Statistics on the rocks: exploring the price of whiskey

Statistics on the rocks: exploring the price of whiskey

International Whisk(e)y Day is on 27 March1. If you consider yourself a connoisseur of bourbon or rye, then the following is for you. Take a brief tour of what Stats SA has to say about whiskey in terms of its popularity and price.

If whiskey is your preferred alcoholic beverage, you stand somewhat apart from the rest of your fellow South Africans. As a nation, we are predominantly beer drinkers. If we consider the total amount of money that households spend on alcoholic beverages, just over half is spent on beer and 21% on spirits (which includes whiskey, brandy, liqueur and vodka)2.


By province, spirits seem to be the most popular in Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Western Cape. Northern Cape households, on the other hand, don’t seem to have the taste for a little Scotch, devoting only 8% of their alcoholic spending to spirits.

The price of whiskey, as you would probably expect, has increased over time. The average price of a 750ml bottle of whiskey in February 2017 was recorded as R1733. In January 2008 the price was R96, as shown below.


An interesting pattern in the graph, if you look carefully enough, is the upward jump that tends to occur during the first half of the year. “Sin taxes” contribute to this. During the Budget Speech in February the Finance Minister announces increases to sin taxes that are applied to alcoholic beverages and cigarettes. Shortly thereafter, these taxes show up in the form of higher prices in the bottle store, and therefore also in Stats SA’s consumer price index.

However, as a whiskey drinker, it might come as some comfort to learn that the prices of spirits increased at a slower rate during 2016 than the prices of beer and wine. The prices of spirits, however, rose faster than prices for meat and fuel.


So when you sit back with a glass of single malt to celebrate International Whisk(e)y Day, you will have something to boast about to your beer and wine drinking friends.


2 Consumer Price Index (CPI) Additional Tables, February 2017. Download the document here.

3 Note that this is an average of prices collected across the entire whiskey range. Every month price collectors from Stats SA visit retail outlets around the country to record thousands of prices for items ranging from food and beverages to clothing and household appliances. The data are used to compile Stats SA’s monthly consumer price indices.

4 Consumer Price Index (CPI), February 2017. Visit the download page here.