There can't be too many key spirits markets where Irish whiskey outsells single malt Scotch, but the US has just become one. Here, just-drinks brings you some key facts from the 2011 sales figures for spirits in the US.  

Figures released by the US Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) this week show that Irish whiskey sales rose by 24% in calendar 2011 to 1.7m nine-litre cases. Scotch single malt whisky sales increased by 9.5% to 1.4m cases.  

Doubtless, Pernod Ricard's Jameson brand is fuelling the growth, but could it be a landmark victory in the resurgence of Irish whiskey? With Cooley under Beam Inc, all four of Ireland's whiskey distillers are now owned by big players.

On the other hand, let's not get carried away. If blended Scotch is included in the Scotch figures then one can add a further 6m cases to Scotch sales. Include bulk, bottled malt and grain Scotch, too, and the total Scotch figure is 9m cases.

What other stats have been thrown up by the DISCUS release? 

Generally, we have seen good value growth for super-premium spirits, from Rum, Scotch and Bourbon to Tequila and vodka.

As a rule in 2011, the more expensive the spirit, the better the volume growth, according to DISCUS stats showing escalating volume gains from "value" spirits right through to super-premium. 

In contrast to the lacklustre mainstream lager sector, US spirits do not appear constrained by relatively high unemployment in the country. During 2011, spirits took another 0.3 percentage points of alcohol market value share off beer. Over the 12 months, spirits accounted for 33.6% of all alcoholic drinks sales by value in the US, with beer on 49.3% and wine on 17.1%.

Away from the domestic market, exports of US spirits have rocketed. Based on 11-month results, exports are projected to have risen by 16.5% to $1.34bn for 2011. American whiskey, including Bourbon, accounted for the majority of those exports. See the map below for the top ten most popular destinations for US spirits in 2011, in US$m.