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Whisky consumption in France

In a recent Facebook post, The French Court of auditors Cour des comptes mentioned the average alcohol consumption in France per habitant and year is about 12 liters of pure alcohol. An opportunity to look at the numbers of whisky consumption, the most widely consumed spirit in France [1].

74 bottles of wine, 137 bottles of beer and 9 bottles of liquor. This is the average detailed consumption over a year for a French citizen according to this post. In these 9 bottles of liquor, whisky stands out. France indeed leads the world in whisky consumption, even before Scotland! Far from Pastis and cognac, whisky became in last years the favorite distilled beverage in France. But where does all this whisky comes from? While whisky production in France is anecdotal, it tends to develops. Some innovative breweries open their malts to new usages like in Brittany or at the Northmaen brewery producing the Thor Boyo whisky in Normandy. However, most of the whisky consumed in France is imported as the domestic production does not exceed 700,000 bottles according to the Times.

The French customs publish on their Open Data portal Datadouanes the national statistics of exterior trade. Here, French imports and exports are detailed each month according to the NC8 .This heavily detailed nomenclature distinguishes bourbon whisky, scotch whisky and other whiskeys. Quantities are expressed in pure alcohol litres. Assuming the standard French bottle is 70 centilitres and contains 40% alcohol (see this example), we can transform pure alcohol litres values to a number a bottles.

The latest import data file published by the French customs on Datadouanes runs from April 2015 to May 2016. April 2015 data has been removed to get a full year. We can now plot the origin and types of whiskeys imported in France over the past year:

United Kingdom is unsurprisingly the first of this ranking, mostly exporting Scotch whisky to France. United States follows with its well-known Bourbon, then Canada and its unclassified whiskies. Oddly, Germany is beating Ireland at this game. With so many breweries in the country, it’s fairly normal to see Germany producing whisky though this phenomenon is recent, like in France.

We now know France imported roughly 232,465,727 bottles of whisky over the last year. French population is about 64 millions, according to the French statistical institute INSEE. There is no legal age in France to be allowed to drink, however buying alcohol is forbidden under 18. The INSEE does not provide detailed numbers but a total count of the population over 20 at the 1st of January, 2016 is available: 48,811,510.

Dividing the number of imported bottles by the total adult population and assuming all the imported whisky has been consumed in bottles of 70 centilitres while excluding domestic production, the average French adult drank 4.76 bottles of whisky over the last year. A number to link to the 3 bottles displayed by French retail consultants Bonial.

[1] Whisky could soon be France’s national drink, (2016). https://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/news/whisky-could-soon-be-frances-national-drink/.