Brown spirits, led by whisky, are making a comeback in the US market, according to new research.

A study by The Nielson Company released today (18 December) shows that, while sales trends have typically favoured white spirits in recent years, US sales growth for whisky and brown spirits is outperforming the growth rate of the overall spirits category in 2008.

"Brown is back," said Danny Brager, vice president of beverage alcohol for Nielsen.

 "Consumers and bar managers tell us that brown's 'mixability' and rich taste, along with increased consumer knowledge are contributing to the brown spirits comeback."

The study shows that whisky sales have increased by nearly US$85m, or 4.4%, this year, up from 2.3% a year ago. 

By comparison, dollar sales growth for spirits has largely remained unchanged.  At the same time, whisky volume, while declining a year ago, is now showing growth.

The brown resurgence is being led by bourbons, doubling its dollar growth rate of a year ago, but is also boosted by gains from the Canadian whisky, blended whisky and Irish whiskey segments.

Whisky sales increase sharply at the back end of the year, with weekly dollar sales in November and December almost double the annual average and share of total spirits increasing by five percentage points to more than 35%. 

Consumers spend more on brown spirits as the temperature drops and during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year holidays, Nielsen said.