Johnnie Walker does Diageo proud

Johnnie Walker does Diageo proud

All the evidence is pointing toward a buoyant first half of 2010 for Scotch whisky exports, with the Scotch Whisky Association in a tellingly confident mood.

If John Walker or any of his sons were still to be found in Kilmarnock, then Diageo head-honcho Paul Walsh would owe them all a dram. There have been few certainties about Diageo's full-year results over the last 24 hours, but a 7% rise in like-for-like sales of Johnnie Walker is one of them.

The group's flagship blended Scotch whisky was the star performer, with growth heavily loaded towards the six months from January to June. Volume sales rose by 11% - faster than value - which may indicate some margin erosion, but Johnnie Walker strode confidently into new areas of Latin America and Asia in particular during the year.   

Diageo's confidence in the brand has set the just-drinks cogs turning as to the performance of Scotch whiskies in general so far in 2010.

Official half-year figures are yet to be released, but it seems the wider industry also has reason to be cheerful.

A spokesperson for the Scotch Whisky Association told just-drinks today (27 August): "It is encouraging that the growth experienced by both Malt and Blended Scotch whiskies in many export markets last year - despite what were challenging economic conditions - appears to have continued in 2010."

Teasingly, he added that half-year export numbers will be released "in the coming weeks". The worldwide appeal of Scotch enabled exports to rise by 3% in value, to GBP3.1bn (US$4.8bn), and by 4% in volume in 2009, despite declines in key markets such as Spain and South Korea.

In the first half of 2010, comparables in South Korea should have eased, although we can probably expect ongoing difficulty in Spain. Greece, which reported a 15% rise in Scotch orders by value last year, is almost certain to have fallen away due to macroeconomic pressures.

The US and France, as the largest markets, should naturally be watched closely. However, if noises emerging from Diageo are anything to go by, then the likes of China, Russia, Australia and Latin America in general could be ones to look out for in the upcoming SWA numbers.