LAST YEAR was stellar for the whiskey category and rye in particular. A new Nielson CGA report shows that whiskey continues to lead spirits value sales growth in the US market, with rye expressions showing the biggest gains. Whiskey as a category showed value growth of 4% for the year versus total spirits sector growth of 3.2%. Star performers posting the biggest gains were rye (+17.6%), Irish (+14.3%), single malt (+6.1%), Japanese (+6%), and Bourbon (+5.6%). Of the seven serve options for whiskey (shot, neat, over ice, with a bottle mixer, with a draft mixer, with a premium mixer and in a cocktail), whiskey is the only spirits category to have a double figure percentage in more than four of them, with Irish and Scotch hitting that level in six. Whiskey now contributes just under $5O,OOO of sales per year for the average bar, a close second behind vodka. Growth was led by Tequila, Cognac and Irish Whiskey, while rum and liqueurs continued to struggle. Canadian whiskey led off-trade sales where flavored vodkas and whiskies also performed well, however unflavored variants did much better in the on-trade. The off-trade looks to remain challenging for 2O17. “E-commerce in beverage alcohol manifested in different forms, while still relatively small in comparison to many other categories, will continue to expand,” said Danny Brager, Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol senior vice president. “Off-premise retailers will need to deal with a growing segment of consumers who may wish to ‘buy’, but who may not need or see the need to visit the store to do so.” Irish whiskey value sales in the US on-trade saw a 27.6% uptick in the run-up to St Patrick’s Day, Nielsen CGA said.