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The world’s top 10 best-selling spirits brands

‘Local’ spirits such as Indian whisky, soju and rum dominate our list of best-selling spirits. We present the brands that sold the most cases in 2017.

SB presents the world's best-selling spirits brands
SB presents the world’s best-selling spirits brands

Global spirits sales increased by 1.5% to 2.4bn nine-litre cases in 2017, according to market research provider Euromonitor. Last year, spirits experienced its best volume performance since 2012.

Indian whisky stormed to success last year, with four of the 10 best-sellers hailing from the subcontinent. Meanwhile, brandy, rum, Scotch and vodka also make an appearance on our list. One rum brand in particular witnessed soaring sales to take back the title of world’s best-selling rum.

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

Following our recently published Brand Champions 2018 report – an analysis of the spirits brands selling more than one-million cases annually – we run through the world’s best-selling spirits brands on the market today.

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

Data is listed to one decimal place for ease of reading, but the percentage changes are based on the full data supplied to The Brand Champions 2018.

10. Bacardí

2017: 16.8m
2016: 17.2m
% change: -2.7%

Place last year: 9

It’s a new position for Bacardi as it slips from the top spot to become the second best-selling rum in the world. The brand has witnessed five years of declines and is yet to climb back to the 19m cases it once had in 2013.

Bacardi recently shifted its focus to more premium positioning, releasing two new products with higher price points in April this year. But will its premiumisation efforts pay off this year?

9. Johnnie Walker

2017: 18.3m
2016: 17.4m
% change: 5.2%

Place last year: 8

The Diageo-owned Scotch brand reported a 5.2% increase last year, following four years of declines to a grand total of 18.3m cases. Could it be aiming for the 20m milestone it once reached in 2013?

Marketing initiatives behind the brand have been plentiful, such as the Johnnie Walker stores which have been rolled out to airports around the world, including the first luxury stores in the Americas last December. Diageo said it will “invest heavily” in the blended Scotch whisky brand’s travel retail presence this year, as it begins to roll out a new retail design globally.

A couple of months earlier, Johnnie Walker expanded its Blenders’ Batch range, with the release of a whisky matured in an ex-wine cask.

8. Royal Stag

2017: 18.7m
2016: 18.0m
% change: 3.9%

Place last year: 7

Pernod Ricard-owned Indian whisky Royal Stag dropped from its seventh position in 2017, with case sales up by 3.9% to 18.7m. Since 2013, the brand has added almost 4m cases to its sales tally, and is only 300,000 cases from stablemate Imperial Blue.

Royal Stag was launched in 1995 as a blend of Indian grain spirits and imported Scotch malts.

7. Imperial Blue

2017: 19.0m
2016: 18.0m
% change: 5.6%

Place last year: 6

Imperial Blue has managed to sustain impressive growth over a number of years, and at such high volumes, secured it the title of Indian Whisky Brand Champion 2018.

The biggest whisky brand in Pernod Ricard’s stable, Imperial Blue benefited from “quirky, reliable, yet insightful messaging” as its ‘Men will be Men’ marketing campaign gained “cult status” in India, according to Kartik Mohindra, chief marketing officer at Pernod Ricard India.“Quality and consistency have been the key drivers for our success,” he added.

The brand is increasingly targeting younger middle class consumers, which has allowed it to “sail through difficult times”.

6. Tanduay


2017: 19.5m
2016: 16.6m
% change: 17.5%

Place last year: 10

Philippine brand Tanduay has overtaken Bacardi to become the world’s best-selling rum brand after reporting 17.5% growth last year. The brand was almost neck and neck with its rival Bacardi in 2017, but managed to experience an astounding increase to claim the top spot for the first time.

The brand is getting ever closer to the 20m case mark it once held in 2012.

5. Smirnoff

2017: 26.0m
2016: 25.5m
% change: 2.0%

Place last year: 4

It’s been a tumultuous few years for the world’s best-selling vodka brand, Smirnoff. The Diageo-owned brand returned to growth last year, increasing by 2% to 26m cases.

In 2017, the brand launched a number of inclusivity campaigns including #ChooseLove for the Pride festival in London and Equalising Music to promote equality for female musicians. Smirnoff most recently teamed up with Ladbible on a initiative to focus on gender identity and disability.

4. McDowell’s No.1 Whisky

2017: 26.6m
2016: 26.7m
% change: -0.4%

Place last year: 5

Once the world’s best-selling whisky brand, McDowell’s No.1 has climbed to fourth position despite a slight decrease of 0.4%.

Last year, the United Spirits-owned brand witnessed a marginal sales dip to 26.6m cases – its first decline in at least three years. India’s tempestuous market conditions have clearly had an impact across the category.

3. Emperador

2017: 27.1m
2016: 28.0m
% change: -3.2%

Place last year: 3

The world’s best-selling brandy continued to witness disappointing sales after falling by 3.2% to 27.1m cases in 2017.

Brand owner Alliance Global Group is planning an “aggressive push” for new products for the domestic and international markets.

The brand is also benefitting from “increasing share of millennial drinks” in its domestic market, the Philippines.

2. Officer’s Choice

2017: 32.0m
2016: 32.9m
% change: -2.6%

Place last year: 2

Retaining the top accolade of the world’s largest whisky brand is Allied Blenders’s Officer’s Choice. Its volumes declined for the first time in a number of years in 2017, losing almost 1m cases. This is despite a packaging redesign a couple of years ago, aimed squarely at younger consumers.

Brand owner Allied Blenders & Distillers has also sought to push the digital footprint of Officer’s Choice Blue Whisky to engage with millennials.

1. Jinro

2017: 75.6m
2016: 71.9m
% change: 5.2%

Place last year: 1

Jinro has maintained its position as the world’s best-selling spirit. Posting an increase of 5.2% to a whopping 75.6m cases, the soju brand has been boosted by the burgeoning trend for low-abv.

This year’s Local Spirits Brand Champion 2018, Jinro, remains far ahead of its competitors, selling 50m+ more cases than its closest rival Officer’s Choice.

Jungho Hwang, president of Hite-­Jinro America, attributes Jinro’s success to overseas markets, which have “grown significantly”, as well as increasing domestic market share.

Jinro’s most important region, Southeast Asia, has been boosted by the rise of K-pop and Korean food, Hwang notes.

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