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The world’s 10 biggest spirits brands

We have ranked and rated the globe’s largest international spirits brands using sales data to the end of 2011.

In spite of a global recession millions of cases of spirits are still sold around the world every year.

Whether in a cocktail, a mixer or straight-up, the world’s largest international spirits brands have proved resilient, but which are the most popular?

After a disappointing 2012, with a slight drop in sales, Bacardi has fallen behind in the race to grab the top position. Jack Daniel’s enjoyed a bumper year and a huge increase in its sales numbers saw the brand improve its position in the list.

Absolut also saw an impressive increase in its sales, but this did not translate to an improvement in its top 10 position.

Take a look through the following pages to find out the top 10 spirits brands, and let us know if you are surprised by any of the results.


Volume 2011: 24.7 million 9l cases
Volume 2010: 24.8 million 9l cases
Change 10-11: – 0.4%
2011 ranking: 1

Smirnoff’s successful extension of the “I Choose” campaign and the “Nightlife Exchange Project” both contributed to growth, with increases in every region, re-establishing itself as an iconic brand.

The fastest growth for the brand was in the emerging markets; Latin America net sales were up 32%, supported by the positive impact of the Nightlife Exchange Project and favourable economic conditions that drove trading up in spirits. The UK and Germany were also key drivers of net sales growth.

As for awareness, the brand is known worldwide due to advertising and celebrity associations; for example, it was 007’s vodka of choice in Casino Royale. It also remains relevant as a mixable white spirit with an ever-expanding number of flavours and ready-to-drink variants. In terms of growth, Smirnoff has stemmed a recession induced decline and held sales steady during the course of 2011 to remain above the 24 million-9l case mark.

Brand owner: Diageo
Head office: Lakeside Drive, London NW10 7HQ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 8978 6000
Brand director: Simon Burch
PR: Diageo Press Office
+44 (0)20 8978 2749
Product range: Smirnoff Red, Black,
Blue, Norsk, Apple, Lime, Cocktails,
Smirnoff Ice, Smirnoff Black Ice


Volume 2011: 19.6 million 9l cases
Volume 2010: 20.3 million 9l cases
Change 10-11: -3.5%
2011 ranking: 2

In 2012, Bacardi has been celebrating its 150th anniversary in style by throwing parties around the world, from a Super Bowl party in Indianapolis with headline talent to a Prohibition-era themed party in Germany with singer Kelly Rowing.

Another was a music festival in Ibiza with Tiesto, Tinie Tempah, David Guetta, Elton John and Lenny Kravitz, among other music legends. A 150th limited edition rum, blended by eight Bacardi Maestros de Ron, all Bacardi family members, and bottled in a handmade crystal decanter, represents the legend of El Coco.

Only 1,000 bottles of this rare rum were crafted, with around 200 available for sale for US$2,000 each in select retail establishments.

In 2011, more than 85 markets around the world launched the “Bacardi Together” campaign, supported by an estimated US$100 million investment. The campaign included TV and outdoor installations in New York, Germany, Canada and the UK. Last summer the spiced rum Bacardi Oakheart was also launched in 28 markets.

It became one of the most successful spirit launches of the year, reaching close to half-a-million cases in only six months.

Brand owner: Bacardi Global
Head office: 28 Dorset Square, London NW1 6QG, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7563 3400
Brand director: Eugenio Mendez
PR: Patricia Neal, +1 294 1110


Volume 2011: 18 million 9l cases
Volume 2010: 16.4 million 9l cases
Change 10-11: +6.5%
2011 ranking: 3

Johnnie Walker Double Black was up 169% in the travel retail market. The successful mentorship and “Step Inside the Circuit” programmes and strong execution of the proven growth-driver “Walk with Giants” continued to deliver growth, particularly in emerging markets, where it was used to create strong brand loyalty, notably in Brazil.

Marketing spend increased 10% with over two-thirds directed towards emerging markets.

As well as occupying the third spot by volume, Johnnie Walker is tops the global list in in value terms.

Increased marketing investment led to organic net sales growth and share gains in many key markets such as global travel, Mexico and China.

The fastest growth element for the brand this year was in the super- deluxe variants, where net sales were up 29%.

Brand owner: Diageo
Head office: Lakeside Drive, London NW10 7HQ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 8978 6000
Brand director: Gavin Pike
PR (UK): Diageo press office
+44 (0)20 8978 2749
Product range: Red, Black, Green,
Gold and Blue Labels, Johnnie Walker
Double Black


Volume 2011: 11.2 million 9l cases
Volume 2010: 9.9 million 9l cases
Change 10-11: 13%
2011 ranking: 4

Since it was first bottled more than 30 years ago, Absolut has run a number of creative initiatives. Through the “Absolut Blank” campaign, contemporary artists around the world were given the opportunity to make their own interpretation of the bottle, using a bottle shaped canvas. The 20 artists represent a variety of creative disciplines from across the globe; including drawing, painting, sculpture, filmmaking and digital art.

Absolut also released an app that uses the camera and microphone in an iPhone or iPad to create images and sounds inspired by the content that the user feeds into. Users create an interactive piece of art that can be uploaded to the site and shared with friends on Facebook.

Another successful collaboration has been the “Greyhound” campaign with DJs Swedish House Mafia.

Brand owner: The Absolut Company
Head office: Arstaängsvägen 19A 11797 Stockholm, Sweden
Tel: +46 8 744 70 00
Brand manager: Adam Boita
Product range: Absolut vodka, Berry,
Açai, Peppar, Citron, Kurant, Mandrin,
Vanilia, Raspberri, Apeach, Ruby Red,
Pears, Mango, Absolut 100
PR (UK): Weber Shandwick
+44 (0)20 7067 0000


Volume 2011: 10.6 million 9l cases
Volume 2010: 8.8 million 9l cases
Change 10-11: +22%
2011 ranking: 6

Jack Daniel’s continued its impressive growth trajectory over the course of 2011 to reach the 10 million-case mark for the first time. Such a performance is reflected in its score this year, which is up 13%.

Launches in markets such as Mexico, Netherlands and Poland has helped this rise continue.

The Tennessee whiskey is continuing to grow in its key US market, helped by the launch last year of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, dubbed The Bee. Its strong image is upheld by its powerful advertising centred on the crafting of the product and its founder, Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel, who was born in September 1846.

Its upmarket positioning is helped by the range-topping Gentleman Jack, although the majority of sales centre on the Old No.7 label, commonly sold in bars and clubs mixed with coke.

Brand owner: Bacardi Brown-Forman
Head office: 45 Mortimer Street,
London W1W 8HJ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7478 1300
Brand director: Louise Snowball
PR (UK): Publicasity +44 (0)20 7632 2400
Product range: Old No.7, Gentleman
Jack, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel,
Tennessee Honey, Jack Daniels & Cola (premix)

6. Captain Morgan

Volume 2011: 9.2 million 9l cases
Volume 2010: 9 million 9l cases
Change 10-11: +2%
2011 ranking: 5

Captain Morgan is Diageo’s leading rum and accounts for over two-thirds of category net sales. The “Life, Love and Loot” campaign has re-energised the brand in North America, while strong growth in Western Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe on the back of proven global growth drivers have all contributed to the 7% volume and 6% net sales growth for the brand. In 2012

Captain Morgan has sponsored a team of marine archaeologists to start its first thorough excavation of a shipwreck located close to the Lajas Reef off the coast of Panama. They believe that the wrecked hull and its cargo belong to a fleet commanded in 1671 by the ruthless British buccaneer Admiral Henry Morgan – the rum’s captain. The company released Captain’s Conquest, a mobile social game that rewards players for real-life exploration, adventure and social influence by transforming cities into the open seas and encouraging players to navigate Captain Henry Morgan’s world.

The app is available for both the Android and Apple market.

Brand owner: Diageo
Address: Lakeside Drive, London NW10 7HQ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 8978 6000
PR: Diageo press office,
+44 (0) 20 8978 2749
Product range: Original Spiced, Long
Island Iced Tea, Jamaican, 100 Proof
Spiced Rum, Private Stock


Volume 2011: 6.9 million 9l cases
Volume 2010: 7 million 9l cases
Change 10-11: -1.5%
2011 ranking: 7

Jose Cuervo Especial Silver delivered strong performance as the trend towards blanco tequilas continued. This year Jose Cuervo tequila was promoted as an ice cold shot, via an experiential campaign targeting students across London, Wales, the North West and Scotland. The Jose Cuervo Ice Cold campaign is visiting student union bars, as well as managed houses such as Luminar and a small group of independents.

Jose Cuervo also continued its sponsorship of the Pro Volleyball Series circuit of three events. Cuervo Especial Gold, the number one Tequila worldwide, continues its dominance especially with the Especial Silver variant.

Brand owner: Tequila Cuervo La
Rojeña, SA de CV (US), Tequila Cuervo SA de CV (outside US)
Address: Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena
800, Piso 4, Colonia Zedec, Santa Fe,
01210, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Tel: +1 011 52555258 7000
Brand director: Maggie Lapcewich
PR (UK): Diageo press office,
+44 (0)20 8978 2749
Product range: Cuervo Especial Gold
& Silver, Cuervo Tradicional
Reposado & Silver, Cuervo Black,
Platino, Reserva de la Familia


Volume 2011: 6.8 million 9l cases
Volume 2010: 6.6 million 9l cases
Change 10-11: +3%
2011 ranking: 8

Since launching in Germany in 1935, the brand has grown significantly and now sells in over 80 countries. The growth and success of Jägermeister is bucking the trend of the overall spirits and specialities market. In the UK, it continues to show significant volume growth of 46% and 12% in off-trade and on-trade respectively, which has helped Jägermeister to become the 9th-largest spirit brand in the UK on-trade and the 17th biggest spirit brand in the UK in general.

For the on-trade, Jägermeister has introduced tap machines to help licensees serve Jägermeister as ice-cold shots. With capacity for three bottles, the machines stand out on the back bar and speed up service. This year Jägermeister will have a presence at over 25 festivals across the country.

The 2012 Jägermusic programme is expected to reach millions of people, driving awareness and trial of Jägermeister among the brand’s audience of music lovers, as well its core 20-30 year-old consumers.

Three customised ex-military vehicles, Jäger Trucks, will appear at a range of festivals.

Brand owner: Mast-Jägermeister AG
Head office: Jägermeisterstrasse 7-15
Boulevard 38296 Wolfenbüttel, Germany
Tel: +49 (0) 53 31 81 0
PR: Clarion Communications
+44 (0)20 7479 0910
Product range: Jägermeister herbal
liqueur, Schlehenfeuer fruit liqueur


Volume 2011: 6.8 million 9l cases
Volume 2010: 6.6 million 9l cases
Change 10-11: +3%
2011 ranking: 9

Despite the difficult consumer environment in Western Europe, overall Baileys’ net sales were flat, as strong performances in all other regions offset the declines. The “Baileys, Let’s do this Again” campaign has outperformed all previous Baileys campaigns. Created by global agency, BBH, the campaign aims to remind consumers of the joy of simple, spontaneous moments spent in the company of friends.

The new campaign aims to be right in these spontaneous moments – relaxed and natural. The call to action “Let’s do this again”, runs throughout all global communications: TV, print, digital,RM, PR and experiential.

Other elements to help drive growth included limited edition bottles by Stephen Webster and Christmas visibility activities.

Brand owner: Diageo
Address: Lakeside Drive, London NW10 7HQ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 8978 6000
Brand director: Philip Almond
PR: Diageo press office
+44 (0)20 8978 2749
Product range: Baileys Original
Irish Cream, Hazelnut, Mint
Chocolate, Crème Caramel, Coffee


Volume 2011: 6.3 million 9l cases
Volume 2010: 5.8 million 9l cases
Change 10-11: +8.6%
2010 ranking: 10

Ballantine’s has been leaving an impression in its markets through a number of marketing initiatives. The Ballantine’s Finest Speaker bottle was launched, which forms part of the brand’s on-trade initiative and was designed to look like a speaker, while retaining the recognisable shape and style of Ballantine’s Finest.

The Ballantine’s Prestige range has had a dynamic year, with marketing initiatives such as the Ballantine’s Championship in golf. Winner Bernd Wiesberger was awarded with the fifth Ballantine’s Championship Blend, created exclusively in collaboration with Lee Westwood, to celebrate the tournament.

The Ballantine’s Golf Limited Edition pack was launched to commemorate the the championship’s fifth birthday, with a high-quality design that reinforces the link with golf.

Other launches included: 17 Year Old Signature Distillery Glenburgie Edition, 17 Year Old Signature Distillery Scapa Edition and the 40 Year Old – available only in Korea, and limited to an annual release of 100 bottles.

Ballantine’s 12 Year Old announced another partnership with British product and interior designer Lee Broom, to design a vintage crystal whisky decanter with a contemporary twist.

Brand owner: Chivas Brothers
Head office: Chivas House, 72
Chancellors Road, London W6 9RS, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 8250 1801
PR (UK): Richmond Towers
+44 (0)20 7388 7421

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