As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball

Erik Hasselgärde
Jan 22 · 4 min read

With 2018 wrapped up, it’s once again time to look at some numbers! The Swedish alcohol monopoly Systembolaget release these numbers themselves, and they are public for anyone to share.

We celebrated after 2017, and we have even more reason to celebrate today: American whiskey sales in 2018, compared to previous year, saw an increase of 8,9%! Let’s put this into perspective:

Source: Systembolaget

Although a small category here (volume-wise) compared to say blended scotch, American whiskey has seen a steady increase for almost ten years now and a 36% increase in the last five years! This despite trade tariffs and a hostile political climate.

And about the tariffs. As a consumer in Sweden, the effects of these tariffs have been minimal, if any at all. It’s hard to say what hasn’t happened, but there haven’t been any retail price increases (Although, Beam Suntory has flagged probability of this in the future). Some brands even lowered their price during the year. And the craft producers that were available here before are still available today. I’m not saying that the tariffs haven’t had an impact, just that it hasn’t been a notable one on consumers… yet.

Because in general the bourbon market doesn’t look too shaky at the moment: last year, almost a million people visited the distilleries included in the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Beam Suntory broke the news about a 900+ million dollar investment into their American whiskey brands, and industry insiders are hoping for a Napa-fication” of Kentucky–where the majority of all bourbon is made.

And now, before I move on to specific brands, it is necessary to note that, more than anything else, sales in Sweden rely on availability–which there are tiers of in the monopoly. Some brands are available on the shelf everywhere, while some can only be ordered upon request. Disregarding any other correlation, all the bottles topping the sales have one thing in common: availability.

But at the same time, for other reasons, brands that are industry leaders–or at the very least considered category staples, aren’t represented in Sweden in any noteworthy way:

Sales of Evan Williams Extra Aged (‘Black Label’), a bottle introduced here at the end of 2016, saw a big boost during 2017 (due to massive availability), but then dropped to less than half of that in 2018. Bourbon heavy hitters Buffalo Trace (producer of both the Van Winkle-line and Antique Collection) only has one product available in Sweden (Buffalo Trace), selling only 792 bottles during 2018. Other notable examples of prolific bottles that sold under a thousand in 2018 were Four Roses “Yellow Label” (556 bottles) and Wild Turkey 81 (164!).

Counting 700 and 350ml bottles, Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s still make up the lion’s share of the American whiskey sales with a combined 68%. 2018 was the first year since I’ve started counting that the 700ml Jim Beam ‘White Label’ surpassed Jack Daniel’s’, and is now the best-selling bottle of bourbon in Sweden!

This is the top 10 list of best-selling American whiskey in Sweden in 2018:

  1. Jim Beam White Label 700ml
  2. Jack Daniel’s Old Nr.7 700ml
  3. Bulleit Bourbon 700ml
  4. Jack Daniel’s Old Nr.7 350ml
  5. Jim Beam White Label 350ml
  6. John Lee 350ml
  7. Maker’s Mark 700ml
  8. Rackhouse 350ml
  9. Evan Williams Extra Aged 700ml
  10. Blanton’s Gold 700ml
Click to enlarge

I’m personally very happy to see Blanton’s Gold entering the top ten! Other personal favorites that did even better in 2018 than 2017 are Blanton’s Straight From The Barrel (+94,4%), Knob Creek bourbon and rye (568,5% and 525,8% respectively), and Michter’s bourbon (292,2%).

All in all, I am very pleased with the results. We are still on the right trajectory:

“We must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!”

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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