World's 50 Best Bars Brands Report: Whisk(e)y

Whisk(e)y is the subject of today's edition of the Brands Report, a spin-off survey from The World's 50 Best Bars.

Maker’s Mark is more popular than Jack Daniel’s? That’s what our poll says – and not only in bottles sold at our polled bars, it is also the whisky brand that’s trending most too.

There’s no doubting the second-placed Jack Daniel’s ubiquitous appeal but for the imbibers at the polled bars, boutique is increasingly chic. 

Maker’s Mark seems to deliver the perception of small-batch authenticity and taste combined – a powerful partnership.
 To leapfrog JD for a moment, we find an even smaller bourbon at number three, Woodford Reserve. The brand’s Masters Collection launched globally in 2011-2012 to much acclaim and its entry bourbon, L&G Woodford Reserve, is a quality proposition at under £30 a bottle.

Heaven Hill’s Rittenhouse, at number four, is a favourite of rye whiskey aficionados. But back to Old No.7, which, lest we forget, is still the number two most consumed whiskey (outside of scotch) in the world’s top 100 bars. With the Sinatra Select edition hitting back bars around now, don’t rule out a return to the top spot for JD in 2014. 

In previous DI polls Jim Beam has always come out strongly but the brand seems to be slipping away from bar-classic status. Could its multiple line extensions – Devil’s Cut, Honey and Red Stag – be diluting the waters? Certainly the brand is more mainstream than ever, with smother and sweeter tastes and slicker marketing. 

Jameson, as an all-conquering, allrounder brand, which doesn’t quite have the mystique of the boutique bourbon brands but, at number five, it is the only Irish brand on the list.
In American bars particularly, Jameson is fast becoming the Irish answer to Jack Daniel’s – an iconic leader of its category. Triple distilled and Fonzie-smooth, it is a brand that pleases drinkers of whisky of most types and ages.

Yamazaki’s inclusion is also worthy of note. Ten years ago, the sight of a Japanese dram on a popularity list would have raised an eyebrow of disbelief. Now, whether it is Nikka or Suntory’s Yamazaki, Hakushu and Hibiki – or even something more exotic – Japanese whiskies are an essential fixture of the back bar. Available in 10, 12, 18 and 25, Yamazaki is Suntory’s leading ‘international brand’ and probably more than any other it carries the category on its back. Long have the trade appreciated Japanese whiskies; it’s good to see this is turning into sales.

How we did it

Since we relaunched the World’s 50 Best Bars, we think we’ve built up a pretty fantastic list of top bars and phenomenal bartenders from all over the world.

To create an even better global picture, we also polled 100 of the top 200 bars. When I say ‘we’, it was actually an independent research company called Leslie Henry Marketing & Research.

It’s still growing, make no mistake – and we feel really quite excited about it. So excited in fact, that this year we decided to reinvent the way we conduct the artist formerly known as Hot Bar Brands by polling our very own top 50. 

Voices from the team at Leslie Henry could be heard through telephone receivers from Melbourne to Budapest, Edinburgh to Singapore. The team asked the top bars which brands were best-sellers and which were – to borrow from Twitter – trending. 

A trending brand might not be doing the same volumes as a best-seller but it’s a brand that customers are increasingly asking for. We also included a couple of new categories this year – champagne and water – as well as expanding the cocktail questions to include the likes of aperitifs and after-dinner drinks. The idea is to paint as accurate a picture of what is being consumed in bars around the world as possible. 

Respondents – to use the fancy terminology – included bar owners and bartenders from the likes of the best bar in the world, the Artesian, London; PDT, New York; Nightjar, London; Bramble, Edinburgh: Employees Only, New York; Dry Martini, Barcelona; Black Pearl, Melbourne; Asoka, Cape Town; American Bar at the Savoy, London; Tippling Club, Singapore; Palmer & Co, Sydney; Boutiq Bar, Budapest; Chainaya Tea & Cocktails, Russia and Schumann’s Bar, Munich.

Let us know what you think of the survey: