Insights from Drizly’s Top 5 Fastest-Growing Bourbon Brands
Consumer interest in aged bourbons and unconventional flavors is driving new trends in the category.
In 2021, bourbon is the largest whiskey subcategory on Drizly, accounting for 38 percent of whiskey share. Yet the category is constantly changing and evolving with new brands and innovations grabbing consumer attention, making it important to keep up with the latest trends.
The five fastest-growing bourbon brands on Drizly are a testament to this, for, with the exception of Calumet Farm, the other four brands are all new to the list this year. Moreover, two of the fastest-growing brands, Howler and Old Tub, are young brands that launched in 2020 and have quickly acquired major fanfare.
Further evidence of the fast-changing bourbon landscape is that two of the five fastest-growing bourbon brands — Chattanooga Whiskey Co. from Tennessee and Cathead Distillery from Mississippi — are not produced in Kentucky, where 91 percent share of all bourbon sold on Drizly is produced. New York, Colorado, Texas, and Utah round out the top five bourbon-producing states, which means that Tennessee and Mississippi are traditionally outliers. Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights, says this suggests “consumers are shopping new production locations outside of the classic Kentucky bourbons.”
Premiumization is also taking hold in the category. The average price per unit of the top five fastest-growing bourbon brands is $38.50, five percent higher than the average bourbon unit price on Drizly in 2021. Based on this data, Paquette surmises that “consumers may be willing to spend a bit more on these newer, up-and-coming or craft brands than on traditional top-sellers,” adding that this may be linked to “the unique factors that these brands offer.”
Adam Rogers, the North American research director at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, says he is noticing premiumization “through limited-edition and special-release products, which often include higher age statements or are finished using alternative techniques than their flagship brands.” These trends are reflected in the best-selling SKUs of the fastest-growing bourbon brands, which include a 14-year bourbon from Calumet, a 15-year from Cathead, and a banana-infused bourbon from Howler Head.
Millennials and Generation X account for 86 percent of sales of these five fastest-growing brands on Drizly. “These generations came of drinking age during the bourbon boom, so it’s essentially part of their socialization and education,” says Rogers.
But while Gen Z makes up just eight percent share of the top 5 fast-growing brands, this is up from three percent of the overall bourbon category share, pointing to an emerging interest in the category, especially when it comes to current trends. “Due to the wealth of information at their fingertips, Gen Z makes informed decisions, especially when it comes to what they consume,” says Rogers. “The discovery element of social media and sharing brands and experiences with friends is a big driver as well. The authenticity and heritage aspect of bourbon resonates with younger consumers.”
To help capitalize on the of-the-moment trends in the bourbon category, we take a closer look at the top five fastest-growing bourbon brands in 2021 and the SKUs that have the potential to fly off shelves.
Established in Lexington, Kentucky in 1924, Calumet Farm is most famous for its horse racing; the brand’s horses have won two Triple Crowns, eight Kentucky Derbies, and 8 Preakness Stakes. But in 2013, the brand got into the bourbon business and in 2021 thus far, it has retained its top spot as the fastest-growing bourbon brand on Drizly for another year.
Calumet’s top-selling SKU on Drizly is the Calumet Farm 14-Year-Old Single Rack Black Bourbon, though retailers will also want to consider their other top-selling products: Calumet Farm Bourbon Kentucky Straight 8-Year, Calumet Farm 15-Year Single Rack Black Bourbon, and Calumet Farm Single Rack Black Bourbon 12-Year.
As the official flavored whiskey partner of the UFC, Howler Head’s rising popularity since its launch in 2020 is unsurprising. Howler produces just one SKU — the Howler Head Banana-Infused Kentucky Straight Bourbon — and while it’s quite the unconventional flavor, Paquette says Howler Head’s success “points to a potential increase in consumer curiosity in flavors and infusions in the bourbon category.”
Old Tub’s Sour Mash Limited Edition Whiskey comes from none other than Jim Beam. It’s a tribute to an unfiltered bonded bourbon that the Beam family made 140 years ago called Old Tub, and just like the bourbon that started it all, the new Old Tub is rustic and unfiltered.
Since its 2020 release, Old Tub has become a new favorite among bourbon consumers and according to Paquette, supports a “growing consumer interest in limited-edition bourbons.”
The first distillery to open in Chattanooga, Tennessee in over 100 years, Chattanooga Whiskey Co.’s “Vote Whiskey” campaign played a major role in changing long-time distilling laws that banned the production of spirits in their area. Chattanooga Whiskey Co.’s top two SKUs on Drizly are the Chattanooga Straight Bourbon Whiskey 91 Proof and Chattanooga Straight Bourbon Whiskey 111 Proof.
Similar to Chattanooga Whiskey Co., Cathead Distillery was the first legal distillery to launch in Mississippi in 2010. The state was the last one to repeal Prohibition in 1966. Cathead produces an array of spirits, but their Old Soul 15-Year Bourbon is the brand’s top whiskey SKU on Drizly.