US craft distillers entice Australian spirit lovers

When you think of American spirits, bourbon is probably the first thing that comes to mind, but US craft distillers are passionate about everything from single malt to vodka, amaro, rum and gin.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the US (DISCUS) has kicked off a “Cheers! Spirits from the USA” campaign this month in Australia to raise awareness and knowledge of US spirits.

The campaign, supported by the US Department of Agriculture, will highlight the versatility and uniqueness of US spirits products, and heighten their local visibility, through a range of trade and consumer events, industry collaborations, media relations and social media activations executed over the coming months.

A key element of the program will be connecting craft brands that aren’t currently available in Australia, as well as brands looking to further grow their presence via importers, distributors and retailers, while also celebrating internationally recognised American spirits brands.

Charles McEntee, Director of Export Promotion for DISCUS says, “We are really excited to launch this campaign. Australia has been a high growth market for many US spirit brands currently in the market, and it also presents excellent opportunities for the rest of our members. 

“Australians are naturally curious consumers, so we are looking forward to sharing US trends and introducing a range of new craft American spirits, as well as highlighting the quality and taste of much-loved favourites.”

The whiskey brands with the biggest market share in Australia in 2020 – according to Euromonitor – were Jim Beam White, Jack Daniel’s and Wild Turkey.

Australia has been one of the top export markets for Jim Beam for decades. Way back in 1991, the Australian Financial Review noted that “Australians drink more Jim Beam than any other country on a per capita basis”. 

Meanwhile, Campari Chief Executive Officer Bob Kunze-Concewitz revealed in October 2020 that Australia continues to be the supplier’s biggest export market for Wild Turkey.

But DISCUS is out to prove there’s more to US spirits than just the big names, especially in light of how hard the craft spirit industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the closure of on-site tasting rooms and the loss of other on-premise sales. More than 50% of respondents to a DISCUS study last year reported a ‘significant’ impact on tasting room sales, with approximately 40% of craft distillers reporting a drop of 25% or more in on-site sales. More than 15% said their tasting rooms were completely shut.

Craft distilling is a US$1.8 billion industry and there are more than 2000 craft distilleries across the US. In 2019, the sector produced around US$3.2billion in retail sales. Among those looking to expand their presence in Australia are Westward Whiskey, James E Pepper, Westland Whiskey and KOVAL.

Drinks Digest attended a virtual masterclass with Westward Whiskey head distiller Miles Munroe last year. Westward has become one the largest independent distillers of American single malt whiskey and decided to kick off its international expansion plans by exporting to Australia 2019.

According to CEO and co-owner Thomas Mooney, Australia is considered a “thought-leader within the global craft whiskey community”.

“Aside from Australia having its own amazing single malt scene with people wanting to try something new, wanting to know what is out there and being really interested in what other craft makers are up to is a great part of Australia,” he said. “So we knew right away it was going to be the first place.”

For further information, and details about upcoming activations and events, visit or

The campaign roll out will be headed up by Agent99. 

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