Brands Report: Scotch Whisky

The previously unassailable Johnnie Walker could be showing signs of weakness, finds Hamish Smith

No matter the bars that have made up our sample over the nine years of the Brands Report, Johnnie Walker has appeared at the top. During that time, we’ve witnessed a slow movement away from blends towards malts (single and blended) – a trend to which we have had to surmise Johnnie Walker is immune.

But we are now seeing the first signs of Johnnie Walker fallibility. While a third of our 100 bars said Johnnie Walker was a top three-selling scotch, it only edged out Monkey Shoulder by the testament of one bar. This is uncharted territory for Johnnie Walker in the Brands Report – could it lose its place at the summit of scotch in the elite bar world?

Monkey Shoulder has long targeted bartenders and its trade marketing of bar equipment is just one aspect of its abstract-thinking tactics. Since the brand entered this report in 2014 it has not finished lower than seventh in the Best Selling list.

The Trending list is a good barometer of future Best Selling lists, and so it showed this year – Monkey Shoulder topped the trend charts in 2017 and again this year, with 21% of bartenders saying this was the brand that got scotch drinkers excited. Johnnie Walker finished seventh this year, taking just 3% of the Trending list vote…an omen for next year perhaps?

Elsewhere Laphroaig appears to be the top choice for smoky malts, finishing well ahead of Lagavulin, Ardbeg and Talisker. Indeed, about a third of bars said it was on their podium of best-selling malts and 9% have it as their house pour. The Macallan is a top-three seller in about a fifth of bars, proving more popular than Speyside neighbour Glenfiddich, which finished sixth. Dewar’s returned this year, joining blend-friends Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker, to show that malts aren’t having it all their own way in the world’s best bars.



The results of this report are the culmination of a questionnaire of 106 bars around the world, each cherry-picked to take part based on their performance in global bar awards. We aim to find out not only which brands sell best but also what’s trending. These two data sets give us an insight into the brands that are doing the most volume and the brands that are hot right now.

To read more on the methodology of the Brands Report click here.