For all you whiskey drinkers out there, thanks for keeping me gainfully employed. Whiskey sales continue to drive spirit sales.

According to the Distilled Spirits Council, bourbon and Tennessee whiskey sales rose 5.2 percent to 16.9 million cases with revenue increasing 7.3 percent to $2.2 billion.

1792 Ridgement Reserve bourbon

1792 Ridgement Reserve bourbon. Let’s toast to bourbon growth! 

Perhaps the greatest sign, 46 new bourbons were introduced last year. American whiskey also represents 70 percent of the U.S. distilled spirits exports.

DISCUS credits new tariff reductions for this. Read my 2012 story on the Korean Free Trade Agreement. DISCUS also gave credit to the “growing sophistication in cocktail culture.”

This may be partly true, but sustained growth to American whiskey comes from history and true enthusiasts. Fly-by-night cocktail drinkers will leave whiskey for gin or tequila. Enthusiasts are here to stay.

Thanks to my clients Whisky Magazine and Whisky Advocate, and legendary writers Michael Jackson (who passed away in 2004), Chuck Cowdery and many others, whiskey fans have been kept apprised to the category’s rich history and trends. Without these great whiskey writers building buzz and creating consumer whiskey-tasting events, these enthusiasts lose the close, intimate connection to brands that propels them to spend upwards of $1,000 on special bottles.

As American whiskey becomes more mainstream, we see fresh consumers eager to learn more about the brand and bourbon history. They ask: Why bourbon is “America’s spirit?” Can it only be made in Kentucky? How is Maker’s Mark associated with the bank robber Jesse James? Did Elijah Craig really invent bourbon?

I find new bourbon enthusiasts can’t wait to learn more. So, while cocktails may bring new whiskey drinkers to the dance, whiskey history takes them home.