Scotch is an icon among spirits categories, perceived as a classic whisky that skews toward the higher end of liquor products. Over the past 12 months, Scotch has accounted for a 21.1 percent share of the larger whiskey category on Drizly—making it the second-largest whiskey subcategory on Drizly after bourbon—and it’s growing. Scotch held a 20.5 percent share of the whiskey category in the 12 months prior, and a 19.7 percent share in the 12 months prior to that. 

With the trend of consumers trading up for more premium liquors, Scotch continues to prove to be a valuable category for retailers to focus on.

Renewed Growth in Scotch Whisky

Tariffs have impacted sales of Scotch in recent years, but those were, fortunately, lifted in October 2021. Scotch whisky saw a 34 percent increase in the United States in the first quarter of 2022, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS). Despite slower growth during the pandemic, DISCUS tracked a seven percent increase in Scotch sales by volume over a five-year period.

“The consumer purchasing trend of ‘trading up’ for higher quality Scotch whisky has remained a positive trend for several years, only compounded by the pandemic, and continues today,” says Allison Varone, the vice president of emerging brands at Moët Hennessy, which owns Glenmorangie

There are a number of factors that will aid in Scotch growth, including diversification in the category. Over the next year, Varone expects interest in variations in maturation and distilling techniques to drive sales, pointing to Glenmorangie’s wine-cask finishes and the wild yeast used in Glenmorangie Alta.

“These innovative offerings are a great way to stand out within a competitive category, showcase the expertise of our whisky creation team, and ultimately appeal to whisky enthusiasts or anyone who enjoys delicious single malts,” Varone says.

Other whiskey subcategories present the biggest competition for Scotch. Irish whiskey has recently proven to be one of the fastest-growing whiskey categories, and bourbon, the largest whiskey category, continues to drive the most sales. “Bourbon has been on an upward growth trajectory for several years, growing significantly in the past few years,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights.

The bourbon category has also driven growth for the overall whiskey category, which is one of the reasons why it is outpacing Scotch. “Compared to Scotch, bourbon’s average consumer skews younger towards the millennial age group,” says Paquette, “attracting new consumers to the whiskey category.”

But Scotch’s position as the second-largest whiskey category and steady premium sales strength is not to be ignored. The interest is not just in single malts, either. Premium blends like Johnnie Walker Blue Label and Black Label have seen double-digit growth in the 2022 fiscal year, says Jamie Young, the director of single malts at Diageo.

“We expect growth in the ultra-premium category within Scotch to continue to outpace industry growth in the coming years,” Young says. “High-marque Scotches have benefited from accelerated premiumization in recent years, as well as the reopening of the on-premise, where Scotch over-indexes compared to other categories. We expect that the impact of the current economic landscape on the Scotch category will be temporary and that the growth trajectory of ultra-premium Scotches will continue the strength that we have seen in recent years.”

Growth in Premium Scotch

The Scotch subcategory has a reputation for a high average price point. On Drizly, the average price point has gone up nine percent year-over-year to $74.70 over the past 12 months, compared to $68.30 in the previous 12 months. Prices are boosted by the share of premium bottles: 37 percent of Scotch sold on Drizly in the past 12 months was $100 or more per bottle. The $60 to $70 and $70 to $80 price range each held an 11 percent share, while the next-highest price range, $80 to $90, had a nine percent share. More budget-friendly options have a comparatively low share, except for the $30 to $40 price range, which has an eight percent share. 

Premium Scotches are also fast-growing. Year-over-year, bottles that were $100 and up saw a 32 percent share gain on Drizly. Other price ranges that saw share gains were $60 to $70 bottles (12 percent), $70 to $80 bottles (11 percent), and $50 to $60 bottles (10 percent).

Drizly’s Top-Selling Scotch Brands, Past Year

  1. The Macallan
  2. Johnnie Walker
  3. The Glenlivet
  4. The Balvenie
  5. Glenfiddich
  6. Oban
  7. Dewar’s
  8. Lagavulin
  9. Laphroaig
  10. Glenmorangie

The top five selling brands remained the same year-over-year. There has been some movement among the rest of the top 10, however. Oban moved up to number six from number nine, while Laphroaig fell from number six to number nine. Glenmorangie is new to the top 10 and replaces Monkey Shoulder.

As to be expected, the top brands have multiple SKUs in the top 10 selling Scotch SKUs on Drizly over the past 12 months, led by Johnnie Walker, The Macallan, and Balvenie.

Drizly’s Top-Selling Scotch SKUs, Past Year

  1. Johnnie Walker Blue Label Blended Scotch Whiskey
  2. The Macallan Double Cask 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
  3. The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
  4. The Glenlivet 12 Year Old
  5. Oban 14 Year Single Malt
  6. Lagavulin 16 Year
  7. The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
  8. Johnnie Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky
  9. Dewar’s White Label Blended Scotch Whisky
  10. The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Compared to the top 10 SKUs the year prior, The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Year Old saw the most dramatic increase in interest, moving from number 10 to number three. 

After focusing on these top sellers, retailers can also use lesser-known single malts to set themselves apart. “In addition to the top-selling SKUs, retailers can differentiate themselves and attract new customers by offering unique or harder-to-find Scotch products,” says Paquette.

Who Is Buying Scotch Whisky?

Older generations are the most keen on Scotch purchases on Drizly. Baby boomers over-index with a 14 percent share of Scotch sales over the past 12 months, compared to an 11 percent share of overall sales on Drizly. Gen X is nearly even with Scotch purchase share compared to overall Drizly share (30 percent and 31 percent, respectively), while millennials hold a 53 percent share of both Scotch purchases and overall Drizly purchases. Gen Z under-indexes on Scotch, with a three percent share compared to a five percent share. 

Markets that over-index on Scotch sales compared to overall sales on Drizly are New York City, Los Angeles, Long Island, Miami, and Seattle. 

As younger consumers take a larger share of Scotch sales, the importance of e-commerce will increase. Varone says Moët Hennessy expects the increase in e-commerce spirits delivery that the industry saw during the pandemic to continue.

“We’re continuing to invest heavily in this space to help improve the convenience of buying our products for our consumers,” Varone says. “Scotch can be an intimidating category for newcomers, so beyond pure convenience, these delivery services also allow consumers to research brands, expressions, and spirits’ scores at their leisure to choose what’s best suited for their palate.”

One especially important segment for retailers to consider are gift orders. Scotch significantly over-indexes in the share of gift orders. Over the past 12 months, a 29 percent share of Scotch sales were gifts, compared to an 11 percent share of overall Drizly Sales. Those gift orders are in the highest price range, the average unit price of Scotch gift orders is $112, which is 70 percent higher than the non-gift order average unit price of $66.

“The highest price range has seen share gains in the past year, which suggests consumers are continuing to shop for premium products in the category,” Paquette says. “And that’s even more so when it comes to gift giving.”

Maximizing Scotch Sales Moving Forward

Scotch whisky is an increasingly important category as we move into the colder months. In the past 12 months, the top months for Scotch sales share on Drizly were December, August, September, October, and November.

Displays, working with ambassadors to help tell the brand story, and limited-edition offerings (especially around the holidays) are all ways that retailers can maximize Scotch sales, Young says.

“When consumers build an association with a brand or have a guided whisky experience, they’re more likely to explore the category on their own or explore new brands and releases,” Young says.

In addition to the top-selling SKUs from the top-selling Scotch brands on Drizly, retailers can capitalize on growing interest in the fastest-growing SKUs this year.

Drizly’s Fastest-Growing Scotch Brands, 2022

  1. The Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao Single Malt Scotch Whisky
  2. Johnnie Walker Blue Label Blended Scotch Whisky, Limited Edition Year of the Tiger
  3. Oban 14 Years Distillers Edition
  4. The Glenlivet 12 Year Old Illicit Still
  5. Balvenie TUN 1509 Batch No. 7.
  6. Aberfeldy 20 Year Old Single Malt Whisky 86 Proof
  7. SIA Blended Scotch Whisky
  8. The Glenlivet 14 Year Old Sherry Single Cask
  9. Imperial 12 Year Scotch
  10. X by Glenmorangie

“Scotch remains an essential category within whiskey, the top-selling liquor category on Drizly, for retailers to invest in,” says Paquette. “Scotch has an avid fan base among consumers.” The average price point alone means that even if sales volume lags behind lower-priced spirits, premium Scotch whiskies are important margin drivers.