Over the past decade or so, Americans’ love affair with whiskey has been passionate and pronounced, as bourbon exploded in popularity. But there’s a new romance brewing stateside that may leave whiskey behind.
Mexican agave spirits have caught the eye of their neighbors to the north, to the point where mezcal and tequila are becoming more favored than America’s indigenous grain spirits. According to a recent Bloomberg article pointing to data just released by IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, in 2022 tequila and mezcal sales will outpace American whiskey for the first time. In even more stunning news, IWSR is predicting that agave spirits will surpass vodka, the most popular spirit category, in sales by 2023 by nearly a billion dollars. Maybe all these celebrities starting their own tequila brands are onto something after all.
According to IWSR, the tequila brands that have led the way from 2016 to 2021 are George Clooney’s Casamigos (which he sold to Diageo several years ago for close to a billion dollars), high-priced luxury brand Clase Azul which comes in handmade ceramic decanters and lesser-known budget brand Piedra Azul (distributed by Sazerac). Overall tequila sales grew by 27 percent from 2020 to 2021. As far as mezcal, the leading brands have been Bozal, Ilegal (partially owned by Bacardi) and Pierde Almas (owned by Diageo). While still representing a smaller share of agave spirits, mezcal grew at a greater clip than tequila, with sales increasing by 53 percent from 2020 to 2021. Combined, sales of these two agave spirit categories are expected to grow by 81 percent by the year 2026.
The Distilled Spirits Council data supports these figures, showing tequila and mezcal edging out all types of whiskey, other spirits and RTDs in terms of contributing to distilled spirits revenue growth in 2022. It’s safe to say that, wherever they are, The Rock, Kendall Jenner, Bryan Cranston, Lebron James, Justin Timberlake, Michael Jordan and many other high-profile agave spirits backers are smiling right now.