These Are The Best Selling American Whiskeys of 2020 According to ‘Drinks International’

Dead Rabbit, NYC. Credit @deadrabbitnyc on Instagram.

Drinks International has named Bulleit the Best Selling American Whiskey Brand of 2020 in the results of their annual report on the buying habits of major bars of the world. It has occupied this slot since 2015.

How Drinks International Gets to Their Ranking

To get this ranking, Drinks International polled more than 100 bars around the world, which were selected “based on their performance in global bar awards,” which meant the inclusion of bars like Dead Rabbit and Nomad Bar from the United States, as well as Barcelona’s El Paradiso and Two Schmucks, Milan’s Drink Kong, London’s Tayer + Elementary and Kwant, Japan’s Bar Benfiddich, and Dubai’s Zuma, among others. 

Bar owners and managers were asked to reveal details about their buying habits, and then were asked to rank their bestselling products.

What’s Important About the Rankings

Kentucky occupied an overwhelming majority of the Top 10 spots—9 out of 10—leaving just the number six slot for Jack Daniel’s of Tennessee. 

It speaks not just to the brand recognition of these whiskeys but also to the immense financial machines behind them that they’re able to reach so many bars in so many markets, in so many countries—a feat likely not within the grasp of the tinier startups for now. 

  1. Bulleit
  2. Buffalo Trace
  3. Woodford Reserve
  4. Maker’s Mark
  5. Michter’s
  6. Jack Daniel’s
  7. Wild Turkey
  8. Elijah Craig
  9. Four Roses
  10. Rittenhouse

The story from Drinks International noted that Jim Beam dropped out of the Top 10 this year, to make room for Elijah Craig. 

The Big Picture—Can Bulleit Be Challenged?

Bulleit and parent company Diageo have been a powerhouse played in terms of volume for more than a decade now, even as the bourbon boom has continued to rumble. And they have dominated this ranking for nearly half of that, leaving little room for challengers. 

But a more nuanced ranking may suggest that the throne is not so secure, especially when you consider the challengers like Heaven Hill and Sazerac, and the expansions those brands have invested in over the last few years. 

Brands like Buffalo Trace and Elijah Craig have been hobbled largely by allocation and supply limitations during these last few years, but as their production climbs, the push seems to be paying off. 

Each year, Drinks International also prepares a more subjective “Trending” list each year, which asks the bar owners and managers to weigh in on brands getting buzz or generating more excitement. They might not be the biggest by volume, but they’re getting attention. 

“We aim to find out not only which brands sell the best but also what’s trending,” the story explained. “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.”

Drinks International also shared a Top 10 Trending Brands list, which included many of the same brands (Bulleit, Michter’s, Woodford, Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark, Rittenhouse, Wild Turkey, and Jack Daniel’s). 

This is where things get interesting though, as the top spot actually went to Michters, which knocked Bulleit down to the second slot. 

And the two “new” brands on the trending list were actually from the Buffalo Trace portfolio; Sazerac and Eagle Rare rounded out the Top 10.

Will we see Bulleit dethroned anytime soon? It’s unclear. Pushes like the new Blenders’ Select program likely don’t have an impact on volume, but neither do the hype factors of rare and sought-after whiskeys like Weller, Old Fitzgerald, and similar bottles that don’t end up in cocktails often. 

But if you do much traveling this year, expect to see Bulleit on the menu most of the time—no matter where you go.

G. Clay Whittaker
Clay is Editor at Large of The Bourbon Review. He has written about whiskey, food, drink, and culture for Esquire, Playboy, Men's Journal, Popular Science, Southern Living, Maxim, among others.