GLOBAL demand for Scotland's national drink is soaring to ever higher levels with the value of Scotch whisky exports almost doubling over the past decade.

The US is leading the way with an increase of more than 150%, according to new figures.

An analysis from the Scottish Government, based on the latest HM Revenue and Customs data, published today, has ministers toasting the success.

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It shows the value of Scotch whisky exports from the UK has increased overall by 87% during the last 10 years from £2.3 billion in 2002 to £4.3 bn in 2012, the latest figures available.

Americans have the biggest thirst for the product as exports to the US rose from £302.5m in 2002 to £758m last year.

France also had healthy growth rising from £236m to £434m over the decade.

The volume of exports has also experienced a significant rise with 32% more Scotch whisky going overseas over the same period.

China is proving more difficult, partly reflecting the more challenging current market conditions in one of the world's biggest economies.

Scotland's Food and Drink Minister Richard Lochhead said: "Scotch Whisky is one of our most iconic products and these figures demonstrate the huge global demand for whisky.

"I have made growing the food and drink industry one of my main priorities since coming to office and I am particularly pleased that these results show a 51% rise in the value of exports since 2007.

"We export to 173 countries, from the United States - which has more than doubled its spend on our national drink - Brazil and China, to Bermuda, Papua New Guinea and the Vatican City.

"This just exemplifies how important Scotch whisky is not only to the Scottish economy, but to our deserved reputation as a Land of Food and Drink."

He said it was estimated that up to 50 million people world-wide could claim Scottish ancestry, and many more had a connection with Scotland through visiting, working or studying in Scotland.

"I have no doubt that some of them will be raising a glass of Scotland's finest as they bid a fond farewell to 2013 and look forward to the opportunities that 2014 can bring, especially as Scotland welcomes the world through Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Commonwealth Games and The Ryder Cup,"he said.

A spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association said "What we have seen over the last 10 years is strong performance by the industry through a combination of different factors, including significant investment by Scottish distillers and excellent marketing."

He said that sales to mature markets such as the USA and France had continued to grow as had those emerging economies like Mexico, Brazil, and South Africa.

"It is encouraging for the industry that whisky is selling well across such a range of markets."

He added that last year had been a record year for the industry at £4.3 bn in exports and this had continued into the first half of 2013, with the value up another 11% year on year.

But in the first six months of 2013 the value of direct exports to China declined by 20%.