese has long been hailed as one of the best International Whiskies in UK and the world. As more people become interested in the spirit, they’re turning to the high quality brands.

The country certainly leads the way in exclusive feeling drams and the UK market is so saturated with Scotch that it gives consumers something exotic and something that feels luxurious.

Supply and Demand Issues

What is also astounding is the fact the Japanese Whisky is in major short supply. Just last year big names such as Hibiki and Hakushu have had to discontinue some of their most popular age statemented malts.

 Instead, brands are no turning to non-age statemented malts to cope with the demand.

The UK market clearly plays a big part in that and with new distilleries appearing across Japan, many of which are ready to bottle their malt, there is hope that demand can be met.


There are plenty of other places producing Whisky and selling well in the UK.

Indian Whisky, although not commonly thought of, is a big seller in the UK, with brands like Amrut and Paul John leading the way.

Whisky from other countries such as Sweden and Canada also sell well in the UK.

Mackmyra, the only Swedish distillery, has recently opened a British subsidiary in order to stimulate growth in the UK.

Magnus Dandanell, Director of the company, says, “It’s going to be fascinating to follow progress in the UK now that we’ve finally been able to launch sales here.

“We’re seeing considerable demand among UK consumers, but frustratingly it’s been difficult to offer Mackmyra’s entire product range via British importers without it being far too expensive and complicated for the consumer. That’s now changing.”

Canadian Whisky, while not as popular as that of their Southern neighbours, is definitely growing in reputation across the globe.

Imports of Canadian Whisky have risen in recent years, which is great news as the country really does produce brilliant malts.

It’s also good news for the UK, as it signifies that the market is diversifying and more products are being brought on board.

So what does this tell us?

Well it should be obvious that the UK Whisky market is growing, and more and more imports are happening all the time.

Each of the countries examined here are increasing in sales in the UK, which is great news for us. It gives us a wider sense of the market and pushes our own creators to be more innovative.

Scotch is still the biggest selling Whisky category worldwide, but there are definitely challengers rising to the occasion.

Irish Whisky is especially taking off and is predicted to maintain moment for the time being.

The UK Whisky market is full of intrigue, and we can only hope that more countries are brought on board.

Places like France, South Africa and the Netherlands all produce amazing malt, which sells here in limited numbers.

So next time you’re at your local, maybe venture a little further than your usual, and see exactly what the world of Whisky really has to offer.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below and let’s have a chat

Tags: International CompetitionInternational WhiskiesscotchUKUK Market
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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