Conventional wisdom says that whiskey is a man’s drink and vodka is a woman’s drink. Certainly, the branding of each liquor category supports this notion; while whiskey brands typically feature dark labels emphasizing artisanship and historical roots, vodka branding often resembles the branding for perfume.

Recent news from the distilled spirits industry, however, reveals that this trend is changing. The latest report from the Distilled Spirits Council reveals that, while 2014 sales volumes for bourbon and whiskey rose 7.4%, traditional vodka volumes rose only 3.7%, and sales of flavored vodkas were down. Who’s driving this change in taste? In two words: Millennial women. New Resonate data reveals that among Millennial women, whiskey drinkers now outnumber vodka drinkers in the U.S.—and the personal values of each group reveal decidedly different motivations.

When we looked at the drinking habits of Millennial females, here’s what we learned: There are 9.6 million female whisky drinkers in the U.S. ages 25-34, versus 6.4 million vodka drinkers—hence the disparity in sales between the two spirits. In addition, when we examined their personal values, we found two distinct psychographic segments:


Resonate data reveals that younger female whiskey drinkers are motivated by achievement and buy based on brand. Young female vodka drinkers, meanwhile, are motivated by sharing experiences and buy based on price. That’s good news for premium whiskey brands, but potentially bad news for distillers of premium vodka.

To build stronger relationships with these two audiences, spirits marketers should enhance message relevance by emphasizing these values—Whiskey brands should dust off their cigars-and-fireplace image to promote status and success among young professional women, while vodka brands should lead with messages that emphasize social occasions and bonding among friends. By emphasizing these values, liquor brands can continue to enhance their appeal to the next generation of young women.