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The world’s top 10 best-selling spirits brands

Global spirits volumes inched up 0.3% in 2016, according to IWSR data. But which brands were the biggest, and how did they fare?

SB presents the 10 best-selling spirits brands in the world

According to the analyst, growth was driven by Tequila, gin and whisky, which climbed by 5.2%, 3.7% and 1.7% respectively. But Tequila and gin don’t feature on the world’s best-selling spirits list at all – so what’s going on?

Driven by consumption in populous emerging markets, Indian whisky was the star category, with four of the 10 best-sellers hailing from the subcontinent. Throw in a brandy and some rums too, and the list starts to take shape – although it should be noted that once again, some companies chose not to disclose their sales figures.

But which spirits brands are biggest, which names and new to the list, and which have managed to cling to growth?

Read on over the following pages to discover the 10 best-selling spirits brands in the world, by annual nine-litre case sales.

10. Tanduay

2016: 16.60m
2015: 16.50m
% change: 0.61%
Place last year: 12

Philippines-made Tanduay is making waves in the spirits world and has climbed two places to 10th on the list, despite only managing modest gains in 2016. The world’s second-largest rum brand might be associated with regional sales in Asia, but a strategic push into the US looks set to bolster sales on into 2017. The brand even became the official rum sponsor of US basketball team the Brooklyn Nets in March – so expect volume and value uplifts to follow.

9. Bacardí

2016: 17.23m
2015: 17.42m
% change: -1.09%
Place last year: 9

Pipping rum rival Tanduay into ninth place is Bacardí – a brand which has officially reclaimed its crown as the largest rum brand in the world. But the gap is narrowing – Bacardí’s volume sales slipped 1.09% in 2016, while Tanduay held steady. Now we’re down to a 630,000-case margin between the pair, can Bacardí recoup its losses and hold its ground? The brand will be hoping its high-profile tie-up with electronic music group Major Lazer can stir up those key sales.

8. Johnnie Walker

2016: 17.40m
2015: 17.60m
% change: -1.14%
Place last year: 7

Diageo flagship blend and the biggest-selling Scotch brand in the world Johnnie Walker slipped down a place in the rankings in 2016. It’s tight at the top, and shedding 1.14% in volumes is a disappointing performance especially with other brands remaining buoyant. But the team behind Johnnie Walker aren’t just sitting back – Johnnie Walker House concepts are springing up across the planet in travel retail, and experimental line extensions – think Blenders’ Batch Bourbon Cask & Rye Finish – are piquing the interests of new and existing brand fans. We expect a resounding return to form for 2017.

7. Royal Stag

2016: 17.99m
2015: 17.28m
% change: 4.11%
Place last year: 10

A strong performance in 2016 from Indian whisky brand Royal Stag saw it soar three places in the best-selling spirits standings, jumping ahead of a number of international names. Pernod Ricard’s second-largest spirit, Royal Stag is an important feature in the key Indian market. Its closest competitor, Imperial Blue, is another Pernod brand. How with the rivalry play out?

6. Imperial Blue

2016: 18.01m
2015: 17.50m
% change: 2.91%
Place last year: 8

And here is said rival – Imperial Blue. An emphatic success story in the at-times turbulent Indian market, the brand posted whopping 24.47% volume gains in 2015. While this wasn’t sustainable in the last calendar year, the brand did still add a further 2.91% gains. We reckon there’s still room for the brand to grow.

5. McDowell’s No.1

2016: 25.50m
2015: 24.60m
% change: 3.66%
Place last year: 5

Sticking with the vibrant Indian whisky contingent, United Spirits’ McDowell’s No.1 reported 3.66% volume growth in 2016, a performance which sees it keep its fifth-place ranking. But it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies – the brand must rebrand in international markets following pressure from the Scotch Whisky Association. While McDowell’s No.1 is huge, its international footprint only represents a fraction of its sales, so the action shouldn’t harm sales too much.

4. Smirnoff

2016: 25.50m
2015: 25.80m
% change: -1.16%
Place last year: 4

It’s been a bumpy road for the world’s largest vodka brand. While Diageo’s Smirnoff made modest gains in 2015, volumes slipped once again last year, with the brand finishing the 12 months down by another 1.16%. But given the headwinds still felt by many in the category, perhaps the losses shouldn’t be viewed in too harsh a light. In fact, the team behind the brand have been innovating, with launches such as Smirnoff Cider and Smirnoff Sourced look set to tap into key consumer trends. Can the brand bounce back in 2017?

3. Emperador

2016: 28.00m
2015: 30.50m
% change: -8.20%
Place last year: 3

The player that struggled most in our top 10 ranking is Emperador, the world’s largest brandy brand, proving that sometimes size is irrelevant when it comes to performance. With 8.20% declines – representing a significant 2.5 million 9-litre cases – 2016 is a year the Emperador team will likely wish to forget. It could simply be down to a strategic shift towards value: Emperador’s wider financial health remains unaffected, with 2016 incomes climbing 11% to PHP7.7 billion (US$8.68bn).

2. Officer’s Choice

2016: 32.85m
2015: 32.90m
% change: -0.15%
Place last year: 2

Retaining its crown as the world’s largest whisky brand is Allied Blenders’s Officer’s Choice. Believed to hold around 40% of its native Indian market, the brand is a force to be reckoned with, and boasts a lead over its nearest rival McDowell’s No.1 of about seven million cases. Despite this, 2016 sales were flat (-0.15%) – although it seems unlikely any other brands will be able to catch Officer’s Choice any time soon.

1. Jinro

2016: 71.97m
2015: 71.50m
% change: 0.66%
Place last year: 1

The mighty Jinro remains the world’s best-selling spirit, generating more than double the case sales of its nearest competitor. The soju has been hit by market difficulties – social, economic and political hurdles in its native Korean market may be behind the 0.66% flattening – but with such a lead over all the others, this booze behemoth isn’t going anywhere.

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