The infographics below are derived from data contained in
BMC's DrinkTell™ Database with Market Forecasts


Depletions of U.S. bottled Scotch Whisky totaled 2 million cases last year according to BMC's DrinkTell™ database. That's about 23.5% of the total consumed domestically, a proportion that's been very slowly slipping. (It was 27% in 2011.) Could U.S. Scotch bottlings now disappear entirely? They would if a new movement launched by the Unite union, which represents industry workers in Scotland has its way.

Unite fears that a possible move by Diageo to end Vodka bottling in Scotland could spread to a move toward overseas bottling of other spirits including Scotch. Lending the idea plausibility is the fact that only Scotch single malt whisky has to be bottled in Scotland. The political climate both in Scotland in the wake of Brexit and the rest of Western Europe and the U.S. does the rest. A conflict billed as a battle between the demands of economic efficiency and the declining need for skilled labor virtually insures a brouhaha to come.

Some basic factors as to how real the actual threat to bulk overseas shipment of Scotch are not clear. The most important is probably how difficult it will be to negotiate new bottling contracts for Diageo's Vodka. If those efforts fall through then a domino effect will seem more threatening. At the same time, it's not clear that a total ban on bulk exports is in facgt realistic given legal and regulatory challenges. Nonetheless, the opportunity to dispute the issue is apparently too delicious not to have brought those who can claim an interest to the table. The sides have lined up as expected and are lobbying their positions. Unite would like to get promises of political support by the time of the June 8 General Election in the U.K.

One interesting point of speculation, which is not in any of the press reports on Unite's Save Our Scotch Campaign that we have seen, is whether Scotland's growing post-Brexit Scotch Whisky export boom has played any part in the positions the union and others are taking. Will the current favorable exchange rate that is helping to drive exports continue and will it continue to bolster Scotch whisky exports? All to be seen. The United States, France and Singapore are Scotland's top export markets for Scotch Whisky. Scotch Whisky accounted for 1.3% of the total value of British exports in 2016. For additional insights, see DrinkTell™.

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