The Scotch Whisky Association has released global export figures for 2023, showing that global Scotch whisky exports exceeded £5.6 billion for the year. Around 1.32bn bottles of Scotch were exported, meaning approximately 43 bottles left the country every second.

Despite these impressive statistics, the global figures are down on 2022. However, that was a particularly good year for Scotch whisky. The industry received a much needed post-pandemic boost from global markets fully reopening, resulting in a “bumper” year for whisky exports.

The data from 2023 represents a “normalised” picture of the current state of the export market. It’s worth noting that the numbers are higher across the board in comparison to pre-pandemic figures; Scotch exports enjoyed a 14% rise in value and 3% increase in volume in 2023 when compared to 2019.

Sales of single malt Scotch whisky exceeded £2bn for the first time, accounting for 36% of exports. Blended whisky still leads the way though, with an export value of £3.1bn making up 55% of the market.

The Asia-Pacific market continues to be the most valuable market for Scotch exports. The area accounted for £1.8bn in exports, which was down on 2022 but up 45% on 2019. In terms of value, there were record exports to China in 2023. £235 million of Scotch entered the country, showcasing a staggering £165% increase when compared to 2019.

Despite this impressive increase, China is still behind Singapore and Taiwan in terms of value of exports. Exports to Singapore were £378m, a 19% increase on 2022 and 26% up on 2019. Similarly exports to Taiwan were higher compared to previous years (£341m in 2023, +8.3% on 2022, +65% on 2019).

Premiumisation is an important factor in why exports are so strong in these markets. Single malt Scotch whisky is often viewed as a luxury item in these countries and this category has witnessed growth in these markets as a result.

Europe continues to be hugely significant for Scotch exports, particularly with regards to volume. France has retaken the mantle of top export market by volume for Scotch whisky (174m 70cl bottles). Germany and Spain also both make the top ten list of countries for both value and volume, though lower figures for both value and volume were recorded for all three countries compared to 2022 (except Spain, whose imports of Scotch increased in value by 7%).

In 2022, India overtook France in terms of exports by volume. However, Scotch exports to India were down 22% by value and and 24% by volume in 2023. India is still regarded as a priority market by the whisky industry. Groups are lobbying for a new trade agreement to remove or lower the 150% tariff on whisky exports to the country, which would no doubt lead to growth in that market.

The USA was Scotch whisky’s first £1bn market. However sales were down last year, dropping 7% to £978m. Nevertheless the US is still Scotch’s top market in terms of value by a considerable margin. In terms of volume, exports were also down compared to 2022 but are steady in relation to 2019 figures. Those within the industry are confident that this is a minor dip and that exports to the US will steady themselves throughout 2024.

These global export figures indicate that the Scotch whisky is in relatively good health. SWA executive Mark Kent said “Scotch whisky has once again shown its export strength despite significant challenges across a volatile global trading environment”, before congratulating brands and distilleries on their hard work in establishing “their global presence to ensure that Scotch continues to be the world’s favourite whisky”.

Indeed, despite underperforming compared to last year, these export numbers can be considered a triumph, especially when viewed within the context of the global economic conditions they came from. The cost of living is rising across the globe and consumers are increasingly more selective in what they buy. Combined with rising costs for producers and often unfavourable import conditions, it doesn’t really set the industry up for success.

Nevertheless, the Scotch whisky has shown is resiliency and continues to perform well internationally. Here’s to hoping for more of the same in years to come.