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The world’s top 10 spirit brands

The drinks business has compiled a list of the current top 10 spirit brands by global volume sales.

SpiritsWhile the majority of entries in this year’s top 10 retained their 2012 ranking, there was a new entry from innovative Bourbon brand Jim Beam, while movers in the pack included German digestif Jägermeister and Irish cream liqueur Baileys.

The ability for brands to refresh and reinvent themselves was a core contributing factor to our top 10’s success this year, with new flavoured variants being released thick and fast in the vodka category, and Bacardi giving two new flavours a go on the rum front.

White spirits put in a strong performance this year, but was it enough to stave off the seemingly unstoppable charge of super Scotch Johnnie Walker, voted the number one brand in The Drinks Business Power Brands 2013 list?

Read on to find out which brands are dominating today’s spirits market.

10: Ballantine’s

Ballantine'sVolume 2011: 6.3 million 9l cases
Volume 2012: 6.2 million 9l cases
Change 12-11: -1.6%
2012 ranking: 10

Produced by Pernod Ricard in Dumbarton, blended Scotch whisky Ballantine’s is the world’s second highest selling Scotch brand after Johnnie Walker. Founded in 1827 by George Ballantine, the range includes different aged variants, from 12 year old and 17 year old to the 21 year old and 30 year old.

This April, the brand unveiled a limited edition blend to mark the 2013 Ballantine’s Golf Championship held in South Korea. Ballantine’s also commissioned Scottish artist Steve Bonner to create a whisky-inspired illustrated typeface to celebrate the flavour characteristics of Ballantine’s 12 Year Old.

Featuring pears peeled into a ‘P’, and cream dripping into a ‘C’ shape, the Ballantine’s alphabet allows users to create their own Facebook cover image by mixing and matching the letters.

Earlier this year, two bottles of Ballantine’s 40 year old went on sale at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport priced at €6,000 each. Just 100 bottles of the extra aged blend are released each year and feature an etched Ballantine’s crest alongside the signature of master blender Sandy Hyslop finished with a sterling silver stopper crafted by British silversmith Richard Fox.

Brand owner: Chivas Brothers
Head office: Chivas House, 72 Chancellors Road, London W6 9RS, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 8250 1801
Website: ballantines.com
PR (UK): Richmond Towers +44 (0)20 7388 7421
Product range: Ballantine’s 12 year old, Ballantine’s 17 year old, Ballantine’s 21 year old, Ballantine’s 30 year old, Ballantine’s 40 year old.

9: Jim Beam

Jim BeamVolume 2011: 5.9 million 9l cases
Volume 2012: 6.23 million 9l cases
Change 12-11: +5.6%
2012 ranking: N/A

Founded in Kentucky back in 1795, Jim Beam has steadily grown to become one of the world’s top-selling Bourbons.

Given the name “Jim Beam” in 1933 in honour of James B. Beam, who rebuilt the business after Prohibition ended, the brand grew its global sales last year to 6.23m cases, making it a new entry in our top 10.

Owned by Beam Inc, the company produces several styles of Bourbon, including Jim Beam Honey, Jacob’s Ghost ­– an 80% proof white whiskey – the 45% abv Devil’s Cut, made with Bourbon extracted from the wood of the barrel, and Red Stag in Cherry, Honey Tea and Spiced variants, along with food products that include Bourbon as an ingredient, such as BBQ sauce and pancake syrup.

This April, the brand aired its first TV advert in the UK as part of a £9m investment to market its core portfolio. At the same time, it released Jim Beam Lime Splash, designed to capitalise on the growing consumer interest in RTDs.

Brand owner: Beam Inc
Head office: Maxxium UK, Maxxium House, Castle Business Park, Stirling, Scotland, FK9 4RT
Tel: +44 (0)1786 430 500 Website:
PR (UK): Lime +44 (0)20 8544 6917
Product range: Jim Beam, Jim Beam Rye, Jim Beam Honey, Jacob’s Ghost, The Devil’s Cut, Beam’s Eight Star

8: Baileys

BaileysVolume 2011: 6.8 million 9l cases
Volume 2012: 6.5 million 9l cases
Change 11-12: -4.4%
2012 ranking: 9

The popular Irish cream liqueur brand, founded by Gilbey’s of Ireland in 1974, was the first of its kind on the market.

Having introduced mint chocolate and crème caramel flavours in 2005, in 2008 the brand launched a coffee-flavoured variant and most recently a hazelnut and biscotti flavour, along with a limited edition run of orange truffle last Christmas, which went on sale in the UK and Australia for just three months between October 2012 and January 2013, having been specifically designed with the “discerning female shopper” in mind.

Last October, Baileys launched its biggest ever global advertising campaign in an attempt to inject fresh energy into the brand and attract young female consumers into the cream liqueur category. Running with the: “Cream with Spirit” slogan, the ad campaign was choreographed by Michael Rooney, the man behind Fat Boy Slim’s memorable “Praise You” video.

To back up the campaign, this March, Baileys revealed a new slimline, jet-black bottle design with a revamped, more feminine “B” logo.

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

7: Jägermeister

JagerVolume 2011: 6.8 million 9l cases
Volume 2012: 6.9 million 9l cases
Change 11-12: +1.5%
2012 ranking: 8

Since launching in Germany in 1935, 70% proof digestif Jägermeister, made with 56 different herbs, fruits, roots and spices, has grown significantly and now sells in over 80 countries as one of the world’s most popular shot brands and the number one imported liqueur in the US.

Meaning “master hunter” in German, Jägermeister continues to show significant volume growth in both the UK on- and off-trade, which has helped Jägermeister to become third best selling spirit in the UK on-trade and the 17th biggest spirit brand in the UK in general.

Last year, the brand introduced tap machines in the on-trade 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. The brand also has strong associations with both sport and music, sponsoring European motor racing teams and the Rockstar Mayhem heavy metal festival in the US.

This summer, the brand has partnered in the US with New York-based celebrity chef Chris Santos on tasting events, Jägermeister-infused recipes and a barbeque competition for grill dishes featuring Jägermeister.

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

6: Captain Morgan

Captain MorganVolume 2011: 9.2 million 9l cases
Volume 2012: 10 million 9l cases
Change 12-11: +8.7%
2012 ranking: 6

Captain Morgan is Diageo’s leading rum and accounts for over two-thirds of net sales within the rum category, with rum in turn representing 6% of Diageo’s net sales.

Net sales of Captain Morgan were up 7% last year, tipping sales up to the 10 million mark for the first time – only the sixth international brand to do so – buoyed by the continued success of the “Life, Love and Loot” campaign, which, having run since 2011, has re-energised the brand in North America.

The Jamaican rum is named after 17th century Welsh privateer and governor of Jamaica, Sir Henry Morgan, who died in 1688 and features on every bottle made by the brand. The second largest spirits brand by volume in the US, unusually, Captain Morgan is led by its Spiced variant, with Diageo opting to launch Captain Morgan Spiced in new markets ahead of the original version.

Describing the recent spiced rum growth trend as “unstoppable”, Diageo intends to target Australia as the Captain’s next port of call, with Asia being left to super-premium rum brand Zacapa.

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

5: Jack Daniel’s

Jack Daniel'sVolume 2011: 10.6 million 9l cases
Volume 2012: 10.9 million 9l cases
Change 11-12: +2.8%
2012 ranking: 5

Jack Daniel’s put in a strong performance last year, increasing global sales to 10.9 million cases. Its Tennessee Honey variant, released in the UK last year, has grown to become the UK’s number one new spirits launch of the past two years, accruing over 6,000 followers on Twitter.

The first new product from the brand in over a decade, Tennessee Honey was launched to grow the whiskey category by recruiting new consumers into the brand and was supported by a £2m marketing campaign.

The brand’s strong image is upheld by its powerful black-and-white advertising centred on the whiskey’s craft element and its founder, Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel, born in September 1846. The brand’s upmarket positioning is helped by the premium Gentleman Jack, though the majority of sales centre on Old No.7.

Jack Daniel’s currently has just under 5 million “likes” on Facebook.

Brand owner: Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands
Head office: 45 Mortimer Street, London W1W 8HJ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7478 1300
Website: jackdaniels.co.uk
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

4: Absolut

AbsolutVolume 2011: 11 million 9l cases
Volume 2012: 11.4 million 9l cases
Change 11-12: +3.6%
2012 ranking: 4

Since it was first bottled 34 years ago, Swedish winter wheat vodka brand Absolut has grown to become one of the world’s largest spirits brands. Global sales increased by nearly half a million cases last year to 11.4m.

Pioneering flavoured variants in the early noughties, recent additions to its ever-increasing line-up include Absolut Hibiscus, Absolut Cherrykran and Absolut Cilantro – a mixture of coriander and lime. This April, Mexican contemporary artist Jeronimo Lopez Ramirez, collaborated with the brand on a limited edition Absolut Mexico bottle.

Its Absolut Unique project for travel retail meanwhile comprised four million bottles, each with a different design. Earlier this year the brand released a trio of craft variants – Absolut Craft, in collaboration with mixologist Nick Strangeway. The range, made for the on-trade, includes Herbacious Lemon, Smokey Tea and Bitter Cherry.

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

3: Johnnie Walker

Johnnie WalkerVolume 2011: 18 million 9l cases
Volume 2012: 19.7 million 9l cases
Change 11-12: +9.4%
2012 ranking: 3

According to the IWSR, Johnnie Walker remains the number one Scotch brand in the world, with 2012 global sales just shy of 20 million cases. While sales are strong in the UK, the US, Brazil and Mexico are the brand’s most buoyant export markets, along with China, Thailand and South Africa.

Johnnie Walker’s impressive sales growth last year came mainly from its premium offerings, such as its limited edition Explorers’ Club Collection – a trio of blends inspired by the riches found along the world’s great trade routes. So far, the Gold Route and Spice Route have been launched with the third expected later this year.

Clinching the number one spot ahead of Smirnoff in The Drinks Business Power Brands 2013 list, pushing the vodka brand down into second place for the first time in eight years, Johnnie Walker’s recent momentum has been phenomenal, with global sales increasing by nearly five million cases in the last two years.

Brand owner: Diageo
Head office: Lakeside Drive, London NW10 7HQ,
UK Tel: +44 (0)20 8978 6000
Website: johnniewalker.com
Brand director: Gavin Pike
PR (UK): Diageo press office +44 (0)20 8978 2749
Product range: Red, Black, Green, Gold and Blue Labels, Double Black, Expolorers’ Club Collection

2: Bacardi

BacardiVolume 2011: 19.6 million 9l cases
Volume 2012: 19.8 million 9l cases
Change 12-11: +1%
2012 ranking: 2

Bacardi celebrated its 150th anniversary in style last year by throwing parties around the world. In addition to its year-long birthday party, the brand also had strong sales figures to celebrate, growing global volume sales to 19.8m 9l cases.

While yet to penetrate the Asian market to a significant degree, sales remained strong in the US last year, helped along by innovations such as Bacardi Wolf Berry blueberry and wolf berry rum and Black Razz raspberry and black sapote rum housed in temperature and light activated bottles.

The brand marked its 150th birthday with a limited edition rum blended by eight Bacardi family members and bottled in a hand-blown crystal decanter inspired by the coconut palm planted at the entrance of the first Bacardi distillery in Santiago de Cuba. Only 1,000 decanters of Ron Bacardi de Maestros de Ron, Vintage: MMXII were made, with 600 being given to family members and 200 going on sale in the US for £1,280 each.

This February, Spanish tennis ace Rafael Nadal was chosen to lead Bacardi’s latest responsible drinking campaign.

Brand owner: Bacardi
Global Head office: 28 Dorset Square, London NW1 6QG, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7563 3400
Website: bacardi.com
Brand director: Dmitry Ivanov
PR: Amy Federman, +1 294 1110
Product range: Bacardi Superior, Bacardi Gold, Bacardi Black, Bacardi Dark Heart, Bacardi Mojito, Bacardi Limon

1: Smirnoff

SmirnoffVolume 2011: 24.7 million 9l cases
Volume 2012: 26.3 million 9l cases
Change 12-11: +6.5%
2012 ranking: 1

Leader of the pack Smirnoff – the world’s biggest international spirits brand – grew its sales considerably in 2012.

Much of the brand’s success last year came from the recovery of the US market, with vodka sales accounting for as many as 65 million of the 202 million cases of alcohol sold in the country last year, up 4% on 2011. The UK was also a key driver of net sales growth, with global net sales up 4%.

This March, the brand released an Espresso variant (extracted from coffee beans and designed to be enjoyed with cola) in the UK in a bid to grow the £116m flavoured vodka market in Britain.

At the same time it spotted a niche in the growing low calorie drinks market, launching a trio of “skinny” vodkas under the Smirnoff Sorbet Light banner: Raspberry & Pomegranate, Mango & Passion Fruit, and Lemon, with each boasting 78 calories per 1.5oz serving.

Despite the recession, Smirnoff put in a strong performance in 2012, increasing sales over the year to power through the 26 million case mark.

Brand owner: Diageo
Head office: Lakeside Drive, London NW10 7HQ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 8978 6000
Website: smirnoff.com
Global brand director: Simon Burch
PR: Diageo Press Office +44 (0)20 8978 2749
Product range: Smirnoff Red, Black, Blue, Norsk, Apple, Lime, Vanilla, Blueberry, Espresso, Smirnoff Ice, Smirnoff Black Ice, Smirnoff Kissed Caramel, Smirnoff Sorbet Light

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