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Impact Databank Crunches The Numbers On Bourbon’s Super-Premium Boom

September 28, 2015

Bourbon has been on a phenomenal run over the past few years, and its upswing shows no sign of slowing anytime soon.

In 2014, Bourbon advanced by 5% to 18.5 million cases in the U.S. market, which comprises more than 60% of the category’s global volume, according to Impact Databank.

While Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam comprise nearly half the U.S. Bourbon market’s volume, growth is being driven by the super-premium segment (at least $25 a 750-ml.). Last year, super-premium Bourbon jumped by 16% in the U.S., as the five dominant super-premium brands—Maker’s Mark, Bulleit, Gentleman Jack, Woodford Reserve and Knob Creek—all achieved significant progress, each growing by at least 7%. Those five brands collectively have added nearly 1 million cases since 2011, representing an increase of just over 50%.

Diageo North America’s Bulleit Bourbon (45% abv, $25) stood out with a 45.5% growth rate in the U.S. last year to 480,000 cases. Just over a year ago, Diageo broke ground on an estimated $115 million Bulleit Distilling Co. facility with 750,000-case capacity in Shelby County, Kentucky, expected to be operational by late 2016.

Brown-Forman’s super-premium Woodford Reserve Bourbon brand has more than doubled its U.S. volume since 2011, and last year grew 25.5% to just under 300,000 cases. In April 2014, Woodford Reserve opened the doors to a newly renovated distillery in Versailles, Kentucky, which holds up to 165,000 barrels. Meanwhile, super-premium stablemate Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack grew 8.8% last year to 310,000 cases.

The U.S. market’s top super-premium Bourbon brand, Maker’s Mark from Beam Suntory, has seen consistent growth and last year reached 1.34 million cases on a 7.2% advance. The brand was extended in 2010 with Maker’s 46, which has gone on to earn repeat Impact “Hot Prospect” honors with double-digit growth, reaching 71,000 cases in 2014.

Meanwhile, Knob Creek Bourbon, also from Beam Suntory, is nearing the 300,000-case mark in the U.S. after growing 26.1% last year. And its portfolio-mate Basil Hayden’s, while not yet among super-premium Bourbon’s top sellers, is also making progress. In 2014, Basil Hayden’s shot ahead 38.2% to 76,000 cases, nearly tripling its 2010 total.

U.S. – Top Five Super-Premium Bourbon Brands*
(thousands of nine-liter case depletions)
Brand Company 2013 2014 Percent
Maker’s Mark Beam Suntory Inc 1,250 1,340 7%
Bulleit Diageo North America 330 480 45%
Gentleman Jack Brown-Forman 285 310 9%
Knob Creek Beam Suntory Inc 230 290 26%
Woodford Reserve Brown-Forman 220 275 25%
Total Top Five 2,315 2,695 16%
* at least $25 per 750ml at retailSource: IMPACT DATABANK
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