Monday, September 28, 2015

Top Five Super-Premium Bourbons as Reported by Shanken

Shanken today reported on sales in the super-premium bourbon segment. Super-premiums are powering the bourbon boom and these five brands are powering the segment. Beam Suntory owns two of them. Brown-Forman also owns two. Diageo owns one.

Companies guard their sales data closely and outfits like Shanken that develop their own sources for reporting it sell that information for a high price, so it's rare we in the public get a chance to compare apples to apples.

Here, then, are the top five super-premium* bourbons in 2014 U.S. sales.

1. Maker's Mark -- 1,340,000 cases**
2. Bulleit -- 480,000 cases
3. Gentleman Jack -- 310,000 cases
4. Knob Creek -- 290,000 cases
5. Woodford Reserve -- 275,000 cases

* 'Super-premium' is defined as a retail price of $25 or more for a 750 ml bottle.

** Although cases are not all the same size, sales are reported as if they are all standard nine liter cases, also known as flat cases. A case of twelve 750 ml bottles is nine liters.


TomK said...

Chuck - how would you rank those in order of your preference? And any guess (or firsthand knowledge of) where Bulleit is sourcing their bourbon from, now that it appears they're no longer getting it from Four Roses?

Chuck Cowdery said...

I'll pass on the personal preference question. They're all good whiskeys that I'm happy to drink. As for Bulleit, it will be several years before the whiskey made by Four Roses runs out. Diageo has been buying new make from other major Kentucky distilleries for many years.

Anonymous said...

hmmm interesting that they say premium is driving this...I am a shareholder in BF, and I am pretty sure they announced they have sold 5 million cases of JD in the US, up from 3.6 million around 2008, seems to me. that increase is greater than Makers Marks sales. Likewise, Jim Beam has come back from 5 million cases to 6 million, a gain that would come close to equaling the sales of the next three premiums. I know the premiums are worth more, per case, but I am no so convinced that the category is "driven by premium spirits"


Quintilian B. Nasty said...

It makes sense MM is number one because of its history of being a gateway bourbon. I'm surprised Bulleit is doing that well, but it's proof a story about "frontier whiskey" sells apparently. They are all perfectly fine bourbons, but I'd rather drink many other bourbons in that price range.

Mitchell G said...

Standard JD is <$25. Those case quantities, seemingly, wouldn't be included here.

Erik Fish said...

It's a bit of a chicken/egg question, and of course "driven/powered by..." is more a matter of definition than an objective concept. One would need to see the numbers for percentage growth by category and brand, rather than absolute case numbers, to see whether the "super premiums" are growing at a significantly and consistently faster rate than the standard segment. Not too long ago I read an article somewhere that tried to make the opposite point - that "flavored whiskies" like Beam Fire were driving the whisky boom.

By the way, I think we're suffering a bit from labeling inflation here. If anything over $25 is already "super premium", we're going to need another category for the ludicrously priced, like "Lock, Stock & Barrel" for $120 or Pappy for whatever. Maybe "fantasy premium"?

Keith said...

At my store in South Carolina this is our top five.

Makers Mark
WoodFord Reserve
Rowan's Creek
Old Medley 12

Chad Zolman said...

I didn't know I was so fancy drinking "Super Premium" brands at $25;)

What do they call all the stuff at $50, $100 or $300+ a 750ml that I can't afford?

Chuck Cowdery said...

The purpose of this segmentation is to report industry sales volume in rough price/profitability groupings. The highest segment -- say more than $50 a bottle -- is called ultra-premium or luxury. Sometimes other names are used. Although products in this segment are extremely profitable, per unit, their volume relative to the category is tiny. That's why all this commotion about $25+ being low for 'super-premium' is misplaced. Luxury brands are lumped in with the $25+ 'super premiums' because they are irrelevant, volume-wise.

Crown Point Marc said...

Unicorn whiskey? If you happen to spot it on the shelf......second mortgage mash?

jfarr63 said...

I am not convinced that over $25 bourbon is irrelevant. Four Roses Small Batch, Blanton's, Bookers, Basil Hayden, Bakers, Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Kentucky Spirit, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, all run over $25. There are more bourbons on the shelves in the liquor store that run over $25 than run under.