Brands Report 2015: World Whiskies

06 January, 2015

This year the World Whisk(e)y charts aren’t dominated by the usual suspects.

 Here Jack Daniel’s is usually dominant. No more – this year it tops out in just 5% of bars. Jim Beam, another classic American drop, is the top seller in just four of the 100, while Jameson, which in global volume terms carries the Irish category on its back, top sold in just six of 100 polled bars.

Why? Well, Woodford Reserve is one reason. It is the top selling world whisk(e)y in 14% of our pool of bars and has clearly made strides in seducing the high-end on-trade buyer.

The American Bar of London sells more of it than any other world whisk(e)y and sponsored nights at bars such as London’s Nightjar have helped to garner a following. 

In London bourbon is finally booming. Ribs, burgers and other foods that dirty hands are the dishes du jour – and nothing washes down hunks of carcass like bourbon. 

In the US the Old-Fashioned cocktail trend has matured to the point where bartenders are calling it the new Mojito. 

Maker’s Mark, a familiar name in the Brands Report, has benefited from the Cool America trend too – though, down from first to third this year, it clearly hasn’t capitalised among our polled bars to the extent of Woodford Reserve. Brown-Forman saw the super-premium bourbon wave coming and in 2013 set about a distillery expansion at Woodford Reserve’s operation, the US’s oldest working distillery.

If the bourbon love continues apace, it will need all the capacity it can find.

Suntory’s Yamazaki has emerged as the Japanese whisky of choice among bartenders and was the top world whisk(e)y in nine of the 100 polled. Last year, only two bars had it as their top tot.

In our Top Trending table, though, Yamazaki is beaten to number one by Nikka. Twelve bars said the Asahi-owned Japanese brand was their Top Trending world whisk(e)y, as opposed to six for Yamazaki. 

At Williams & Graham in Denver, Nikka has “notoriety among bartenders” and has seen “a surge in sales”.

Meanwhile Bulleit, Diageo’s great bourbon hope, is gaining ground too. New York and San Francisco hipsters drink the stuff like rye is running out.It was for a while, but now that stocks have stabilised and Diageo has the bit between its sizable teeth, it will be interesting to see if Bulleit can hang on to its cool credentials. 

Meanwhile Buffalo Trace, a mainstay of the list, is mid-table in both the Selling and Trending lists.  


We spoke to the World’s 50 Best Bars for this poll but in order to have a broader set of results we widened the net to include responses from a total of 100 of the top bars in the world - as voted for by our World's 50 Best Bars Academy.

We asked bar owners and head bartenders from these 100 top bars to name the Best Selling and Top Trending brands behind their bars. For more information about our methodology see here.

Day by day we will take you through the overall Best Selling and Top Trending spirits, and into the categories - from tequila, gin, vodka, rum, liqueurs, Scotch, World Whiskies, Brandy, aperitifs and digestifs, champagne, beer, water and tonic water to the best brands for cocktails.

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