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Unveiling the Whiskey Belt: Who Drinks Bourbon the Most?

a man holding a bourbon on a glass as a banner shot

Last Updated on November 5, 2023 by Lydia Martin

As a bourbon enthusiast, I’ve always wondered who drinks this delicious whiskey the most. Is it the people in Kentucky, where bourbon whiskey is deeply rooted in their culture?

Or maybe the folks in Tennessee, where the famous Jack Daniel’s distillery is located? Perhaps it’s the New Yorkers who are known for their love of cocktails and spirits.

Curious to find out, I did some research and discovered some interesting facts about bourbon consumption in the US.

In this article, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned and give you a glimpse into the world of bourbon drinkers. So grab a glass of your favorite whiskey, and let’s dive in!

a glass of bourbon served on the table beside a beautiful red rose

Demographics

Who are the people that drink bourbon the most?

The people that drink bourbon the most vary in terms of age, gender, income, and education level. However, according to some studies and surveys, bourbon drinkers tend to be [1]:

  • Middle-aged or older: While bourbon is enjoyed by people of all ages, it’s more popular among those in the 35-54 age group, followed by those 55 and older.
  • Mostly men: Although the statistics of women drinking bourbon are increasing nowadays, men still make up the majority of its drinkers.
  • Higher-income earners: Bourbon is often associated with luxury and a high-end lifestyle, which may explain why higher-income people tend to consume it more.
  • Well-educated: According to a study by Buffalo Trace Distillery, bourbon drinkers are more likely to have completed higher education levels than non-bourbon drinkers.

Age: What age group consumes the most bourbon?

The demographics of bourbon drinkers can vary depending on different factors such as geographic location, culture, and marketing efforts.

However, here are some general trends and insights regarding the age group that consumes the most bourbon:

  • According to a survey conducted by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the largest group of bourbon drinkers in the US is between the ages of 35 and 54, with 44% of those surveyed falling into this age range. The next largest group is those 55 and older, with 33% of bourbon drinkers falling into this category. The 21-34 age group accounts for 20% of bourbon drinkers in the US.
  • A survey by YouGov in the UK found that the age group that consumes the most bourbon is between 45-64 years old, accounting for 34% of bourbon drinkers in the country, followed by the 25-44 age group at 32%.
  • In Australia, bourbon is most popular among people aged 30-49, with this age group making up 43% of bourbon drinkers, according to a survey by Roy Morgan. The 50-64 age group is the second-largest consumer group, accounting for 27% of bourbon drinkers.
  • Personal taste preferences can also play a role in bourbon consumption, with older adults preferring more traditional, classic styles of bourbon, while younger adults may be more open to trying new and experimental styles.

Gender: Is bourbon more popular among men or women?

Bourbon has traditionally been marketed towards men and has been associated with masculinity.

However, in recent years, there has been a shift towards more gender-neutral marketing, which has helped to attract a more diverse consumer base.

Here are some insights and statistics regarding the gender breakdown of bourbon drinkers:

  • According to a survey conducted by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, in 2020, 57% of bourbon drinkers in the US were men, while 43% were women.
  • A study by YouGov in the UK found that 57% of bourbon drinkers in the country were men, compared to 43% of women.
  • In Australia, 61% of bourbon drinkers are male, according to a survey by Roy Morgan.
  • In fact, Fred Minnick, author of Whiskey Women, said that 15% of women in the 1990s loved to drink whiskey. Now, over 37% of women are whiskey drinkers.

Income: Do people with higher incomes drink more bourbon?

The relationship between income and bourbon consumption is not entirely straightforward, as personal taste preferences, cultural context, and regional availability can all influence consumption patterns.

However, here are some insights and statistics regarding the income breakdown of bourbon drinkers:

  • According to a survey by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, bourbon is most popular among consumers with an annual household income of $75,000 or more. In fact, this income group accounts for 40% of all bourbon sales in the US.
  • A study by YouGov in the UK found that bourbon is most popular among consumers with an annual household income of £50,000 or more.
  • In Australia, according to a survey by Roy Morgan, bourbon is most popular among consumers with a personal income of $100,000 or more.

Education: Is there a correlation between education level and bourbon consumption?

Some evidence suggests that there may be a correlation between education level and bourbon consumption.

However, it’s important to note that personal taste preferences, cultural context, and regional availability can also significantly shape consumption patterns.

Here are some insights and statistics regarding the relationship between education and bourbon consumption:

  • According to a survey by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, bourbon is most popular among consumers with a college degree or higher. This group accounts for 36% of all bourbon sales in the US.
  • A study by YouGov in the UK found that bourbon is most popular among consumers with a higher education level. In fact, 34% of bourbon drinkers in the UK have a university degree, compared to 24% of the general population.
  • In Australia, according to a survey by Roy Morgan, bourbon is most popular among consumers with tertiary education.

Characteristics of Bourbon Lovers

What are the common traits among bourbon drinkers?

While it’s difficult to generalize about any group of people, certain characteristics may be more commonly associated with bourbon drinkers:

  • Appreciation for tradition: Bourbon has a rich history and tradition, and many bourbon drinkers may appreciate the heritage and craftsmanship behind the spirit.
  • Sophisticated palate: Bourbon has a complex flavor profile, and many bourbon drinkers may have a more refined and sophisticated palate.
  • Interest in the production process: Bourbon production involves a careful and time-consuming process, and many bourbon drinkers may have an interest in the technical aspects of distilling and aging the spirit.
  • Enjoyment of sipping spirits: Bourbon is typically enjoyed neat or on the rocks rather than mixed into cocktails. This may suggest that many bourbon drinkers appreciate the unique flavors and characteristics of the spirit itself.
  • Sense of community: Many bourbon enthusiasts are passionate about the spirit and enjoy sharing their knowledge and experiences with other like-minded individuals.

Taste Preferences: What flavors and aromas do bourbon enthusiasts prefer?

Bourbon enthusiasts may have a wide range of taste preferences when it comes to the flavors and aromas they enjoy in their bourbon.

However, there are some common characteristics that many bourbon aficionados appreciate:

  • Sweetness: Bourbon is typically made with a high proportion of corn, which can give it a naturally sweet flavor. Many bourbon drinkers may appreciate this sweetness, which can be enhanced by vanilla, caramel, and honey notes.
  • Oakiness: Bourbon is aged in charred oak barrels, which can impart flavors of oak and wood into the spirit. Many bourbon enthusiasts may appreciate these woody and smoky notes, which can add complexity and depth to the flavor profile.
  • Spiciness: Bourbon may also have spicy notes, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. These flavors can add warmth and depth to the spirit and may be particularly appreciated by those who enjoy a more robust flavor profile.
  • Fruitiness: Depending on the specific bourbon and the aging process, there may be notes of fruitiness in the spirit, such as cherry, apple, or citrus. These flavors can add brightness and acidity to the bourbon and may be appreciated by those who enjoy a more nuanced and complex flavor profile.
  • Balance: Overall, many bourbon enthusiasts appreciate a well-balanced spirit, where the various flavors and aromas work together harmoniously to create a cohesive and enjoyable drinking bourbon experience.

Social Habits: How often do they drink bourbon, and in what settings?

The frequency and setting of bourbon consumption can vary significantly among individuals and depend on a variety of factors, such as personal preference, lifestyle, and social habits.

However, here are some general trends that may be associated with bourbon drinkers:

  • Occasional indulgence: While some bourbon drinkers may enjoy a drink every day or several times a week, others may reserve bourbon for special occasions or as a treat.
  • Sipping spirit: As previously mentioned, bourbon is often enjoyed neat or on the rocks and may be savored slowly over time. This may suggest that many bourbon drinkers prefer a more relaxed and contemplative drinking whiskey experience.
  • Social occasions: Bourbon may be enjoyed in a variety of social settings, such as at home with friends and family, at a bar or restaurant, or at special events such as weddings or celebrations. Bourbon may also be a common drink of choice among certain social groups, such as whiskey clubs or bourbon groups.
  • Cocktail culture: While many bourbon enthusiasts may prefer to enjoy their bourbon neat or on the rocks, bourbon is also a common ingredient in many classic cocktails, such as the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Mint Julep. This may suggest that some bourbon drinkers enjoy exploring the versatility of America’s native spirit in different cocktail applications.
  • Food pairing: Bourbon can also be paired with food and may be enjoyed alongside a variety of dishes, such as barbecue, grilled meats, or desserts. Many bourbon enthusiasts may appreciate how the flavors of the spirit complement and enhance the flavors of certain foods.

Knowledge and Appreciation: What do they know and appreciate about bourbon?

Bourbon enthusiasts tend to have a deep appreciation for the spirit and may possess a wide range of knowledge about its history, production, and flavor profiles.

Here are some common areas of knowledge and appreciation among bourbon drinkers:

  • Production process: Bourbon enthusiasts may be knowledgeable about the process of making bourbon, including the types of grains used, the aging process, and the regulations surrounding the spirit.
  • Flavor profiles: Bourbon has a unique flavor profile that can vary depending on the specific distillery, barrel aging process, and other factors. Bourbon drinkers may appreciate the different flavor notes found in different bourbons, such as caramel, vanilla, oak, or spice.
  • Aging: Bourbon is typically aged for a minimum of two years, and some bourbon enthusiasts may have a particular appreciation for older, more mature bourbons that have been aged for longer periods.
  • Distillery history: Bourbon has a rich history in the United States, and many bourbon enthusiasts may be interested in the history of specific distilleries, including their founding, ownership, and production techniques.
  • Whiskey culture: Bourbon is part of a broader whiskey culture that spans the globe, thus deemed “America’s native whiskey.” Bourbon enthusiasts may appreciate the diversity and complexity of the whiskey world and may enjoy exploring different types of whiskey beyond bourbon.

a glass of bourbon on the rocks paired with orange

The Types of Bourbon Enthusiasts

What are the different categories of bourbon lovers?

Casual Drinkers: Who drinks bourbon occasionally, and for what reasons?

Casual bourbon drinkers are those who enjoy bourbon occasionally but are not necessarily highly knowledgeable or passionate about the spirit.

Here are some common reasons why people may enjoy bourbon casually:

  • Socializing: Bourbon can be a popular choice for social gatherings or events, where people may enjoy it as a way to relax and socialize with friends or family.
  • Taste preference: Some people simply enjoy the taste of bourbon, either straight or mixed in a cocktail, and may choose to drink it on occasion for this reason.
  • Special occasions: Bourbon may be a popular choice for special occasions or celebrations, such as weddings or holidays, where people may choose to toast with a glass of bourbon.
  • Experimentation: A casual bourbon drinker may also enjoy trying different types of bourbon to explore their personal taste preferences and broaden their horizons when it comes to spirits.

Connoisseurs: What sets connoisseurs apart from casual drinkers?

Connoisseurs are bourbon enthusiasts who deeply appreciate and understand the spirit. Here are some characteristics that set connoisseurs apart from casual bourbon drinkers:

  • Knowledge: Connoisseurs have a high level of expertise about bourbon, including its history, production methods, and flavor profiles. They may be able to identify specific flavors and aromas in bourbon and may be able to distinguish between different types of bourbon based on subtle nuances.
  • Taste preference: Connoisseurs have a refined palate and a deep appreciation for bourbon’s unique flavors and aromas. They may be able to detect differences between different bourbons and may have a particular preference for certain styles or brands.
  • Collection: Many connoisseurs also have a collection of bourbons, which may include rare or vintage bottles. They may be willing to pay high prices for unique or hard-to-find bottles and may take pride in their collection and knowledge of bourbon.
  • Socialization: Connoisseurs may also enjoy sharing their love and knowledge of bourbon with others, whether it’s through hosting tastings or sharing their collections with friends and family.

Collectors: What motivates people to collect rare and vintage bourbons?

Collecting rare and vintage bourbons is a hobby that has gained popularity in recent years, and there are several motivations behind it.

Here are some reasons why people collect rare and vintage bourbons:

  • Investment: Some collectors see rare and vintage bourbons as an investment opportunity, with the potential for significant returns if they can acquire bottles that will increase in value over time.
  • Rarity: Collectors are often drawn to rare and vintage bourbons because they are difficult to find, with limited production runs or discontinued releases. Owning a rare or unique bottle can be a source of pride for collectors.
  • Flavor: For some collectors, the appeal of rare and vintage bourbons is simply the opportunity to taste a unique or hard-to-find flavor profile. They may appreciate the nuances and subtleties of aged bourbons that are no longer produced and enjoy the experience of tasting a piece of history.
  • Passion: Collecting rare and vintage bourbons can also be a passion project, driven by a love of the spirit and a desire to learn more about its history and production. Collectors may take pride in building a collection showcasing the bourbon world’s diversity and depth.

The Top 10 Bourbon-Lover Countries

United States

The United States is by far the largest consumer of bourbon in the world, with over 95% of all bourbon produced being consumed domestically.

According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, in 2020, the US consumed approximately 22.2 million 9-liter cases of bourbon, which works out to be about 0.45 liters per person. [2]

Australia

Australia has seen a surge in the popularity of bourbon in recent years, with the drink becoming increasingly popular among young adults.

In 2018, Australia imported over 4 million liters of bourbon. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the country consumed 2.2 million liters of bourbon in 2019, equating to around 0.09 liters per person.

United Kingdom

While Scotch whisky remains the dominant whiskey in the UK, there has been a growing interest in other types of whiskey, including bourbon.

According to the Scotch Whiskey Association, bourbon has gained popularity in the UK over the last few years, with an increasing number of bars and restaurants adding it to their drinks menu.

According to data from the UK government, in 2019, the country imported over 1.2 million liters of bourbon, and the UK consumes around 0.02 liters per person.

Japan

Despite being known for its sake and whisky, bourbon has gained a dedicated following in Japan, with a number of bars and restaurants specializing in the drink.

According to data from the Japan Spirits & Liqueurs Makers Association, in 2019, Japan imported 441,100 liters of bourbon, and the country consumed approximately 0.003 liters per person.

France

While traditionally associated with wine and brandy, bourbon is slowly gaining popularity in France.

According to data from the French Federation of Wines and Spirits Exporters, in 2019, France imported 216,200 liters of bourbon, and the country consumed around 0.0017 liters per person.

Germany

Bourbon has become increasingly popular in Germany in recent years, with a number of bars and restaurants offering a wide range of American whiskeys, including bourbon.

According to data from the German Federal Statistical Office, in 2020, the country imported 223,000 liters of bourbon, and the per capita consumption was approximately 0.0027 liters.

Canada

While Canada is best known for its own whiskey, bourbon has a dedicated following in the country as well.

According to data from the Canadian government, in 2019, the country imported 194,000 liters of bourbon, and the per capita consumption was approximately 0.0005 liters.

Italy

While not traditionally associated with American whiskey, bourbon has recently gained popularity in Italy.

According to data from the Italian government, in 2020, the country imported 129,000 liters of bourbon, and the per capita consumption was approximately 0.002 liters.

Netherlands

Bourbon has become increasingly popular in the Netherlands in recent years, with a growing number of bars and restaurants offering a wide selection of American whiskeys.

According to data from the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2019, the country imported 101,000 liters of bourbon, and the per capita consumption was approximately 0.001 liters.

Spain

While Spain is best known for its wine and brandy, bourbon has gained a small but dedicated following in the country.

According to data from the Spanish government, in 2020, the country imported 87,000 liters of bourbon, and the per capita consumption was approximately 0.001 liters.

FAQs

Who consumes the most bourbon?

The United States is the largest consumer of bourbon by far, with over 95% of all bourbon produced being consumed domestically.

According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, in 2020, the US consumed approximately 22.2 million 9-liter cases of bourbon, which works out to be about 0.45 liters per person.

Other countries that consume significant amounts of bourbon include Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, and France.

What country buys the most bourbon?

The United States is by far the largest consumer and purchaser of bourbon globally, with over 95% of all bourbon produced being consumed domestically. Therefore, the United States buys the most bourbon.

What percentage of people drink bourbon?

According to a survey conducted in the United States in 2020 by the Distilled Spirits Council, bourbon was the third most popular type of whiskey, after Canadian and Irish whiskey, with 42% of U.S. whiskey drinkers reporting that they had consumed bourbon in the past year.

It is worth noting that this statistic only applies to the United States and may not reflect bourbon consumption in other countries.

Additionally, not all adults consume alcohol, so the percentage of people who specifically drink bourbon would be lower than the overall percentage of alcohol consumers.

References

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/may/29/middle-aged-are-riskier-drinkers-than-young-adults-study-finds
  2. https://www.ncsl.org/state-legislatures-news/details/my-district-is-home-to-the-bourbon-capital-of-the-world

 

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