Home » The bourbon whiskey market continues to increase

The bourbon whiskey market continues to increase

By Juan Banaag

The market for Bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, and other straight American whiskies surpassed 27 million 9-liter cases domestically in 2021 for the first time in over 40 years. While a host of super-premium contenders continue to inject dynamism, the category’s largest-selling brands have also contributed steady progress. Last year’s growth (excluding flavors) accelerated to 6% overall in the U.S., after having slowed somewhat during pandemic-plagued 2020. The two biggest players in the category—Brown-Forman and Beam Suntory—made up more than 60% of the overall market in 2021, according to Impact Databank.

American whiskey’s biggest names remain in expansion mode. The Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey franchise continues to climb, tacking on over a quarter-of-a-million cases of growth in 2021, excluding flavors. Its super-premium-priced Single Barrel variant surged an impressive 47.5% last year, while Jack Daniel’s Rye and Jack Daniel’s Apple also posted impressive gains. Elsewhere in the Brown-Forman portfolio, the super-premium Woodford Reserve line surpassed 1 million cases in the U.S. last year, while the Old Forester range achieved its highest volume in 35 years.

Jim Beam’s core Bourbon eked out marginal growth in the U.S. last year, but the franchise received a boost from its new Orange variant. Flavors contributed 1.7 million cases to the Jim Beam franchise in 2021, according to Impact Databank. Elsewhere in the Beam Suntory portfolio, strong double-digit growth was posted last year by upscale brands Maker’s Mark and Basil Hayden, and solid performances were also registered by premium-plus labels Knob Creek and Old Grand-Dad.

Beyond the two biggest players, the momentum of Diageo’s Bulleit—both the Bourbon and rye expressions—was hampered in 2021 by glass supply constraints, but Campari’s Wild Turkey label registered solid growth, as did its American Honey flavor. Strong double-digit gains were recorded last year by super-premium offerings from Heaven Hill Brands (Elijah Craig was up 22%) and Bacardi USA (Angel’s Envy grew 48%). 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, with the majority of gains coming from upscale brands.

Click here for more Bourbon Flight news.

Click here to sign up for The Bourbon Flight Newsletter.

Bourbon/Tennessee Whiskey: Leading Brands In The U.S.
(thousands of 9-liter case depletions)
Brand1 Distiller 2020 2021 Percent
Jack Daniel’s2 Brown-Forman 5,313 5,570 4.8%
Jim Beam3 Beam Suntory 4,519 4,524 0.1%
Evan Williams Heaven Hill 3,004 3,064 2.0%
Maker’s Mark4 Beam Suntory 1,988 2,304 15.9%
Bulleit Diageo 1,545 1,560 1.0%
Woodford Reserve5 Brown-Forman 977 1,119 14.5%
Wild Turkey6 Campari America 810 835 3.1%
Knob Creek Beam Suntory 520 544 4.7%
Basil Hayden Beam Suntory 393 475 21.0%
Total Leading Brands7 19,068 19,996 4.9%
1 includes rye and other straight domestic whiskies; excludes flavors
2 includes rye, Single Barrel, Sinatra Select and No. 27 Gold; excludes Gentleman Jack, Winter Jack, Honey, Fire and Apple
3 includes Devil’s Cut, Jacob’s Ghost and rye; excludes Red Stag, Kentucky Fire, Apple, Honey, Maple and Vanilla
4 includes Maker’s 46
5 includes Double Baked and rye
6 includes rye; excludes American Honey
7 addition of columns might not agree due to rounding
8 based on unrounded data Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2022