Top 10 Scotch whisky brandsBy Lauren Eads
Scotch may have had a rough time of it over the past few years with exports declining across many of its major markets, but the category is now showing signs of growth.
Earlier this year, the Scotch Whisky Association released analysis which showed the decline in Scotch exports was now “slowing”, suggesting a more optimistic future for the category.
In 2015, the value of Scotch whisky exports reached £3.86 billion, representing a decline of 2.4% from £3.95bn in 2014. This compared to a 7% decline from 2013 to 2014, indicating a slowing decline.
Sales of the world’s biggest brands by volume appear to back this assessment up, with many posting improving declines on the previous year and just two achieving significant growth.
Taking the category as a whole, sales of single malts helped drive value sales in 2015, particularly in the US, which maintained an export value of £749 million, accounting for nearly a fifth of all Scotch exports.
Other strong performers included Japan, which saw the value of Scotch exports rise by 18% to £76m. Mexico increased its value by 17% to £115m, Turkey up 24% to almost £53m and China returned to the top 20 markets with an increase of 5% to £41m. Further growth was seen in the Netherlands, which saw the value of exports increase by 30% to £74m, and Poland where exports increased to £53m – a 20% increase.
Blended Scotch whisky remains the biggest category, with a value of £2.77bn, accounting for 72% of the global value of exports, but representing a decline of 3%. By volume, blended Scotch exports declined by 1.7% in 2015.
So following several years of instability, which brands are continuing to dominate the market, and are any newcomers threatening to upset the status quo?
Here, we have ranked the world’s top 10 best-selling global Scotch whisky brands based on the number of nine-litre cases sold annually. Brands owned by The Edrington Group, particularly The Famous Grouse, are not listed as the drinks business was unable to confirm accurate figures. It is thought that annual sales of Famous Grouse would amount to around 3 million nine-litre cases, which would rank it as seventh on our list.
Scroll through for a run down of the world’s best-selling whisky brands of 2015 by volume (of millions of nine litre cases)…
2015 volume: 2.2m
2014 volume: 2.5m
Place last year: 10
Despite being one of the world’s biggest spirits companies, Diageo is still struggling to maintain sales of its Scotch, with Bell’s declining by 12% this year to 2.5m nine-litre cases. This compared to a 0% change in 2014.
This was by far the biggest drop suffered by any of the top 10 brands, but it maintains its spot in the top 10.
9. Label 5
Owner: La Martiniquaise
2015 volume: 2.58m
2014 volume: 2.58m
Place last year: 9
A dark horse, Label 5 is a major player in the French market but has been steadily growing its presence in the global market in recent years.
While it didn’t achieve growth, it was able to maintain volume sales in what was a tumultuous, albeit positive year for the Scotch category.
The producer sells two thirds of its whisky in France.
2015 volume: 2.68m
2014 volume: 2.7m
Place last year: 8
One of two Scotch whisky brands owned by Bacardi, Dewar’s held onto its eighth place position this year, declining by less than 1%.
This is a significant improvement on 2014 figures, which saw the brand suffer a 9.9% drop in sales compared to 2013.
7. William Peel
Owner: Marie Brizzard
2015 volume: 2.9m
2014 volume: 2.75m
Place last year: 7
Another French-owned Scotch, Williams Peel, formerly owned by Belvédered, is well-known on the continent whose markets drives much of its sales.
A blended Scotch, 2015 signalled another successful year for the brand, with volumes growing by 5.5%, representing the biggest leap in volumes of any of the top 10 brands, building on a 3.7% increase the year before.
6. William Lawson’s
2015 volume: 3.11m
2014 volume: 3.1m
Place last year: 6
The second of Bacardi’s Scotch brands to make the top 10, William Lawson’s fared much better than its stablemate Dewar’s, posting a slight increase in volumes of 0.32%.
This compared to the 10.7% increase it posted in 2014, signalling challenging times for the brand whose growth has undoubtedly slowed.
2015 volume: 3.5m
2014 volume: 3.7m
Place last year: 5
Diageo’s J&B also took a hit in 2015, posting the second worst decline after its otjer Scotch brand Bells. With sales declining by 5.4%, this was slight improvement on the 7% decline posted in 2014.
Owner: William Grant & Sons
2015 volume: 4.35m
2014 volume: 4.37m
Place last year: 4
Last year Grant’s declined by 7.2%, which actually makes its marginal 0.46% decline something of an achievement, and puts its steadily closer to grabbing the number three spot.
The company, owned by William Grant & Sons, has refocused its attention on the millennial market in recent month, releasing its Grant’s Ale Cask Finish in the US, which it claims to be the only Scotch whisky of its type in the market.
3. Chivas Regal
Owner: Pernod Ricard
2015 volume: 4.4m
2014 volume: 4.59m
Place last year: 3
Entering the top three Chivas Regal maintains its position, just, as its volume dipped by 4.4% in 2015. This demonstrated a continuing slide for the brand, which last year posted a decline of 1.9%. Nevertheless, the Pernod Ricard-owned brand is a titan of Scotch whisky.
2015 marked the official opening of its new £25m Chivas Brothers Dalmunach Distillery in Carron, Speyside. The state-of-the-art distillery is capable of producing up to 10 million litres per year. Its opening was the culmination of an investment package, which has increased the company’s distillation capacity by 17% and will help support the global demand for its brands, which include Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and Royal Salute.
Owner: Pernod Ricard
2015 volume: 6.2m
2014 volume: 6.13m
Place last year: 2
Another Pernod Ricard-owned brand, Ballantine’s is the second best-performing brand in terms of growth after William Peel, with sales increasing by 1.1% to 6.2m – comfortably ahead of the number three whisky. This built on growth achieved last year of 1.9% in 2014.
Last year it led calls for a whisky emoji, and won. This year it has continued its efforts to remain ahead of the curve with the launch of a glass designed for drinking whisky in space.
1. Johnnie Walker
2015 volume: 17.6m
2014 volume: 17.9m
Place last year: 1
Streaks ahead of its nearest competitor, Johnnie Walker remains the biggest Scotch brand in the world, despite seeing volumes decline by 1.7% this year. This, however, was a significant improvement on 2014, when sales slid by 10.9% – taking away its claim to having broken through 20m cases in 2013.
In a bid to boost sales, the brand launched its largest marketing effort to-date in 2015 called Joy Will Take You Further, featuring celebrities including Jude Law and Jensen Button. This year it released its private collection 2016 edition, created from rare casks from five Johnnie Walker distilleries. Just 8,888 decanters of the expression were launched for the Hong Kong market.
The brand’s improving volumes and slowing decline is demonstrative of the category’s overall return to growth.