Whisky isn’t new. In fact, the spirit dates back to sometime in the 15th century, when the Irish were introduced to the process of distillation. More than 300 years later the drink became popular in America, with the arrival of Irish and Scottish immigrants, who began using rye in place of barley, because of the climate difference in comparison to their countries across the pond. With further expansion into the western part of the United States, namely Kentucky, distillers used corn to produce the spirit. Today, it is the most popular version of the drink to be exported from the United States.
Various forms of whisky continued to grow in popularity as a preferred beverage in America, displacing caribbean rum, until alcoholic prohibition of the 1920s and early 1930s, and declined even further as a result of the second World War. However, it is again growing in popularity, with an increase of 12% in sales between 2014 and 2015 alone. The spirit is one of the most consumed in the United States, ranking as the fourth most popular beverage, based on sales, among Americans.
A large part of its growth is a result of the variety that exists in the market as well as the renewed proclivity for craft and premium versions of drinks from beer to wine, and of course, spirits. As interest has grown, so has the audience of experts with an appreciation for well-crafted, specialty alcohol. Rare releases, like the limited edition of the 50 Year Old Double Matured Blended Scotch Whisky from The Last Drop, has an appeal among those value the experience and quality of a beverage more than the goal of simply drinking. Alcohol is serious business, and whisky leads the way, accounting for 39% (or $17.5 billion) of total liquor sales worldwide.
However, don’t let tradition cloud your view of who’s leading the revolution this time around. Women are very much a part of the conversation. Shedding the idea of gender specific beverages, the share of female whisky consumers has more than doubled in the last 20 years. In 2014, women accounted for 37 percent of whisky lovers, compared to 15 percent in the 1990s. This growing love affair has also resulted in more women becoming a part of the process of actually distilling and producing the spirit themselves, just as it occurred in the 18th century, when alcohol was used for medicinal purposes.
So, while vodka remains the most popular spirit the world over, due to wide and frequent consumption in Russia, interest in whisky is growing dramatically around the world, from Thailand to America, South Africa to Brazil. There’s a demand for the beverage among a myriad of people, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.