“Where we’re going we don’t need roads”

Erik Hasselgärde
Jan 27, 2018 · 4 min read

The Swedish alcohol monopoly, Systembolaget, publicly release their annual consumer sales in detailed reports. As of today (2018–01–27), they haven’t yet released their own analytics of them for 2017, but the raw numbers are available:

Total 2017 sales of the category “American whiskey” in Sweden: 317 411,9 liters. That is a 7.67% increase from 2016! The average percentage increase from year to year since 2009 (which is as far back as I have reliable numbers) is 5,27–so the increase itself, the above-average year-to-year increase, and also going past 300 000 liters sold per year are all causes for celebration!

Dude knows how to party

This is the top 10 list of best-selling American whiskey in Sweden in 2017:

  1. Jack Daniel’s Old Nr.7 700ml
  2. Jim Beam Bourbon 700ml
  3. Jack Daniel’s Old Nr.7 350ml
  4. Bulleit Bourbon 700ml
  5. John Lee 350ml
  6. Evan Williams Extra Aged 700ml
  7. Jim Beam Bourbon 350ml
  8. Maker’s Mark 700ml
  9. Ole Smoky Original Moonshine 500ml
  10. Woodford Reserve 700ml

The list looks almost exactly the same as it did in 2016, with the exception of Evan Williams Extra Aged coming in strong this year at no. 6. Because of its December 2016 launch, it didn’t make it to the top 10 then (and also explains the big increase percentage in the chart below). Its entry this year also knocked Bulleit rye off the list.

2017 American whiskey sales (in liters), visualized. Click to enlarge.

Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam are, as almost everywhere else in the world, the big hitters. Together they make up 73.6% of the sales. The ten whiskeys combined make up 93,8% of the total sales of American whiskey in Sweden in 2017. On this subject, it is interesting as an example to note that Wild Turkey 81 Proof, the core expression of one of the most well-known and popular bourbon brands in the USA, only sold 171 bottles in Sweden in 2017.

In total, 97 expressions of American whiskey were sold directly to consumer in Sweden in 2017. 15 of those expressions each sold less than 10 bottles during the year.

Who are you?

If you’re American, you might wonder what the heck “John Lee” bourbon is. It’s export-only, sold cheap in a 350ml glass flask-type bottle. No info is supplied by the importer nor the producer, and as many are playing fast and loose with the regulations for bourbon over here (which apply in the EU as well, mind you!), I suspect that this might not be “straight bourbon” whiskey at all. Could be, but probably not.

We find some interesting stuff outside of the top 10 as well. On the subject of shady export bourbon: “Rackhouse bourbon” was introduced in Sweden on the 1st of December 2017. A cheap 350ml bottle as well, containing “Kentucky style” bourbon, with a label sporting a company that doesn’t seem to exist. In one month, Rackhouse bourbon managed to sell about as much as Bulleit rye (which I previously mentioned was one of the ten most sold in 2016) did over the entire year! Here’s to doing a lot more consumer education in 2018 🥃.

Other than that, a few of the expressions I’ve been pushing hard to friends and readers, for example Blanton’s Gold (+54,3 %) and Straight From The Barrel (+50,2 %), Four Roses Single Barrel (+62,7 %) and Michter’s Bourbon (+1570% 😲) saw big jumps in sales from 2016 to 2017. Correlation does not necessarily imply causation, but one can hope, right? 😉

So I would say we are for the most part moving in the right direction. It will be interesting to read Systembolagets own analytics when they’re released later this year. They have been singling out American whiskey as a steadily growing category, which is not the fact with some of the others.

Great job everybody, keep it up!

One last thing! I’d really appreciate it if you show support for this post (by clapping) so other people can find it, and feel free to comment by adding a response! Follow the Northern Bourbon publication to get notified when new bourbon-related articles are published. If you enjoyed this article, please consider following me on Instagram and liking the Northern Bourbon facebook page. Thanks!

Northern Bourbon

An outsider's view of American whiskey

Erik Hasselgärde

Written by

Bourbon whiskey activist. Runs Northern Bourbon.

Northern Bourbon

An outsider's view of American whiskey

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