New record figures

Scotch whisky exports to US burst through £1 billion

whisky bottles Diageo

Whisky sales are booming around the world (pic: Terry Murden)


The United States last year became the first country to buy more than £1 billion of Scotch whisky, according to figures showing exports across the world hitting a new record.

Exports grew 7.8% by value, to a record £4.7bn and the number of bottles exported also reached record levels growing 3.6% to the equivalent of 1.28bn 70cl bottles, according to HM Revenue & Customs data.

Sales to the US grew to £1.04bn while the EU remains the largest region for exports, accounting for 30% of global value and 36% of global volume.

Blended Scotch Whisky underlined its position as the bedrock of the industry with global exports of £3.04bn. There was further growth in exports of Single Malt Scotch Whisky, growing by 11.3% in 2018 to £1.3bn.

Scotch Whisky Association chief Executive Karen Betts, pictured, said:  “2018 was another year of strong export growth for Scotch Whisky, attesting to its enduring popularity in different countries and among cultures right across the world. Quite simply, Scotch Whisky remains the whisky everyone wants to drink. 

Karen Betts“These figures underscore strength of the Scotch Whisky category, which has continued to grow despite the challenges posed by Brexit and by tensions in the global trading system.  

“A key driver for global growth is the growing market for premium spirits. Scotch Whisky is in a great position to take advantage of this given its unrivalled reputation for quality, authenticity and provenance.”

In a warning note to policymakers in the UK, she said it was important to maintain Scotch’s competitiveness through fair taxes and a good deal with the EU.

“The industry does not take continued growth for granted,” she said. “We operate in a competitive global marketplace and so a competitive business environment in Scotland and across the UK is vital to Scotch Whisky‘s success. 

“For Scotch, that means fair and balanced regulation and taxes, including excise duty, to give distillers the confidence to invest in future growth.  We also want to see the UK and EU agree to an open and positive future relationship, which delivers frictionless trade with the EU, and the UK to secure ambitious trading relationships with key markets around the world. 

“In that context, it is important to our industry, as to many others, that the UK does not leave the EU without a deal at the end of March.  We are urging the government and Parliamentarians to work together constructively and pragmatically to ensure that an agreement is reached as quickly as possible.”


  • Export value of Scotch Whisky in 2018 was £4.697bn , +£338m compared with 2017 
  • Export volume of Scotch Whisky in 2018 was 1.276bn 70cl bottles equivalent , +3.6% compared with 2017
  • The previous high for export value was £4.37bn in 2017
  • The previous high for export volume was 1.264bn 70cl bottles in 2011
  • 41 bottles were shipped overseas each second in 2018
  • Scotch Whisky is exported to 175 markets worldwide
  • The Scotch Whisky industry directly employs 10,000 people in Scotland, including 7,000 in rural areas, and supports a further 30,000 jobs across the UK

Top 10 Markets 

The largest export destinations for Scotch Whisky (defined by value) in 2018 were:  

1    United States    £1,039.5m    +£117.8m    +12.8%    (£921.7m in 2017)

2    France        £442.1m    +£8.5m    +2.0%    (£433.6m in 2017)

3    Singapore    £319.9m    +£29.2m    +10.0%    (£290.7m in 2017)

4    Germany    £173.9m    -£9.8m        -5.3%    (£183.7m in 2017)

5    Spain        £170.4m    -£4.5m        -2.6%    (£174.9m in 2017)

6    Taiwan        £168.4m    +£8.0m    +5.0%    (£160.3m in 2017)

7    UAE        £146.9m    +£17.1m    +13.2%    (£129.8m in 2017)

8    India        £138.8m    +£35.3m    +34.1%    (£103.5m in 2017)

9    Mexico        £131.5m    +£20.5m    +18.5%    (£111.1m in 2017)

10    Latvia        £129.8m    +£9.5m    +7.9%    (£120.4m in 2017) 

The largest export destinations for Scotch Whisky (defined by volume, 70cl bottles) in 2018 were: 

1    France        187.8m    +9.4m        +5.3%    (178.4m bottles in 2017)

2    United States    136.8m    +9.4m        +7.4%    (127.5m bottles in 2017)

3    India        112.6m    +23.1m    +25.9%    (89.5m bottles in 2017)

4    Mexico        59.8m        +6.3m        +11.9%    (53.4m bottles in 2017)

5    Spain        55.0m        -5.7m        -9.5%    (60.8m bottles in 2017)

6    Japan        50.5m        +16.7m    +49.5%    (33.8m bottles in 2017)

7    Germany    45.6m        -10.2m        -18.3%    (55.8m bottles in 2017)

8    Singapore    44.5m        -2.1m        -4.5%    (46.6m bottles in 2017)

9    South Africa    41.8m        -10.2m        -19.5%    (52.0m bottles in 2017)

10    Brazil        38.9m        +2.7m        +7.5%    (36.2m bottles in 2017) 

Regional data

In 2018, Scotch Whisky exports by global region (defined by value) were:

European Union:        £1,392.0m    +1.4%         (30% of global exports)

North America    :        £1,260.3m    +12.9%     (27% of global exports)

Asia and Oceania:        £1,127.5m    +15.0%     (24% of global exports)

LatAm & Caribbean:        £368.4m    +9.5%         (8% of global exports)

MENA:                £274.6m    +4.8%        (6% of global exports)

Africa (Sub-Saharan):        £158.2m    -8.2%         (3% of global exports)

Western Europe (non-EU)    £84.7m    -10.8%     (2% of global exports)

Eastern Europe (non-EU)    £30.8m    +30.1%     (1% of global exports)

Grand Total            £4,696.6m    +7.8%         (100% of global exports)


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