An intense focus on high-end spirits ignited with the onset of Covid-19 last March rocketed throughout the holiday season. Tequila led the charge with supply struggling to keep pace with lightening quick demand. “Interest in super-premium spirits is categorically driven right now,” says Jeff Zacharia, president of Zachys Wine & Liquor in Scarsdale, New York. “Tequila sales more than doubled in 2020, especially in the super-premium category.”
Sales could have been greater for certain brands if supply wasn’t an issue. “Clase Azul Reposado ($150 a 750-ml.) and Don Julio 1942 ($166 750-ml.) have led the way with demand, but both have had supply issues,” Zacharia says. “Cincoro Reposado ($120 a 750-ml.) has also been a highlight and has thankfully had good supply.”
At Downtown Spirits in Seattle, Tequila sales have been explosive, but senior purchasing manager Terrence Tompkins says the store also saw supply issues hurt growth. “Supply issues only intensified over the holidays with high-end Tequila and especially with Scotch,” he says, noting that the store’s bestselling Tequilas include Espolòn Reposado ($35 a 750-ml.) and Blanco ($32), Casamigos Blanco ($70 a 1-liter), and Patrón Silver ($68). “Casamigos would have higher sales if it was regularly in stock,” Tompkins adds. “Agave spirits overall, especially extra añejo Tequilas and high-end mezcals, like Bozal, are more popular than I have ever seen them.”
Among upscale vodkas, Grey Goose ($40 a 1-liter) was Zachys’ 2020 growth leader. “Vodka as a whole was incredibly strong in 2020 but has seen very little change among the top selling items, and super-premium hasn’t changed much at all,” Zacharia says.
At Downtown Spirits, Belvedere ($30 a 1-liter) and Ketel One ($29 a 750-ml.) were the top selling super-premium vodkas in 2020. “Year-over-year sales are outstanding,” Tompkins says. “When it comes to Bourbon, rye, and Scotch, the popular products are pretty similar to 2019.
Brown Spirits Soar
High-end whiskies and Cognacs posted strong growth at Downtown Spirits throughout the holidays. Leading growth whisk(e)y brands included Knob Creek ($37 a 750-ml.), Lagavulin 16-year-old single malt Scotch ($129), High West Midwinter Nights ($125), Balvenie 14-year-old single malt Scotch Caribbean Cask ($81), Johnnie Walker Blue Label ($270), Macallan 12-year-old Double Cask ($70), Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea Bourbon ($113), and Elijah Craig Small Batch ($34). Upscale Irish whiskeys, such as Redbreast ($60), also had a strong year despite supply issues. “I noticed a greater interest in high-end Irish whiskey in 2020 and most have been out of stock, too,” Tompkins says.
Top-selling Cognacs at Downtown are Hennessy VS ($60 a 1-liter), Remy Martin VSOP ($56 a 750-ml.), and Pierre Ferrand Ambre ($). “Supply issues are rampant,” Tompkins says. “Containers of product in high demand, like Hennessy, are frequently delayed and when product does show up, it sells out in a flash.”
At Zachy’s, upscale whiskies also grew at a brisk pace, led by Suntory Hibiki Harmony Japanese Whisky ($100 a 750-ml.), Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea Bourbon ($83 a 750-ml.), and Lagavulin 16-year-old single malt Scotch ($105 a 750-ml.). “We’ve seen incredible growth for all spirits in 2020,” Zacharia says.
High-end spirits are on display at Zachys, and the store is marketing brands more directly to its customers. “We have been reaching out to web clients when they place orders to let them know if they are looking for future assistance with purchases, and trying to personalize the shopping experience more for clients, so they don’t have to venture on their own,” Zacharia says.