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Bourbon Boom Continues, As Category Leaders Post Solid Gains

January 20, 2021

With consumers flocking to American whiskies, the Bourbon market (including flavors, Tennessee whiskey, rye, and other straight American whiskies) surpassed 25 million 9-liter cases in the U.S. last year, for the first time since 1982. While a host of super-premium contenders continue to inject dynamism, Bourbon’s largest-selling brands also contributed steady progress. The two biggest players in the category—Brown-Forman and Beam Suntory—made up more than 60% of the overall market in 2020, according to Impact Databank.

The category’s biggest names have all been in expansion mode, bolstered by upscale innovation efforts and increased forays into the flavor segment. The Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey franchise continues to climb, tacking on over half-a-million cases of growth last year, including flavors. Separately, its super-premium-priced Gentleman Jack label rose an estimated 17% in the U.S. in 2020, according to Impact Databank. Jack Daniel’s Rye registered explosive growth last year, and while flavors have slowed somewhat, upstart Jack Daniel’s Apple posted impressive gains in 2020. Elsewhere in the Brown-Forman portfolio, the super-premium Woodford Reserve line approached 1 million cases in the U.S. last year, while the Old Forester range surpassed the 300,000-case mark for the first time in over 30 years.

Jim Beam Bourbon also continued to rise, exceeding 6 million cases overall on 11% estimated growth in the U.S. in 2020, including flavors. The brand has been boosted by its Jim Beam Black expression, as well as by its new Peach flavor, in only its second year on the market. Flavors account for well over a million cases of the Jim Beam franchise, according to Impact Databank. Elsewhere in the Beam Suntory portfolio, strong double-digit growth was posted last year by upscale brand Basil Hayden’s, and solid performances were also registered by super-premium labels Maker’s Mark and Knob Creek.

Beyond the two biggest players, other American whiskey brands that recorded impressive gains in 2020 include Diageo’s Bulleit—both the Bourbon and rye expressions—as well as Campari’s Wild Turkey label. Bourbon and other straight American whiskies are expected to see continued growth in the U.S. market until at least 2025, according to Impact Databank, while tariffs have recently hampered expansion overseas, especially within the European Union.—Juan Banaag

The Top Six Bourbon/Tennessee Whiskey Brands In The U.S. Market1
(millions of 9-liter case depletions)
Rank Brand Distiller 2019 2020E Percent Change2
1 Jack Daniel’s Brown-Forman 6.80 7.30 7.5%
2 Jim Beam Beam Suntory 5.73 6.36 11.0%
3 Evan Williams Heaven Hill 2.96 3.16 7.0%
4 Maker’s Mark Beam Suntory 1.90 2.05 8.0%
5 Bulleit Diageo 1.43 1.63 14.0%
6 Woodford Reserve Brown-Forman 0.79 0.95 20.5%
Total Top Six3 19.60 21.46 9.5%
1 includes rye and flavors
2 based on unrounded data
3 addition of columns may not agree due to rounding

Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2021

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