IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/ete/licosp/649086.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The water of life and death: a brief economic history of spirits

Author

Listed:
  • Lara Cockx
  • Giulia Meloni
  • Jo Swinnen

Abstract

Spirits represent around 50% of global alcohol consumption. This sector is much less studied than other alcohol beverages such as wine or beer. This paper reviews the economic history of spirits and analyses recent trends in the spirits markets. The technology to produce spirits is more complex than for wine or beer. Distillation was known in ancient Chinese, Indian, Greek and Egyptian societies, but it took innovations by the Arabs to distil alcohol. Initially this alcohol was used for medicinal purposes. Only in the middle ages did spirits become a widespread drink and did commercial production and markets. The Industrial Revolution created a large consumer market and reduced the cost of spirits, contributing to excess consumption and alcoholism. Governments have intervened extensively in spirits markets to reduce excessive consumption and to raise taxes. There have been significant changes in spirits consumption and trade over time. Over the past 50 years, the share of spirits in global alcohol consumption increased from around 30% to around 50%. In the past decades, there was strong growth in emerging markets, including in China and India. The spirits industry has concentrated, but less so than e.g. the brewery industry. Recent developments in the spirits industry include premiumization, the growth of craft spirits and the introduction of terroir for spirits.

Suggested Citation

  • Lara Cockx & Giulia Meloni & Jo Swinnen, 2019. "The water of life and death: a brief economic history of spirits," Working Papers of LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance 649086, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB), LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance.
  • Handle: RePEc:ete:licosp:649086
    Note: paper number 417
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://lirias.kuleuven.be/retrieve/564378
    File Function: Published version
    Download Restriction: KU Leuven intranet only, request a copy at https://lirias.kuleuven.be/handle/123456789/649086

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Swinnen, Johan & Briski, Devin, 2017. "Beeronomics: How Beer Explains the World," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198808305.
    2. Meloni, Giulia & Swinnen, Johan, 2016. "The Political and Economic History of Vineyard Planting Rights in Europe: From Montesquieu to the European Union," Journal of Wine Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(3), pages 379-413, December.
    3. Anderson, Kym, 2020. "Consumer Taxes on Alcohol: An International Comparison over Time," Journal of Wine Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 42-70, February.
    4. Kym Anderson & Giulia Meloni & Johan Swinnen, 2018. "Global Alcohol Markets: Evolving Consumption Patterns, Regulations, and Industrial Organizations," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 10(1), pages 105-132, October.
    5. Poelmans, Eline & Swinnen, Johan F.M., 2011. "From Monasteries to Multinationals (and Back): A Historical Review of the Beer Economy," Journal of Wine Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 196-216, October.
    6. Meloni, Giulia & Swinnen, Johan, 2014. "The Rise and Fall of the World's Largest Wine Exporter—And Its Institutional Legacy," Journal of Wine Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(1), pages 3-33, May.
    7. Meloni, Giulia & Swinnen, Johan, 2013. "The Political Economy of European Wine Regulations," Journal of Wine Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(3), pages 244-284, December.
    8. Johan Fourie & Dieter Fintel, 2014. "Settler skills and colonial development: the Huguenot wine-makers in eighteenth-century Dutch South Africa," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(4), pages 932-963, November.
    9. Warner, J. & Her, M. & Gmel, G. & Rehm, J., 2001. "Can legislation prevent debauchery? Mother Gin and public health in 18th-century England," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 91(3), pages 375-384.
    10. Koen Deconinck & Eline Poelmans & Johan Swinnen, 2016. "How beer created Belgium (and the Netherlands): the contribution of beer taxes to war finance during the Dutch Revolt," Business History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 58(5), pages 694-724, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Anderson, Kym, 2020. "Consumer Taxes on Alcohol: An International Comparison over Time," Journal of Wine Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 42-70, February.

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ete:licosp:649086. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (library EBIB). General contact details of provider: https://feb.kuleuven.be/LICOS .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.