Brands Report 2015: Scotch Whisky

Johnnie Walker was the top selling scotch in a quarter of the 100 bars we polled in this year’s Brands Report.

Not too many surprises there – Diageo’s flagship blend is a mighty force, equal in size and variety to many groups’ whole scotch portfolios. Harnessing its owner’s grand distribution and ambition it is in as many markets as Diageo wants it to be in – which is most.

The high-end on-trade is clearly a priority for recruiting new consumers, if our survey is anything to go by.

Our 100 polled bars are spread across five continents and Walker shows equal worldliness. It is the top selling scotch in bars as diverse as Artesian in London, Hyde & Seek Gastro Bar in Bangkok and Little Jumbo in Victoria, Canada. This is truly a brand with global appeal.  

If Walker was a given for top spot, Monkey Shoulder’s achievement is possibly more impressive. The William Grant & Sons mixed malt brand is the best selling scotch in 16% of polled bars, including home-country bar Bramble of Edinburgh, Schumann’s of Munich and Manhattan of Singapore, and it is the top trending scotch in 17% of bars, including Curtain Club of Berlin, London’s Callooh Callay and Paris’s Little Red Door.

Top bars seem to be buying more malt whisky. Monkey Shoulder and much of Compass Box’s range – which is the top seller at 28 Hongkong Street in Singapore – are blended malts, while single malts Talisker, The Macallan, Ardbeg and Glenmorangie are top sellers in a handful of bars each, despite being relatively low volume. 

In the Trending list, three of the top six scotches are peated – a sign that this style is a firm favourite among consumers and that, apart from perhaps Johnnie Walker Double Black, the smoked whisky market is the domain of single malts. 

Ardbeg is the Top Trending scotch in New York’s PDT and Vancouver’s Keefer Bar, while Talisker is the hotdram at Sydney’s Baxter Inn.

But perhaps most unexpected is the appearance of Haig Club. The Diageo-David Beckham lovechild is still embryonic and only just making its first steps in global markets.

It is the first single grain whisky to appear in the Brands Report, but given Haig Club’s light style, it could be recruiting new consumers to the scotch category as Diageo hoped. Or it could just be recruiting consumers who don’t like strong scotch to scotch cocktails. Either way, with such an early impression made, the sky is scarcely the limit for this brand.  


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.