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Top 10 spirits brands

The titans of the spirits world battle it out for a spot in the top 10, as we count down the biggest brands of 2014 by volume.

The unstoppable Smirnoff remains in pole position for a remarkable fourth year running, meanwhile, rising up the ranks are Johnnie Walker and Jack Daniel’s, with Italian bitters brand Fernet Branca making its debut this year.

Scroll through to see which spirits made this year’s top 10…

Click here for the biggest beer brands, wine brands and Champagne brands.  

10. Fernet Branca

Brand owner: Fratelli Branca Distillery

Head office: Via Broletto, 35, 20120, Milan, Italy

Tel: +39 (0)285 131 Website:

PR (UK): Shiel Porter +44 (0)7841 694 137

Product range: Fernet Branca, Branca Menta

Volume 2012: 5.4 million 9l cases

Volume 2013: 6.2 million 9l cases

Change 13-12: +15%

2013 ranking: N/A

The only new entry to this year’s list, Italian bitters brand Fernet Branca was created in Milan in 1845 by Bernardino Branca as a medicine to cure poor digestion and wind. The original recipe includes 40 roots, herbs and spices including gentian, myrrh, camomile, iris, galangal, bitter orange and saffron. Perhaps capitalising on the global thirst for bitters-based drinks, Fernet Branca is having a stonking year, with 2013 global volume sales up 15% on 2012 to 6.2m nine-litre cases, meaning the brand is gaining ground on Jägermeister.

While both Campari and Aperol remain strong brands with a devoted following, Fernet Branca has surged ahead of the pair in terms of global volume sales. Outside of classic cocktails like the whisky-based Toronto, Fernet Branca is enjoyed with coke in Argentina and as a shot followed by a ginger chaser in San Francisco, where the concoction is known as a Bartender’s Handshake. In addition to the original recipe, a mint flavoured variant called Branca Menta is also on sale and doing well.

9. Baileys

Brand owner: Diageo

Address: Lakeside Drive, London NW10 7HQ, UK

Tel: +44 (0)20 8978 6000 Website:

Brand director: Garbhan O’Bric PR: (in-house) +44 (0)20 8978 2749

Product range: Baileys Original, Hazelnut, Mint, Chocolat Luxe, Crème Caramel, Coffee, Orange Truffle

Volume 2012: 6.5 million 9l cases

Volume 2013: 6.5 million 9l cases

Change 13-12: 0%

2013 ranking: 8

Irish Cream Liqueur brand Baileys’ global volume sales remained flat in 2013 at 6.5m nine-litre cases. Founded by Gilbeys of Ireland in 1974, the brand was the first of its kind on the market. Having introduced mint chocolate and crème caramel flavours in 2005, in 2008 Baileys launched a coffee-flavoured variant and most recently a hazelnut and biscotti flavour and a limited edition run of orange truffle.

Earlier this year the brand scooped gold at The Drinks Business Awards, walking away with the Design & Packaging gong for its rococo design for Baileys Chocolat Luxe. Made using 30g of Belgian chocolate per bottle, this “ultimate molten chocolate drinking experience” is the fruit of three years’ research that involved 839 failed attempts and the tasting of 200 different chocolates. In order for the whiskey flavour to complement the chocolate, Baileys’ principal scientist, Anthony Wilson, whose father Steve Wilson was one of the creators of Baileys nearly 40 years ago, lowered the abv of the drink by 1.3%. Last summer, the brand launched a vanilla and cinnamon expression in the US.

8. Jim Beam

Brand owner: Beam Suntory

Head office: 510 Lake Cook Road Deerfield, Illinois 60015, United States

Tel: +1 847 948-8888 Website:

PR (UK): Lime PR +44 (0)20 8544 6917

Product range: Jim Beam, Jim Beam Rye, Jim Beam Honey, Single Barrel, The Devil’s Cut, Maple, Signature Craft

Volume 2012 6.23 million 9l cases

Volume 2013: 6.9 million 9l cases

Change 13-12: +10%

2013 ranking: 9

It’s been a busy year for Bourbon brand Jim Beam. Edging up a place to eighth position on this year’s list, global volume sales were up an impressive 10% in 2013 to 6.9m nine-litre cases from 6.23m in 2012. Founded in Kentucky 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, in the last year the brand has lost none of its pioneering spirit, launching a number of new expressions onto the market in a bid to profit from the Bourbon boom currently sweeping both the UK and US.

In a story that mirrors Jack Daniel’s’ success, surging sales of Jim Beam honey have helped boost parent company Beam Inc’s net sales growth, while sales of the brand’s flagship Bourbon rose 4% in the first six months of last year. With the thirst for flavoured spirits showing no sign of slowing (over 200 expressions are now on sale worldwide) last September Jim Beam Maple made its debut in the US. Infused with “natural flavours” to create a “warming and light caramel finish”, Beam recommends enjoying the 35% abv Bourbon on the rocks.

7. Jägermeister

Brand owner: Mast-Jägermeister AG

Head office: Jägermeisterstrasse 7-15 Boulevard 38296 Wolfenbüttel, Germany

Tel: +49 (0) 53 31 81 0 Website: PR (UK): Clarion Communications +44 (0)20 7479 0910

Product range: Jägermeister herbal liqueur, Jägermeister Spice

Volume 2012: 6.9 million 9l cases

Volume 2013: 7.2 million 9l cases

Change 13-12: +4%

2013 ranking: 7

Since launching in Germany in 1935, 35% abv 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. Jägermeister, meaning “master hunter” in German, continues to show significant volume growth in both the UK on- and off-trade, with the UK now the brand’s thirst biggest market.

Global volume sales were up for 4% in 2013 to 7.2m nine-litre cases from 6.9m in 2012. Following “outstanding” growth in the UK, the company established its first foreign distribution subsidiary – Mast-Jägermeister UK – in Britain last September, parting ways with its former UK distributor, Cellar Trends.

According to CGA Strategy, 66% of UK bars and pubs now offer the Jägerbomb — a shot of Jägermeister housed within a larger glass of Redbull. Despite the serve’s success, the brand is keen to distance itself from the Jägerbomb and instead push the idea of serving the liqueur as an ice-cold shot. This February the brand aired its first ever television advertisement in the UK encouraging its consumers to try out this ice-cold shot serve.

6. Captain Morgan

Brand owner: Diageo

Address: Lakeside Drive, London NW10 7HQ, UK

Tel: +44 (0)20 8978 6000 Website:

PR: (in-house) +44 (0) 20 8978 2749

Product range: Original Spiced, Long Island Iced Tea, Jamaican, 100 Proof Spiced Rum, Private Stock, Captain Morgan 1971

Volume 2012: 10 million 9l cases

Volume 2013: 10.3 million 9l cases

Change 13-12: +3%

2013 ranking: 6

Named after 17th century Welsh privateer and governor of Jamaica, Sir Henry Morgan, Captain Morgan is Diageo’s leading rum brand. Maintaining its sixth position on our list this year, 2013 global volume sales for the brand were up by 3% to 10.3m nine-litre cases from 10m in 2012. Capitalising on the success of its spiced variant, last summer the brand released a limited edition Sherry oak cask finish spiced rum in order to make the most of growing demand for Sherry-flavoured spirits in the marketplace. Described by its makers as a “rich and flavourful take on the brand’s signature blend”, the rum boasts a purple metallic foil for optimum shelf standout.

Further extending its range, this February Captain Morgan released a white rum in the US inspired by “the clear waters of the Caribbean.” The brand describes the 40% abv rum as “clean, slightly sweet and creamy with fruit flavours and hints of green apple.” However it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the brand in the last year as in February Captain Morgan got in hot water over an advertisement that was said to link drinking alcohol with aggressive behaviour.

5. Absolut

Brand owner: Pernod Ricard

Head office: 12 Place des États-Unis, 75783, Paris, France

Tel: + 33 (0)1 41 00 41 00 Website:

Brand manager: Adam Boita PR (UK): Cirkl +44 (0)1494 731 750

Product range: Absolut vodka, Berry, Açai, Citron, Mandrin, Raspberri, Mango, Absolut 100, Absolut Unique, Absolut Craft, Absolut Amber, Absolut Original, Absolut Oz

Volume 2012: 11.4 million 9l cases

Volume 2013: 11.4 million 9l cases

Change 11-12: 0%

2013 ranking: 4

Sliding down a place from fourth to fifth this year, global volume sales for Swedish winter wheat vodka brand Absolut remained flat in 2013 at 11.4m nine-litre cases, giving Jack Daniel’s the opportunity to surge ahead on 11.5m. However, the ever-restless brand has far from rested on its laurels over the past year. Last August, Absolut revealed a redesign for its flavoured vodka line inspired by Abstract Expressionism in what the brand dubbed one of its “most dramatic changes ever made.”

Rather than using images of the fruit flavours inside, the redesign focuses on symbolism that reflects the essence of each flavour. Early this year, the brand made the bold move of dropping the word “Vodka” from its logo, having become so “iconic” it no longer needs it. The revamped logo, formed of the word “Absolut” followed by a full stop will become the brand’s new “master identity”.

4. Jack Daniel’s

Brand owner: Bacardi Brown-Forman

Head office: 850 Dixie Highway. Louisville, Kentucky, 40210, USA

Tel: +1 502 585-1100 Website:

Brand director: John Hayes PR (UK): Publicasity +44 (0)20 7632 2400

Product range: Old No.7, Gentleman Jack, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, Tennessee Honey, Winter Jack

Volume 2012 10.9 million 9l cases

Volume 2013: 11.5 million 9l cases

Change 13-12: +5%

2013 ranking: 5

Jack Daniel’s is on a roll at the moment. The brand’s year on year global volume sales are up 5% from 10.9m nine-litre cases in 2012 to 11.5m last year, which in turn have led to parent company Brown-Forman experiencing 5% volume growth. Sales have been buoyed by an impressive performance from Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, which delivered 36% sales growth in the US alone last year and accounted for 13% of the brand’s total sales in Australia and 9% of UK sales. The launch has proved so successful that in June it became the first flavoured whiskey to sell over a million cases.

Sales of Jack Daniel’s have also been strong in both Mainland China and the Far East, with some trend forecasters going as far to say that Jack Daniel’s might soon be giving Bacardi serious competition in terms of volume sales. Last August, Jack Daniel’s announced a US$100m expansion plan of its Lynchburg distillery as part of the largest expansion scheme in the brand’s history. “It’s a good time for the whiskey industry and we don’t want to find ourselves without additional throttle if we need it,” explained master distiller Jeff Arnett.

3. Bacardi

Brand owner: Bacardi Global

Head office: 65 Pitts Bay Road, Pembroke, HM 08 Bermuda

Tel: +1 441 295 4345

Website: Brand director: Dmitry Ivanov PR: Amy Federman, +1 294 1110

Product range: Bacardi Superior, Bacardi Gold, Bacardi Black, Bacardi Dark Heart, Bacardi Mojito, Facundo Rum Collection

Volume 2012: 19.8 million 9l cases

Volume 2013: 19.1 million 9l cases

Change 13-12: -4%

2013 ranking: 2

Bacardi’s fortunes have been mixed over the past year, with global volume sales sliding 4% from 19.8m in 2012 to 19.1m nine-litre cases last year. Facing increased competition for the title of the world’s largest rum brand from Philippine brand Tanduay, which went on sale in the US for the first time last summer, the brand also had to deal with the death of its former chairman, Manuel Jorge Cutillas – great grandson of the company’s founder – last November, and the retirement of CEO, Ed Shirley, in April just two years into the role.

In order to push its premium image, late last year the brand launched a limited edition range of aged sipping rums aimed at stealing market share from Scotch and Cognac drinkers.Composed of four expressions, the Facundo Rum Collection pays homage to Bacardi’s founder, Don Facundo Bacardi Massó. Intending to make waves in the luxury sphere, the collection begins with Neo, a blended white rum, moving on to Eximo, which spends a decade in American oak. Exquisito meanwhile, is made from rums aged between seven and 23 years and finished in Sherry casks while the top tier Paraiso is aged for 23 years and finished in Cognac casks.

2. Johnnie Walker

Brand owner: Diageo

Head office: Lakeside Drive, London NW10 7HQ, UK

Tel: +44 (0)20 8978 6000 Website:

Brand director: Gavin Pike PR (UK): (in-house) +44 (0)20 8978 2749

Product range: Red, Black, Green, Gold and Blue Labels, Double Black, Explorers’ Club Collection

Volume 2012: 19.7 million 9l cases

Volume 2013: 20.1 million 9l cases

Change 13-12: +2%

2013 ranking: 3

Voted the most powerful drinks brand in the world in our 2014 Power Brands report, conducted in collaboration with brand valuation consultancy firm Intangible Business, global volume sales of Johnnie Walker rose last year from 19.7m nine-litre cases to 20.1m. The Diageo-owned blended Scotch giant broke through the 20m case mark for the first time last year. In contrast to the competition faced by Smirnoff, in the past year Johnnie Walker has successfully maintained its premium positioning in the market.

Earlier this year, Johnnie Walker was voted as a more valuable brand to the UK than British Airways and Burberry by Brand Finance, having grown its value by 11% to £3 billion. Johnnie Walker’s sales and marketing activity over the last year has spread its tentacles across the globe. Continuing to innovate, last August the brand released a “Platinum” expression in the US crafted from a blend of single malt and grain whiskies. In addition, the brand recently released a limited edition run of Blue Label bottles engraved with the skylines of some of the most famous cities in the world.

1. Smirnoff

Brand owner: Diageo

Head office: Lakeside Drive, London NW10 7HQ, UK

Tel: +44 (0)20 8978 6000 Website:

Global brand director: Matt Bruhn PR: (in-house) +44 (0)20 8978 2749 Product range: Smirnoff Red, Black, Blue, White, Gold, Gold Apple, Lime, Vanilla, Blueberry, Espresso, Smirnoff Ice, Smirnoff Black Ice, Smirnoff Kissed Caramel, Smirnoff Sorbet Light

Volume 2012: 26.3 million 9l cases

Volume 2013: 26.1 million 9l cases

Change 13-12: -0.7%

2013 ranking: 1

Leader of the pack Smirnoff – the world’s largest international spirits brand – experienced a small dip in sales last year, down to 26.1m nine-litre cases from 26.3m in 2012. However, the brand remains six million cases clear of its nearest competitor, Johnnie Walker. Having attributed a lot of its success to the US market last year, 2013 was a different story with Smirnoff losing its share of the American vodka market due to a 7% decline in volume sales in the six months to 31 December. Brand owner Diageo blamed the slump on the company’s overall 1% US wine and spirits decline despite a good performance from Smirnoff’s Sorbet and Confections lines, which include flavours like Whipped Cream, Fluffed Marshmallow and Caramel.

The fall was also put down to the swell of vodka brands now on the market, giving Smirnoff increased competition for sales. Despite the slight decline, Smirnoff hasn’t been short of innovations in the last year, releasing a cinnamon-flavoured vodka flecked with edible 23-carat gold onto the market last August. Last October, the brand released two new flavoured variants: Wild Honey and Cinna-Sugar Twist, specifically targeted at the US market. This year the brand launched what it claimed to be a “pioneering new vodka variant” in the form of Smirnoff White in travel retail. Most recently, the brand launched Smirnoff Gold Apple, an apple-flavoured vodka flecked with edible gold.

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