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Scotch Whisky Brand Champions 2013


scotch whiskyWilliam Lawson’s defines itself as a ‘no rules’ Scotch with little regard for tradition, and whose adverts feature swarthy, bare chested Highlanders who may, or may not, wear knickers under their kilts. But it’s not its punchy advertising so much as Russian shoe leather that makes Lawson this year’s brand champion. It was launched in Russia five years ago and, having sailed past Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal, now claims to be the country’s biggest imported spirit with sales of almost a million cases last year.

Commenting on its success there, Stephen Marshall, global marketing manager at John Dewar & Sons, said: “It’s because we went in with a good fresh attitude and a young team. We shouldn’t take much credit for it in Scotland – it’s the local team that did the work.” In a market that is officially dark with no billboards, magazine ads or TV commercials allowed, the brand has been built by old-fashioned salesmanship,particularly in the on-trade.

Born in 1882, William Lawson’s was just another late Victorian blend that ended up with DCL – later Diageo. It was clearly not the main attraction for Bacardi when it acquired the brand along with Dewar’s White Label and Bombay Sapphire for £1.15bn in 1998. Yet Lawson’s no nonsense, baggage-free image has clearly worked with the brand rising from 13th to seventh place among Scotch whiskies in the last five years.

After Russia, its next biggest market is France, with sales of 700,000 cases. Among others are Spain, Portugal and Mexico – which is growing fast. Another obvious contender for the title of champion, and a worthy runner-up, is Johnnie Walker which was the third fastest growing brand in Scotch whisky’s top 10, up 9% and soon destined to smash through the 20m-case barrier, if it hasn’t already done so. If ever a brand reflected the self belief of its owners, and their confidence in the Scotch whisky category, this is it.

Johnnie Walker was registered in 1909 along with its logo sketched on the back of a menu in a London restaurant. The striding man may have looked more like a lion tamer than a Kilmarnock grocer, but it has become the most powerful piece of branding this side of Coke. The real stroke of genius was colour coding from the start so whisky drinkers have never had to leave the Walker stable.

Last year Red Label sold over 1.3m cases in Brazil alone, while Black Label has reinforced its lead over Chivas Regal which came close to the 5m barrier in 2011, but slipped back 2% last year.

All this is against a backdrop of surging demand for Scotch in Asia, Latin America and the States that threatens to outstrip supply.

Add in the tantalising prospect of India, where Scotch currently has less than 2% of the country’s whisky market, as well as the untapped potential of Africa, and it is almost a relief that European sales are down.


BRAND OWNER 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 % +/-
Johnnie Walker Diageo 15.4 15.3 16.2 18 19.7 9%
Ballantine’s Pernod Ricard 6.5 5.8 6.2 6.5 5.8 -11%
Chivas Regal Pernod Ricard 4.6 3.9 4.5 4.9 4.8 -2%
J & B Rare Diageo 5.7 5.1 4.9 4.8 4.6 -4%
William Grant’s William Grant’s 5 4.8 5 5 4.5 -10%
The Famous Grouse Edrington 3.1 2.8 3 2.9 3.2 10%
Dewars Bacardi 3.4 3.2 3.3 3.2 3 -6%
William Lawson’s Bacardi 1.5 1.6 1.7 2.3 2.6 13%
Bell’s Diageo 2.1 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.5 0%
William Peel Belvedere 2.1 2.4 2.5 2.9 2.5 -14%
Label 5 La Martiniquaise 2 2.2 2.3 2.5 2.5 0%
Teacher’s Highland Cream Beam 1.9 1.7 1.9 2.1 2.1 0%
Buchanan’s Diageo 1.5 1.3 1.4 1.6 1.9 19%
100 Pipers Pernod Ricard 2.3 2 1.7 1.7 1.6 -6%
Sir Edward’s Bardinet 1 1.1 1.2 1.4 1.4 0%
Clan Campbell Pernod Ricard 1.7 1.8 1.8 1.9 1.3 -32%
Passport Pernod Ricard ₋– ₋– 0.9 1.1 1.2 9%
Clan MacGregor William Grant’s 1.4 1.3 1.5 1.1 1.1 0%
Glenfiddich William Grant’s 0.7 0.7 0.9 1.1 1 -9%




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