Move over, Smirnoff. Texas’ oldest legal distillery, founded in the mid 1990s, doesn’t just produce the top-selling vodka in America — after growth last year, Tito’s Handmade Vodka is also the overall best-selling distilled spirit, according to figures released in a report this week by the IWSR, a drinks market analysis firm.
Tito’s grew in volume by more than 20 percent in 2019, according to IWSR. That increase knocked Smirnoff from the top spot for the first time in more than a decade. Joining the vodka brands on the shelf of the top five most-sold spirits in this country are Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Fireball Cinnamon Whisky and Crown Royal Canadian Whisky.
The IWSR report also noted that vodka remains the largest spirit category by volume in the U.S., although hard seltzers led by White Claw are hot on vodka’s heels.
Tito’s was founded by Bert "Tito" Beveridge, an entrepreneur who cleared the way for additional distilleries to open in Texas. The local brand has touted that its corn-derived vodka remains "handmade" via pot stills, which are more labor-intensive than the typically used column stills. That’s certainly a lot of spirit to make with that type of still: Tito’s sold more than 65 million bottles in 2018 — more than one million per week, according to a VinePair article.
No doubt Tito’s success behind the bar is the reason Beveridge, still the sole owner of the brand, joined the exclusive Forbes 400, the list of the richest people in America, in 2017. That year, his company was worth an estimated $2.5 billion.
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But 5th Generation Inc., which distills and bottles Tito’s Vodka, started much more humbly. The first case of Tito’s was sold in 1997 after Beveridge successfully fought state regulators to start up his business. Supposedly, they said, Texas didn’t have a law that would permit distilleries. Beveridge dug through the codebook and proved them wrong.