Words & Deeds

Idahoans are buying more liquor than ever. Our favorite booze? Not exactly top shelf

Congratulations, Boise! You’ve sobered up.

Oops, wait — better sip some coffee. Idahoans actually bought more liquor than ever during the past year. But according to the Idaho State Liquor Division, liquor sales in Boise only grew 3.6 percent during fiscal year 2018, which ended June 30. The Treasure Valley as a whole was up 7.1 percent.

Does that mean Canyon County needs to quit two-fisting shots of Fireball? Possibly. More likely, it indicates “lots of people moving to Meridian and Nampa as opposed to Boise,” says Tony Faraca, CFO at the Liquor Division.

After years of 6 to 7 percent growth, Idaho sales dipped slightly, to 5.8 percent, in fiscal 2018.

Faraca isn’t ready to call that a down year. Not when Idahoans purchased $215.2 million worth of spirits, or 12.7 million bottles.

“It’s a good year,” Faraca says. “There’s no two ways about it. It’s hard to keep bringing back 6 and 7 percent.”

Idahoans reached for more premium liquor; dollar sales grew slightly faster than bottle sales.

“Nationwide, we’re seeing a migration to higher-end product,” Faraca says.

As a category, 80-proof vodka (regular, not flavored) is Idaho’s most popular liquor. No. 2? Canadian whiskey.

On the other hand, if you take whiskey as a whole — Canadian, bourbon, Scotch, rye whiskey, etc. — it edges out vodka, including all proofs and flavors.

“Based on the info I have,” Faraca says, “Idaho prefers whiskey more than the U.S. does as a whole. Nationally, total vodka sales exceed whiskey sales by about 10 percent, but whiskey has been closing the gap in recent years.”

But before you lift that fancy bourbon glass with your pinky finger extended, consider this. Idaho’s favorite whiskey costs less than 20 bucks for a half gallon.

Based on total volume — ounces sold overall — the Gem State’s most popular liquors in fiscal year 2018 were:

1. Black Velvet Blended Canadian Whisky (regular): “Idaho is a strong Canadian market, like much of this part of the country,” Faraca says. “That’s just a great value. People like the taste, they love the price.”

2. Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey: If you remember doing Jagermeister shots back in the day, it’s official: You’re old. Fireball has been the new Jager for years.

3. Smirnoff Vodka (regular): Fun fact — Smirnoff Ice doesn’t actually contain vodka.

4. Platinum 7X Vodka: “It’s a value vodka,” Faraca says. “They’ve just done a really good job, as far as the entry level vodkas go, giving it a little bit of an upscale feel.” Vodka snobs might argue that if a spirit like Platinum needs to be distilled seven times to become “extra smooth,” perhaps it’s not made from the best raw ingredients. Just dump in more cranberry juice!

5. Tito’s Handmade Vodka (regular): Based in Austin, Texas, this brand has experienced major growth.

6. Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7.: The black label is iconic. The Tennessee whiskey is solid.

7. Crown Royal Canadian Whisky (regular): Of course it costs way more than Black Velvet. It comes in a purple bag!

In total dollar sales, Idaho’s top sellers during the past year were, in order, Crown Royal (regular), Fireball, Jack Daniel’s, Tito’s, Pendleton Whisky (regular), Smirnoff (regular) and Black Velvet (regular).

If all this booze talk makes your liver throb, take comfort. (And a nip of Southern Comfort). Idahoans aren’t necessarily drinking more alcohol.

We are, however, drinking more liquor.

“Everything I can see, consumption is still pretty flat,” Faraca says. “Now overall, and I only see liquor statistics, liquor is stealing share from beer. So what you’ll often see is liquor consumption on a per capita basis is increasing, but it’s being offset by beer consumption per capita.”

“Overall, beer is losing marketshare.”

That’s hard to believe when you consider the explosion of breweries in Boise. Not to mention nationwide. But after a few sips of BV and Coke, anything starts to seem plausible, right?

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