The Economical Significance of Scotch Whisky

Scotch Whisky is the most traded spirit internationally. It is worth £5 Billion to the British economy and makes up 21% of all UK food and drink exports. In value Scotch Whisky is bigger than the UK’s iron/steel, textiles, shipbuilding, or computer industries. It is around half the size of the UK’s pharmaceuticals or aerospace industries and is one third the size of the entire UK car industry. It is big business!



97% of all the whisky Scotland produces is exported abroad. This equates to 1.2 billion bottles, and demand is constantly rising. But Scotland’s output is already running at full capacity. This is because the amount of whisky a distillery is able to produce is tied directly to how many Copper Stills it has in operation.

Each distillery’s Copper Stills are unique to them, and produce characteristics within a whisky which becomes a distillery’s identity. For example, one of oldest Copper Stills in operation belongs to the Bowmore Distillery. It has been in operation since 1779. If they change their Copper Still, they would be changing the 241 year old identity of their whisky. They would be unable to produce the whisky their consumers have come to expect.  The science of why different Copper Stills produce identifiable characteristics is not fully understood. Although it is widely accepted that shape and size play a significant role.

The Future of the Scotch Whisky Market

The future of the Scotch Whisky Market looks very promising. The market is predicted to continue to rise over the next 5 years, as it has done historically. This growth is fueled by changing lifestyles, high disposable incomes and an increasingly global demand for premium Scotch Whisky. The chart summarises the growth of the Single Malt Whisky Market in the United States between 2015 and the present day, as well as providing a prediction into the market’s future.


Analysis by the UK government in 2019 concluded that Scotch Whisky exports to the US was the most valuable single market, generating over £1 Billion in revenue, a 12% increase on the previous year. Europe is the largest consumer of Scotch Whisky, generating £1.4 Billion in revenue.

The FTSE 100 listed company Diageo, the world’s largest producer of spirits who owns brands such as Johnny Walker, has seen sales of Scotch Whisky jump by over 50% in the past five years.