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American Whiskey’s $25-Plus Segment Set To Surpass 10 Million Cases

November 1, 2022

While much of the spirits market has seen volume slow in control states so far this year, upscale American whiskey—along with Tequila and spirits-based RTDs—continues to churn out solid gains. Over the first three quarters of this year, American whiskies retailing at $25 and above a 750-ml. bottle collectively increased their control state volume by 5%. That performance comes on the back of several strong growth years that have pushed the $25-plus American whiskey category easily in range of topping the 10-million-case mark in the U.S. this year, according to Impact Databank.

“We’re certainly seeing a shift to higher-end whiskies, clearly benefitting our small batch portfolio, represented by Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, Booker’s, and Baker’s,” Carlo Coppola, managing director of the James B. Beam Distilling Co., told SND recently. “Newer Bourbon drinkers are entering the category through brands like Basil Hayden as they reconsider what American whiskey is and can be. We’re also seeing really strong growth across the Maker’s Mark range.”

Speaking at the recent Impact Marketing Seminar in New York, Brown-Forman chairman Campbell Brown agreed that consumer interest in American whiskey—especially the upscale tier—is riding high. The sprouting of Bourbon and whiskey societies is promoting connoisseurship among multiple generations of consumers, and whiskey tourism is creating new avenues for distillers to connect with their audiences. “People travel all over the world just to have an ability to meet master and associate distillers,” Brown observed.

With interest in whiskey continuing to grow—and the supply chain crunch impacting the category over the past year—some brands have had periodic difficulties meeting demand. Bulleit in particular had been held back by shortages, but Diageo says the 1.6-million-case brand is now back in ample supply. “In the first half of the (fiscal) year, we did have some issues with Bulleit,” said CFO Lavanya Chandrashekar on a recent earnings call. “That was very specific to the particular shape of that bottle and the design of the bottle; we had some issues with procuring enough of it at the right time. That has been solved, and Bulleit is back on-shelf for consumers to enjoy.”

Yesterday, Campari Group announced a new $600 million bet on upscale American whiskey, agreeing to acquire Wilderness Trail Distillery in a two-tranched deal. While currently growing from a small base, the Wilderness Trail brand is situated firmly at the high end, beginning at around $55 for its flagship Bourbon and rye and reaching above $75 for its six- and eight-year-old bottlings.

U.S.—Top 10 American Whiskey Brands Priced Over $25 a 750-ml.
Rank Brand Company Total1
2021
Depletions
2022 YTD2
Percent Change
in Control States
1 Maker’s Mark Beam Suntory 2,304 -0.5%
2 Bulleit3 Diageo North America 1,560 1.4%
3 Woodford Reserve Brown-Forman 1,119 9.1%
4 Knob Creek Beam Suntory 544 -3.0%
5 Basil Hayden Beam Suntory 475 5.9%
6 Gentleman Jack Brown-Forman 458 -8.6%
7 Old Forester Brown-Forman 378 4.5%
8 Four Roses Four Roses Distillery 370 25.8%
9 Elijah Craig Heaven Hill Brands 301 20.9%
10 Buffalo Trace Sazerac Co 290 15.5%
Total Top 10 7,800 5.6%
Total American Whiskey over $25 9,760 5.2%
1 Thousands of 9-liter case depletions.
2 Year-to-date through September.
3 Includes Bourbon and rye.
Source: NABCA and IMPACT DATABANK © 2022
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