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‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’ Sales of Idaho’s new favorite liquor are ‘off the charts.’

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Posted at 3:14 PM, Sep 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 17:14:02-04

This article was originally published by Michael Deeds in the Idaho Statesman.

Got a hunch that your liquor budget has spun a little out of control this year?

Let me save you the trouble of scribbling math on a cocktail napkin.

Idaho sales in fiscal year 2020 — which ended June 30 — hit a whopping $258.6 million, according to the Idaho State Liquor Division.

That’s a surge of 12.4 percent — almost double the growth number from the prior year.

And get this: We have a new undisputed favorite liquor brand.

But before we get to that, let’s making something clear as vodka. (That was a hint.)

We shouldn’t feel too guilty about Idaho’s skyrocketing booze purchases.

Part of the trend can be attributed to population growth. The stream of newcomers pouring in from Seattle, Portland, California and the rest of the planet means more money is being spent on hooch, right?

There’s also a phenomenon known as the pandemic. In the past six months, liquor sales have jumped nationwide — including in Idaho, says Tony Faraca, CFO of the Liquor Division.

“Before COVID hit,” he says, “we were running 7, 7.5 (percent). We were up 28 percent the month of March. It slowed down for about three or four weeks in April. And then it spiked again.”

Panic buying also caused customers to gravitate toward half-gallon, or 1.75-liter bottles, Faraca said.

Whether it’s the prospect of more virus or more out-of-staters causing us to dump alcohol down our anxiety-stricken throats, there’s one brand that Idahoans prefer most — and it comes from Texas.

Idaho bought $9,234,198 worth of Tito’s Handmade Vodka in fiscal 2020. That’s a mind-blowing increase from $7,267,186 the previous year.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Faraca says. “Its growth is off the charts.”

We’re late to the party. Austin-based Tito’s became the United States’ top-selling spirits brand in 2017.

Tito’s didn’t become Idaho’s No. 1 seller until 2019 — but that was only in dollar sales. It took until this past fiscal year for Tito’s to knock Black Velvet blended whiskey off its perch as the Gem State’s best seller by volume.

Idaho now buys more Tito’s than anything else. And is spending just south of $10 million annually doing it.

“The growth is just incredible,” Faraca reiterates. “I don’t know how else to describe it.”

LIQUOR BY DOLLARS

Here are Idaho’s best-selling liquors during the past year based on dollar sales.

1. Tito’s Handmade Vodka (regular not flavored): How dominant is Tito’s massive $9,234,198 in sales? It’s not even close. Idaho’s No. 2 finisher, Fireball, came in at $6,544,703.

2. Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey: Remember when people knocked back shots of Jagermeister? You don’t? Gosh, you must be under 100 years old. Whatever the case, Fireball replaced Jagermeister long ago as America’s preferred shot.

3. Pendleton Canadian Whisky: Oregon-based Hood River Distillers sold Pendleton to the parent company of Jose Cuervo a few years ago. Translation: Marketing is not an issue. Pendleton moved up one spot on this list since last year.

4. Crown Royal Canadian Whisky (regular not flavored): It’s no longer Idaho’s biggest seller by volume, but it remains a force. (Scary news, whiskey purists: Flavored Crown Royal Regal Apple is now flirting with the top 10, too.)

5. Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7: Idahoans spent just over $6 million on the iconic Tennessee whiskey with the classic black label.

LIQUOR BY VOLUME

Here are Idaho’s most popular liquors based on volume — total ounces sold overall — in fiscal 2020:

1. Tito’s Handmade Vodka (regular): Why is this stuff so popular? Maybe it was just meant to be. The founder’s name is Beveridge, after all. (Full name: Bert “Tito” Beveridge.) Incidentally, it’s on sale this month for $19.95 per 750-milliliter bottle.

2. Smirnoff Vodka (regular): Nothing personal “Tito,” but Smirnoff vodka was started by an actual Russian guy. It’s the best-selling vodka in the world.

3. Black Velvet Blended Canadian Whisky (regular): As Alannah Myles once sang, “Black Velvet will bring you to your knees.” But at least your wallet won’t be empty. Although Idahoans purchased almost as much Black Velvet as they did Tito’s, they spent less than half as much money doing it.

4. Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey: Drink it. Brush your teeth with it.

5. Stroika Vodka: “A distinctively smooth vodka made from the finest Midwest grain,” according to the Liquor Division’s MixBlendEnjoy.com website. “Best choked down with Fanta Orange or a generous squirt of Mio.” (OK, I made up that last part.) Get your buzz on for the bottom-shelf cost of $4.95 for a 375-milliliter flask.