Bourbon, America’s only homegrown spirit, holds a special place in the country’s history. In fact, George Washington ran the nation’s largest distillery in the early 1800s
Today’s infographic comes from WebstaurantStore, and it digs into whiskey’s history, production, market shares, and more. Even seasoned fans will likely pick up some new facts to share over that next dram of bourbon.
American whiskey is experiencing an impressive resurgence, but the road to the current bourbon boom hasn’t always been smooth.
In the 1960s, white spirits such as vodka were experiencing a big boost in sales. Inspired by James Bond, younger consumers were imbibing martinis and mixed drinks like highballs and Bloody Marys. As a result, American whiskey brands were beginning to see their market shares erode.
In an effort to reinvigorate sales, distillers shifted down-market to create lighter, cheaper whiskeys that were designed for cocktail mixing. Bourbon’s image – and bottom line – took a huge hit as young consumers saw the spirit as “grandpa’s drink”.
Back from the dead
There were a few factors that brought the spirit back into the mainstream.
First, the spirit got a big boost from Japanese companies. Both Kirin and Suntory are heavily invested in bourbon production, and their wide reach helped spark global demand, particularly in Australia and New Zealand:
American Whiskey has also received a boost from hipster culture and the popularity of shows such as Mad Men and House of Cards, where heavyweight characters are fans of the spirit. Ultra-premium and craft batches are generating a lot of excitement, and there is still plenty of room for the category to continue growing.
In short, bourbon is having a moment.
Kentucky is winning big
Thanks to surging demand for American whiskey domestically and abroad, Kentucky’s economy is also profiting from the bourbon boom. The distilling industry now has an annual economic impact of $8.5 billion. As well, the industry is in the midst of a $1.2 billion construction boom as distillers reinvest capital into expansion projects (fueled by recent tax cuts).
The bourbon boom is benefiting employees as well. Average salaries in the industry have nearly doubled since 2001:
With brisk demand and expanding production, the bourbon boom is showing no signs of slowing down. For investors looking to capitalize on the trend, there’s even a whiskey-oriented ETF: WSKY.
This truly is the golden age of bourbon
– Eric Gregory, President, Kentucky Distillers’ Association