In Venezuela, Scotch Sales Plummet with the Rise of Rum

Due to inflation, Venezuelans are switching over to locally produced rum instead of expensive whiskey, according to The Wall Street Journal

Although the country used to be the biggest consumer of Scotch in Latin America, it saw a 30% drop in Scotch sales last year. On the other hand, rum sales rose by 25%. Both trends are expected to continue this year. “Rum used to be what you drink in college before you refined your tastes and switched over to whiskey,” said Oscar Pachano, Diageo’s marketing director in Venezuela. “But now we are seeing people hit that 30-, 35-year age group and they want to continue with what they know.” 

Venezuela’s obsession with Scotch started more than half a century ago during an oil boom. Although the government disparages the consumption of “bourgeois luxuries,” the upper classes adopted the behaviors and comforts of foreign oil executives. But things are changing as the prices on Scotch have become increasingly prohibitive. 

“There is a group of people that is going from whiskey to high-quality rums, so that they don’t have to compromise their social status,” said Jordi Gols, who recently trade down from Scotch to rum. Although Gols used to down an entire bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label on “an almost nightly basis,” the luxury isn’t affordable anymore. A 750ml bottle of Black Label now costs nearly $400 at the official exchange rate. 

“The drinking culture is changing,” said Jaime da Silava who owns a liquor wholesaler that supply to high-end restaurants and nightclubs in the country’s capitol. “As with any alcoholic population, you have to adapt.” [The Wall Street Journal] [Photo: Flickr/Nicolas Raymond]