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Super-Premium Bourbons Lead Impact’s “Hot Brand” Whiskies

May 15, 2023

Whisk(e)y, including all points of origin, is the largest category within Impact’s spirits Hot Brand list this year, propelled by U.S. consumers’ ongoing affinity for brown spirits and penchant for super-premium bottlings, especially in the American whiskey segment.

Sazerac’s Fireball continues its reign as the largest whisky Hot Brand and second-largest spirits Hot Brand overall. The cinnamon whisky cracked 7 million cases in 2022, up 5%. Behind Fireball is super-premium label Woodford Reserve at 1.28 million cases. Brown-Forman recently promoted Elizabeth McCall to be Woodford Reserve’s master distiller, stepping into the role previously held by Chris Morris, now master distiller emeritus. Woodford Reserve portfoliomate Old Forester also earned a Hot Brand nod, rising 13.1% to 427,000 cases.

Beam Suntory’s largest whiskey Hot Brand is Basil Hayden. The brand was up 11.5% and crested 500,000 cases for the first time, rising to 530,000. The super-premium whiskey has added more than 200,000 cases since 2019. Last fall Basil Hayden released a limited-edition Red Wine Cask Finish expression retailing at $60.

Four Roses’ namesake whiskey and Heaven Hill’s Elijah Craig likewise earned honors. Four Roses grew 10.5% to 415,000 cases, while Elijah Craig hit 402,000 cases, up nearly 34%. Heaven Hill has looked to further raise Elijah Craig’s profile by leveraging visibility with the professional golf audience. The brand was recently named the official Bourbon of the Ryder Cup, and prior to that struck a partnership with the PGA of America.

Also representing American whiskey is Bacardi-owned Angel’s Envy, which neared 300,000 cases last year, up from 115,000 cases in 2019. Ole Smoky, from Tennessee, is among the Hot Brand whiskies above the 1-million-case mark. Private equity group Apax Funds acquired a controlling stake in Ole Smoky from Centerview Capital for an undisclosed sum earlier this year.

Dewar’s is the only Scotch whisky to attain Hot Brand status, leveraging a robust innovation pipeline including novel cask finishes and a revamped stable of aged offerings in recent years. Most recently, Dewar’s revamped its 12-year-old, garnering the no.-4 spot on Whisky Advocate’s Top 20 list last year.

Among Canada’s Hot Brand winners is Crown Royal Peach, one of the most successful flavored offshoots from the Diageo brand. Since 2019, Crown Royal Peach has almost doubled in size. Proximo Spirits’ Pendleton is another Canadian whisky to earn a Hot Brand award. Last year, the whisky was up 10.9% to 499,000 cases, continuing its steady ascent. Pernod Ricard’s Jameson Orange also represents the import segment, soaring to 215,000 cases in its 2022 debut.

Impact’s “Hot Brand” Whiskies Above 400,000 Cases
(thousands of 9-liter cases)
Brand Company 2021 2022 Percent
Fireball Sazerac Co 6,775 7,150 5.0%
Woodford Reserve Brown-Forman 1,119 1,278 14.2%
Ole Smoky Ole Smoky Distillery 1,009 1,232 22.1%
Dewar’s Bacardi 897 1,073 19.5%
Crown Royal Peach Diageo 705 800 13.5%
Basil Hayden Beam Suntory 475 530 11.5%
Pendleton Proximo Spirits 450 499 10.9%
Old Forester Brown-Forman 378 427 13.1%
Four Roses Four Roses Distillery 375 415 10.5%
Elijah Craig Heaven Hill Brands 301 402 33.6%
Total 12,484 13,806 10.6%
*Based on unrounded data.
Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2023
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