SCOTCH whisky exports edged up by 1% to a record £4.27 billion in 2012, in spite of a 5% fall in the number of bottles sold, industry figures show.

This marginal growth in the value of exports in 2012, revealed in figures published yesterday by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) industry body, contrasted with a 23% leap in overseas sales in 2011.

However, SWA figures last October had shown Scotch whisky exports in the first half of last year were down £12 million on the same period of 2011 at £1.786bn, so the very slight rise in the value of the sector's overseas sales over 2012 as a whole came as no surprise.

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Asked about the fall in Scotch whisky export volumes, a spokeswoman for the SWA replied: "It is a bit of a disappointment."

However, she added: "We don't see it as growth stalling."

While acknowledging falls in exports of Scotch to southern European countries embroiled in the eurozone debt crisis, the spokeswoman cited rises in sales to Asia, Russia, and Central and South America.

And the SWA noted the value of Scotch whisky exports had risen by 87% in the last 10 years.

Exports to the US, the largest single overseas market for Scotch whisky by value, came in at £758m, up 16% on 2011.

Direct shipments of Scotch whisky to China rose by 8% to £71.5m. The volume of exports to China was up just 4%, suggesting consumers in this market-place are trading up to more expensive Scotch.

Sales of Scotch whisky to the distribution hub of Singapore rose 7% to £339m, with exports to Taiwan up 7% to £165m.

But exports of Scotch whisky to Japan fell 6% to £70.1m.

Sales to Latvia jumped 48% to £79.1m, with exports to Estonia up 28% to £69.4m. The SWA said, as a result of "route-to-market networks", much of the Scotch exported to Latvia and Estonia was shipped on to Russia.

Exports of Scotch whisky to Mexico rose by 14% to £91.8m, with sales to Venezuela jumping by 23% to £102m.

The SWA, which calculated that Scotch whisky was worth £135 per second to the UK balance of trade, highlighted plans for £2 billion of capital investment by producers over the next three to four years as an illustration of "confidence in the future of the industry".

And it highlighted growth in the single-malt and premium blended categories. The value of exports of single-malt Scotch whisky rose by 4.5% last year.

The SWA spokeswoman cited increased sophistication of consumers in emerging markets, in terms of their knowledge of Scotch whisky.

Blended whisky still accounts for about 90% of Scotch exports, the SWA spokeswoman noted.

The quantity of Scotch whisky exports in 2012 was put by the SWA at the equivalent of 1.19 billion, 70-centilitre bottles at 40% alcohol by volume, down 5% on 2011.

Sales to France, Scotch's biggest single overseas market by volume, fell by 25% to 153.9 million bottles. By value, Scotch whisky exports to France fell by 19% to £434m. The SWA said the French market had been distorted by excise tax increases in 2012, which led to a "stocking-up" of Scotch whisky in 2011.

It added that demand from the US was expected to increase further as consumer confidence grew and many people traded up to premium brands.

Exports of Scotch whisky to Spain dropped 25% to £195.3m last year. Sales to Portugal fell about 25% to £34m. Exports to Greece fell around 30% to £49m.

SWA chief executive Gavin Hewitt said: "A combination of successful trade negotiations, excellent marketing by producers, growing demand from mature markets, particularly the USA, and the growing middle classes in emerging economies helped exports hit a record £4.3bn last year."