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The top 10 best-selling Scotch whisky brands

In 2016 global Scotch whisky exports hailed a return to growth for the first time in three years, giving producers much to smile about. As celebrations abound, which brands led the growth of the category last year?

Which Scotch whisky brands outperformed the category last year?

Having recovered from prolonged softness in key markets, notably China, Russia and Latin America, values climbed 4% to £4 billion (U$5.2bn) in 2016. Single malts benefitted further, with exports soaring by 12% in value to cross the £1bn (US$1.3bn) threshold for the first time.

As such, the picture looks at least a little brighter for this year’s best-selling Scotch whisky brands, with many on the leaderboard posting low to mid single-digit growth.

Glenfiddich and Buchanan’s, meanwhile, both recorded impressive gains last year, but remain far from breaking the top 10 barrier.

Following our recently published Brand Champions 2017 – our pick of those brands selling more than one million cases annually that are performing exceptionally within their category – we run through the world’s best-selling Scotch brands on the market today.

Click through the following pages to discover the top 10 best-selling Scotch whisky brands, listed in order of their nine-litre case sales.

10. Bell’s

2016: 2.10m
2015: 2.20m
% change: -4.55%
Place last year: 10

Despite dropping in volume once again, Bell’s continues to cling on to 10th place in this year’s world’s best-selling Scotch brands. The brand is situated under Diageo’s ‘Local Brands’ portfolio, and as such has been privy to headwinds seen in the category’s emerging markets – but next year the data might well tell a different story. Diageo confirmed in May that it is focusing global investment behind its “accessible” blended Scotch brands, including brands such as Bell’s, and is in the process of establishing local bottling operations to “keep costs down and support our margins”.

9. Label 5

2016: 2.59m
2015: 2.58m
% change: 0.39%
Place last year: 9

Owned by French drinks group La Martiniquaise, Label 5 has retained its spot at number 9, boosting sales by 0.39%. The brand is adept at engaging its audience with unique market activities – in December, for example, Label 5 released a graffiti-style City Edition bottle in line with its City Light campaign. This was followed by the launch of an international digital campaign that allows consumers to share a virtual drink with people across the globe in February this year.

8. Dewar’s

2016: 2.80
2015: 2.68
% change: 4.48%
Place last year: 8

Bacardi-owned Dewar’s has managed to wade off declines seen in 2015 with an abundance of travel retail activations during the festive period and an increased focus on the Chinese market – including an New Year campaign at 11 airport and border crossing locations across Asia Pacific. The brand’s strong performance could also be attributed to its partnership with China’s “largest” e-commerce company, which saw sales of Bacardi’s brands on increase more than 150% in the first half of 2016 compared with the previous year.

7. William Lawson’s

2016: 2.99m
2015: 3.11m
% change: -3.86%
Place last year: 6

After witnessing a solid low-single-digit decline of -3.86%, Bacardi-owned blended Scotch whisky brand William Lawson’s has moved down a notch in the list of the world’s best-selling Scotch brands. As part of Bacardi’s global environmental sustainability platform, the brand’s new energy-efficient blending and shipping centre could help to push the brand’s organic growth in the imminent future.

6. William Peel

2016: 3.00m
2015: 2.90m
% change: 3.45%
Place last year: 7

By contrast, William Peel continued its path of consistent and solid growth, this year hitting the 3m case mark and scooting up one spot in the leaderboard for its efforts. This winning flourish seems set to continue in the year ahead – at the end of 2016, owner Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits announced a strategic focus on the mainstream segment of the wine and spirits markets in order to drive EBITDA gains of €28-37 million by 2018.

5. J&B

2016: 3.50m
2015: 3.50m
% change: 0%
Place last year: 5

Diageo’s J&B Scotch whisky slowed its declines to a juddering halt in 2016, plateauing at 3.50m cases. According to the group’s president of Europe, Russia and Turkey, J&B remains an “important brand” for Diageo, particularly in Spain and France, who added that work carried out on the blended Scotch brand has “not been good enough” in recent years. Harsh words perhaps, but they seem to have done the trick. The brand has been bolstered by months of communication platforms in-store and at cultural events such as Benicassim Festival, so positive growth could well be on the cards in next year’s report.

4. Chivas Regal

2016: 4.26m
2015: 4.39m
% change: -2.96%
Place last year: 3

Chivas Regal – owned by Pernod Ricard’s whisky arm Chivas Brothers – took a hit in 2016, witnessing a 2.96% drop in volumes that subsequently resulted in the surrender of its third place perch. The brand has been gradually losing momentum in recent years, and despite the restructure of Chivas Brothers’ blending team in September 2016, followed by the launch of its first blended malt, Chivas Regal Ultis, in October, the pattern continued. Could continuing recovery in China and other Asian markets buoy the brand next year?

3. Grant’s

2016: 4.48m
2015: 4.35m
% change: 2.90%
Place last year: 4

William Grant & Sons-owned blended Scotch whisky Grant’s has started to claw back sales following a two-year period of declines, up by an admirable 2.90% and thusly surpassing its closest competitor Chivas Regal in our latest Brand Champions report. Fresh from the launch of Grant’s Ale Cask Finish in the US, in 2016 the brand ramped up its travel retail activity, launching periodic table-themed activations for its Grant’s Elementary range.

2. Ballantine’s

2016: 6.70m
2015: 6.22m
% change: 7.72%
Place last year: 2

Pernod Ricard-owned Ballantine’s continued its positive growth trajectory in 2016, reporting high-single-digit figures and edging ever-closer to the 7m milestone. Boasting the most impressive growth within the context of the top five best-selling Scotch whiskies once again, Ballantine’s kept its momentum with a fresh wave of limited edition bottlings and marketing efforts. The brand’s Artist Series bottle designs returned for 2016, this time in the form of a partnership with music video director and photographer Dave Ma.

1. Johnnie Walker

2016: 17.40m
2015: 17.60m
% change: -1.14%
Place last year: 1

Once again, the title of world’s best-selling Scotch whisky brand belongs to Johnnie Walker. While the Diageo-owned brand has witnessed consecutive declines since its 20.10m case high in 2013, more than 10m cases separate Johnnie Walker from its nearest challenger. Far from complacent, the brand has been busy expanding its “multi-sensory” Johnnie Walker House travel retail concept across the globe, expanding to Bahrain, South Korea, Beijing, Amsterdam, and even aboard Asian cruise ship Genting Dream, at the same time as launching a plethora of line extensions – most recently its Blenders’ Batch Bourbon Cask & Rye Finish – and collaborating with designers to launch limited edition bottles. In March this year, Johnnie Walker renewed its focus on age statements by rebranding its Platinum Label edition as an 18-year-old expression. Will all this activity see the brand bounce back into positive growth in 2018? Time will tell.

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