Booze. Hootch. Firewater. The sauce.
Call it whatever you like, but Ohioans are spending record amounts on their liquor.
The state’s Department of Commerce said this week that sales of spirituous liquor totaled $898 million in 2013, up 6 percent from 2012.
But rather than drinking more, Ohioans seem to be drinking better.
“People are trading up, and not necessarily drinking more,” said Matt Mullins, a spokesman for the Commerce Department's Liquor Control division.
By volume, sales to consumers and bars were up 3 percent for the year to 12 million gallons. Mr. Mullins said that’s comparable to 1985, when sales totaled $388 million.
“That kind of illustrates that over time that's been a continuing trend. People are trading up and buying the premium products,” he said.
A better illustration of that might be that Kamchatka, an inexpensive vodka used primarily for well drinks in bars, wasn’t the top-selling liquor in Ohio. Mr. Mullins said it’s the first time he can remember that happening.
Leading the way this year was Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, and by a wide margin. The state said liquor agencies sold 351,125 gallons of the Old No. 7 sippin’ whiskey. Kamchatka vodka fell to second, with total sales of 294,168 gallons. Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey was third at 286,451 gallons. Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and Absolut Vodka rounded out the top five.
Mr. Mullins said all of the newer variations of flavored vodkas and whiskeys, as well as the increasing number of brands, have helped push sales dollars higher.
That fits in with what the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a national trade association, has reported. While value brands grew slightly over the last decade, premium brands were up 46 percent. Sales of what the association calls “super premium” brands were up 164 percent.
Brad Robertson, owner of Pauken Wine and Liquor, a state liquor agency in Maumee, has seen the same trends.
“They are buying more expensive items. I feel they’re consuming more at home than they are out. That’s giving us a push in the retail business,” he said.
His top sellers? Captain Morgan, Absolut, Jack Daniel’s, Bacardi rum, and Grey Goose vodka. All but Grey Goose were also on Ohio’s top 10 list. Rums and vodkas typically sell well because they are easy and versatile mixers, Mr. Robertson said.
Lately Fireball Whiskey, a relatively new cinnamon-flavored whiskey, has been one of his top sellers.
The state said retail sales were up 7 percent to $635 million. Sales to restaurants and bars were $264 million, an increase of 3 percent.
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at email@example.com or 419-724-6134.