DI Annual Bar Report: Scotch

Johnnie Walker is still the name to watch, but blends in general are struggling

No matter the year, or the bars that make up our sample of the world’s best, Johnnie is on the spot – the top spot of our scotch list. It’s the eighth successive year Johnnie Walker has been named the most popular scotch but we probably shouldn’t be surprised. Globally this is a brand of 19m cases – triple that of its nearest rival, Ballantine’s.

But most impressive is the brand’s ability to project an image of size and elegance – it is a go-to scotch for the middle-income masses and the high-end cocktail bartender.

As part of Diageo’s Reserve Brand portfolio, around 250,000 bartenders have been exposed to the brand in World Class training and competition. So when people ask about the return on investment of this hugely expensive competition, Diageo might point in mitigation to this list. Walker is the top selling scotch in twice as many polled bars as its nearest competitor.

Johnnie Walker seems immune to wider bar trends, but if the performance of other blends is anything to go by (Chivas Regal in 7th, Famous Grouse 10th), blends are struggling to hold off the rise of malts. Our scotch list in 2013 showed seven blends and three single malts in the top 10. Now, just four years on, the results are inverted. It seems there has been a big change in the way bartenders view malts – no longer a straight-up or over-ice serve but an ingredient for cocktails too.

Laphroaig in second place, Ardbeg fifth and Lagavulin in sixth are not big house pours but as peated whiskies are an important element of the bar’s arsenal.

The Macallan, as one of the biggest single malts, has long enjoyed global traction and is well-placed in third. In fourth is the sensibly priced mixed malt, Monkey Shoulder, which targeted bartenders early on and has garnered a loyal following.



The Drinks International Annual Bar Report looks to gauge the buying habits of the best bars in the world by conducting a survey of their owners, head bartenders and bar managers.

The bars that took part – what we refer to as the best bars in the world – are a sample of 108 bars that finished in the top 250 places of the World’s 50 Best Bars survey, now owned by William Reed Business Media. Given the depth and scope of The World’s 50 Best Bars poll (voted for by 476 global bar experts) we feel this is the most credible place to source our sample of bars.

In each instance we asked the bartender to rank their three best selling products in each category, giving us an indication of the brands that are selling best.

As we know, a best selling brand, even in the best bars in the world, earns its place on more than taste, so we also wanted to know the brands that are not necessarily doing huge volumes but have cool-appeal right now. This is where the Trending brands come in. These are the brands customers are increasingly asking for, perhaps because of word of mouth, or even on bartenders’ recommendations.

For more on the methodology see How we did it