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Super-Premium Bourbon Tops 5 Million Cases In The U.S.

February 26, 2018

Depletions of super-premium Bourbon in the U.S. market rose by 10.5% last year to 5 million cases, according to Impact Databank. That performance marks yet another achievement in Bourbon’s ongoing renaissance: Since 2010, U.S. volumes of super-premium Bourbon ($25 and above) have now grown by nearly 3.3 million cases.

“The base consumer in the Bourbon and American whiskey segment is growing, and people are graduating within the segment,” says Mike Price, category marketing director, whiskies at Campari America, which owns Wild Turkey and is seeing strong double-digit growth for the franchise’s upscale Russell’s Reserve range.

Super-premium brands in the Beam Suntory portfolio also are posting significant gains. Maker’s Mark advanced by 4.7% to 1.5 million cases last year and is the market’s fourth-largest Bourbon and top super-premium offering. (That number doesn’t include Maker’s 46, which is at about 100,000 cases.) Knob Creek is also in growth mode, crossing 400,000 cases last year. Basil Hayden’s, meanwhile, was up 29% to 181,000 cases last year. Basil Hayden’s recently unveiled Dark Rye, a blend of Kentucky Straight Rye and Alberta Rye with a touch of California Port.

Bulleit also continues to grow sharply, averaging 31.5% annual growth from 2012-2017—and rising from 310,000 cases to 1.2 million cases. Bulleit 10-year-old was up 17% in NABCA channels last year, and Bulleit Barrel Strength performed well in its first year of national availability. Last March, brand-owner Diageo opened the $115-million Bulleit distillery, which has an initial production capacity of 750,000 9-liter cases. It’s also now building a $10-million tourism facility at the distillery.

At Brown-Forman, Woodford Reserve is showing strong gains, up more than 19% last year to surpass a half-million cases. Since 2012, Woodford Reserve, including its Double Oaked and Rye expressions, has averaged 23% annual growth. Tennessee whiskey stablemate Gentleman Jack also remains on the rise, and looks poised to cross 400,000 cases in 2018.

Elijah Craig, Heaven Hill Brands’ largest super-premium Bourbon, is now above 100,000 cases after expanding by 20% last year. While the core label continues to grow, Elijah Craig is also showing strength with prestige expressions like its Barrel Proof, which won Whisky Advocate Whisky of the Year honors in late 2017. Heaven Hill is also seeding growth on a newer super-premium brand, Larceny, which recently went national after selling about 60,000 cases in limited distribution.

Under Impact Databank’s classification system, the Bourbon category also includes rye, Tennessee, and other straight whiskies.

U.S. – Top 10 Super-Premium Bourbon Brands1
(thousands of nine-liter case depletions)
Rank Brand2 Distiller 2016 2017 Growth6
1 Maker’s Mark3 Beam Suntory 1,450 1,518 4.7%
2 Bulleit Diageo 1,080 1,217 12.7%
3 Woodford Reserve4 Brown-Forman 446 532 19.3%
4 Knob Creek Beam Suntory 379 410 8.2%
5 Gentleman Jack Brown-Forman 361 387 7.2%
6 Basil Hayden’s Beam Suntory 141 181 29.0%
7 Four Roses Four Roses 150 177 18.0%
8 Buffalo Trace Sazerac Co 160 172 7.5%
9 Elijah Craig Heaven Hill 85 102 20.0%
10 Maker’s 46 Beam Suntory 94 99 5.5%
Total Top 105 4,346 4,796 10.4%
1 at least $25 a 750-ml. at retail
2 includes rye, Tennessee and other straight whiskies.
3 excludes Maker’s 46
4 includes Double Oaked and rye
5 addition of columns may not agree due to rounding
6 based on unrounded data

Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2018

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