It’s always interesting to look at the best-selling spirits in the world. In part, because the numbers may surprise you. Case in point, the world’s best-selling American whiskey is outsold by White Claw almost six-to-one. To put that in a different light, that same whiskey was only the 14th best-selling alcohol or spirit in the world in 2020. American whiskey doesn’t even break into the top ten on the world stage. In fact, there are shingles from Kentucky and Scotland that seem huge but fail to crack the top 150 best-selling booze brands worldwide.
Today, we’re looking at the eight U.S. whiskeys among the top 150 brands sold, globally. This isn’t about hype or exposure. This is about the actual bottles of whiskey going out into the world and available on shelves.
We’re also calling out our favorite expressions from each specific brand, if the brand produces multiple bottles. Yes, that’s slightly confusing. Look at it this way: Beam Suntory is a company that owns a lot of distilleries. One of those distilleries is Jim Beam, which makes several brands of whiskey. The only one of those brands to make this list, according to global sales, is Jim Beam Bourbon, which has a few expressions it sends out under that exact brand name. (Whereas you might see all “Jim Beam” as one brand, the company doesn’t.)
If any of these expressions from the big brands pique your interest, click on their prices to give them a shot yourself. You know they’re all easy to find.
8. Wild Turkey (1.7 million cases) — Rare Breed
Average Price: $50
This is the mountaintop of what Wild Turkey can achieve. This is a blend of the best barrels that are married and bottled untouched. That means no filtering and no cutting with water. This is a classic bourbon with nowhere to hide.
Crème brûlée greets you, paired with a nice dose of Christmas spices, mild pipe tobacco, orange zest, and a distant hint of fresh mint sprigs. There’s a pine resin nature to the woody flavors on the palate that accents the orange oils, spices, vanilla, and sweetness. The sip takes on a Christmas cake-feel late, with a velvet finish that embodies just the right amount of everything you want from a bourbon.
While Wild Turkey’s line is full of greats, this really is the best of the best. This is one of the most sippable, deeply flavored, and accessible bottles on this list. It’s also easily half the price of what it should/could be for the quality alone.
7. Bulliet Frontier Whiskey (1.8 million cases) — Bulleit 10
Average Price: $50
This is classic Bulleit Bourbon that’s aged for ten years. The juice is still sourced (likely from Four Roses) and is crafted by Bulliet’s master blenders in-house. There’s really not much more to say than that those extra years really dial this bourbon into something unique and very tasty.
This is bourbon with a capital “B.” There are rushes of Christmas spices next to savory herbs, butter-soaked sourdough, and cinnamon-baked apples in maple syrup. Hints of vanilla, toasted oak, and maybe even dried flowers lurk beneath the surface as all that spice, buttery toffee, and soft-yet-sweet fruit fill your senses.
This is an easy-sipper to have on hand. It has those classic bourbon characteristics that will feel familiar while still offering a little more.
6. Seagram’s 7 (1.9 million cases) — Seagram’s 7 Crown Blended Whiskey
Average Price: $15
Seagram’s 7 Crown is an old-school blended whiskey. The blend is 25 percent bourbon cut with 75 percent neutral grain spirit. That’s then vatted and cut down to a very palatable 80 proof.
This is a little warm on the nose with touches of Granny Smith apples, cinnamon sugar, and a touch of lemon oil. The flavor stays hot on the tongue with a little bit of that citrus coming through, not unlike a vodka, with a touch of the apple. The end is short and hot and leaves you with a tinny bitterness.
This has its place as a mixer with sugary soda and… that’s about it. It tastes and feels like it was created for a different era and it’s hard to go back that far to understand why.
5. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey (2 million cases)
Average Price: $38 (one-liter bottle)
Jack Daniel’s starts by making a honey liqueur. They then add in their signature Tennessee whiskey to create a mixing liqueur with a touch of whiskey taste.
There’s a lot of vanilla cream on the nose. In fact, it’s almost exactly like a box of Jell-O vanilla pudding but thin like it was made with skim milk. The taste is not that at all — it’s all about the very sweet honey hard candies. The mid-palate lurches back towards that vanilla cream which doesn’t feel quite right with the honey candy. The end is very short and very sweet but more vanilla than honey.
If you dig overly sweet-flavored whiskey, then this might be your jam. It is sweet but does have clear notes of both honey and vanilla that feel very real. Still… it’s saccharine as Saturday cartoons.
Note: Jack Daniel’s Tennesse Honey is actually a standalone brand with only one expression to its name. In fact, stand-alone brands from Jack Daniel’s actually make the list four times (two of them are ready-to-drink premixes), affirming Jack Daniel’s power worldwide to still pull serious name recognition.
4. Maker’s Mark (2.4 million cases) — Maker’s 101
Average Price: $42
This is Maker’s Mark classic wheated bourbon that’s bottled at “a higher proof” to bring about a “richer flavor.” Well, that’s what the label says anyway.
This is a bowl of stewed apple over vanilla ice cream that’s been drizzled with extra caramel. The taste really focuses on that caramel, with hints of oak next to roasted almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, and dry wicker.
This wheated bourbon really shines with a higher proof. The classic Maker’s elements are all in play but are slightly brighter. This is also a great crossover whiskey between on the rocks sipper and a wonderful cocktail base.
3. Evan Williams (3 million cases) — Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond
Average Price: $18
The juice is standard Evan Williams that’s barreled in a federally overseen warehouse. Then, after those barrels are blended, the juice is just brought down to 100 proof, allowing a bit more of that Heaven Hill craft to shine in the bottle.
This opens with a dry cornmeal base next to salted caramel, rich vanilla, and a touch of oak. The palate adds in whiffs of black pepper next to musty cellar wood and a hint of spicy, chewy tobacco. The end is short-ish while highlighting the sweet cornmeal, spicy tobacco, and rich vanilla.
You can’t go wrong with this cheap, everyday bottle. It’s a great shooter, highball base, and cocktail mixer. It also wins in that you can drink it on the rocks and never be disappointed.
2. Jim Beam (10.7 million cases) — Jim Beam Bonded
Average Price: $22
This bourbon is Jim Beam’s high watermark when it comes to Kentucky bourbon. The juice is aged in a bottled-in-bond facility for four years where it’s also bottled at 100 proof with no bullshit. This is the standard Beam bourbon mash bill (77 percent corn, 13 percent rye, and ten percent malted barley) but there’s just something extra happening that makes this expression shine.
This bourbon beckons you in with notes of toasted oak, red cherry, and vanilla. That leads to fresh honey, sweet caramel corn, rich toffee, bold vanilla, crisp apple, more of that red cherry, peppery spice, and a note of fresh mint. With a little water, the dram edges towards bitter dark chocolate with a nice billow of pipe tobacco while holding onto the mint, toffee, and vanilla oakiness.
The end is long, meandering, and full of warmth, fruit, spice, and bourbon goodness.
This takes Beam to the next level for a seriously cheap price. It’s refined in the sense that it knows exactly what it is and holds on tightly to its signature Beam characteristics while making each one shine a little more vividly.
1. Jack Daniel’s (12.3 million cases) — Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof
Average Price: $65
Where the Single Barrel Select is cut with soft limestone water to bring it down to proof, this is the straight juice from the barrel. These barrels are all hand-selected from the rickhouses. What’s left from the angel’s share then goes straight into the bottle.
That means the ABVs and tasting notes for this bottle will vary depending on which bottle you snag.
Expect an experience that’s full of rich vanilla, caramel, and toasted oak, next to a rush of spice. The sip should have a mix of that vanilla, oak, and spice with a nice dose of bright fruits and a texture that’s more velvet than liquid. The end really holds onto that vibe as the mild spice, toasted oak, rich vanilla, and almost maple syrup sweetness slowly fade across your senses.
There’s a fair amount of Jack Daniel’s to sip on (and mix) out there. This is the high-water mark from the entire company. This bottle is endlessly sippable and just affordable enough to make for a killer mixer for any cocktail.
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