What you need to know

Estimated at just under £6 billion in 2018, the dark spirits and liqueurs market grew by 20.2% over 2013-18. This was driven by inflation and strong sales growth in certain segments, with American whiskey and dark rum performing particularly strongly in recent years. Dark spirits are drunk by half (47%) of UK adults and liqueurs/flavoured dark spirits by 41%.

Premium products have opportunities to benefit from the alcohol moderation trends, with 57% of drinkers saying they would prefer to drink a smaller quantity of a premium dark spirit/liqueur than a larger quantity of a standard one. This mindset continues to drive a premiumisation trend in innovation within the category. Friend/family recommendations and tasting sessions are the primary means to drive trial of a new dark spirit, enticing 38% and 37% of drinkers respectively. There is also a strong consumer interest in learning more about dark spirits, opening up opportunities for more brands to take an educational stance to support this.

Meanwhile on-trend and less sweet flavours are promising avenues to explore in liqueurs, these appealing to 45% and 40% of dark spirits/liqueurs drinkers respectively.

Products covered in this report

For the purpose of this Report, the following definitions have been used throughout:

Whisky is a spirit distilled from malted barley or other grain and typically aged in oak casks, which is produced in many parts of the world. In practice, however, the only whiskies sold in significant quantities in the UK market are those produced in Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the US. Large quantities are produced in Japan, but Japanese whisky has only a niche presence in the UK market. The spelling ‘whisky’ (rather than ‘whiskey’) is sometimes restricted to Scotch, whether blended or single malt, but is used in this Report as a generic term for the category as a whole.

The most common types of US whiskey are bourbon whiskey (made from at least 51% corn [maize]), rye whiskey (made from at least 51% rye) and corn whiskey (made from a mash made up of at least 80% corn [maize]). In this Report the term ‘bourbon’ is used to refer to all whiskey made in the US.

To carry the name ‘Scotch’ on a label, whisky must be distilled and matured in Scotland and conform to various regulations under The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 legislation.

Brandy is defined for the purposes of this Report to include only spirit produced from grape wine, but not products such as Calvados and Eau de Vie produced from apples, pears or other fruits. Grape brandy which has been flavoured, such as cherry brandy, is classified as a liqueur. Cognac and Armagnac are prestigious brandies, produced in strictly delimited areas of France. Other grape brandies, which mostly also come from France, as well as brandies from Germany, Greece, South Africa, Spain, Italy, Australia and the US, are also included as brandies.

Dark/Golden/Spiced Rum. Rum is distilled from molasses or sugar cane juice, mainly in the Caribbean, although it is possible to produce it in almost any climate where sugar cane is planted. Official statistics make no distinction as to the colouring of rum, which may be achieved by the addition of caramel. Both the trade and consumers have, however, traditionally regarded dark and white rum as very distinct drinks. The latter is excluded from this Report. Golden rums have, again by tradition, been regarded as a sub-segment of the dark rum market by the trade, and Mintel has continued to follow this. Spiced golden rums are therefore included in this Report.

Liqueurs are an alcoholic beverage of a base spirit which has been flavoured with fruit, herbs, nuts, spices, flowers or cream. These must contain at least 2.5% sugar by weight, though in practice most have a considerably higher sugar content and many contain up to 35% of a sweetening agent. Most liqueurs contain 17-30% alcohol by volume (ABV) and some are as high as 50% ABV. This category includes cream-based liqueurs such as Baileys and Amarula and non-cream ones such as Southern Comfort, Pimm’s, Tia Maria and Jägermeister.

Most dark spirits now have a standard of 40% ABV. This has been set as a minimum strength to qualify as a whisky by the EU.

The market size includes both on-trade and off-trade sales. Duty-free and distillery whisky sales and visitor centre entry fees are excluded from market data.

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