Top 10 biggest-selling world whisky brandsBy Melita Kiely
Spanning liquid made in the US, Canada, Ireland and Japan, the million-case-selling world whisky contingent has never been so diverse. These are the brands at the top of the game.
The challenges of 2020 – most notably the Covid-19 pandemic and tariff wars – continued to present challenges for whisky brands in 2021. However, the category showed resilience with the majority of brands from Ireland, the US, Canada and Japan in growth.
Brands found success by tapping into key trends, such as ready-to-drink options and flavoured bottlings, backed by savvy marketing campaigns.
We’ve trawled through our Brand Champions 2022 report to take a closer look at how producers from around the world performed last year.
Scroll down to discover the top 10 best-selling world whisky brands of 2021, listed in order of their nine-litre case sales.
Data listed is to one decimal place for ease of reading, but the percentage changes are based on the full data supplied to The Brand Champions 2022 report.
10. Maker’s Mark
% change: 11.1%
Place last year: 9
Beam Suntory’s Maker’s Mark was able to move forward from a couple of stagnant years to deliver solid double-digit growth in 2021, up by 11.1% to 2.6m cases.
During the pandemic, the brand worked with industry charity the Lee Initiative to feed more than 1.5m hospitality workers in cities across the US.
9. Torys (including Highball)
% change: 0.3%
Place last year: 8
Japanese whisky Torys stayed steady in 2021, with a marginal increase in volume sales of 0.3%. The brand has sustained year-on-year growth since 2017.
Torys Classic sits at 37%, meaning it cannot technically be classified as whisky in the EU, which specifies a minimum alcohol level of 40% for the category.
8. Evan Williams
% change: 2.0%
Place last year: 7
After joining the top 10 for the first time in 2020, Evan Williams has moved down one place despite a 2.0% rise in volume sales in 2021.
The Bourbon, owned by Heaven Hill Brands, opened a new visitor centre in Bardstown, Kentucky, in June 2021. The US$19m visitor centre features a tasting room and a ‘you do Bourbon’ lab.
7. Black Nikka
% change: 0.0%
Place last year: 6
Sliding into seventh place this year is Black Nikki. The Japanese whisky brand was unable to return to growth in 2021, after experiencing its first sales decline since 2015 in 2020.
Last year, the Asahi Breweries-owned brand’s volumes remained steadfast at 3.3m cases.
6. Canadian Club
% change: 4.9%
Place last year: N/A
Taking sixth place on this year’s list is Canadian Club, which surpassed the 6m case mark for the first time after growing by 4.9% in 2021. The Beam Suntory-owned brand sold 6.2m cases last year.
The brand tapped into the growing ready-to-drink (RTD) trend, and added a Soda & Lime variant to its range in September 2021. Launched in Australia before its global roll out, the expression joined Canadian Club’s Cola and Ginger Ale options. The release got an additional boost in Australia with a consumer promotion, called Summer Shout, which involved a giveaway of 50,000 Soda & Lime serves.
5. Crown Royal
% change: 10.3%
Place last year: 3
Diageo-owned Crown Royal may have moved down two places since last year, but it remains the biggest-selling Canadian whisky brand at 9.0m cases. Crown Royal was able to deliver double-digit growth in 2021, building on its continued year-on-year growth for the last five years.
Drinks giant Diageo is evidently confident the brand can continue to grow, as it is building a CA$245m (US$190.96m) carbon-neutral distillery for the Canadian whisky brand. The new facility will allow 20m litres of alcohol to be produced annually.
% change: 25.4%
Place last year: 4
Pernod Ricard-owned Jameson had an extraordinary year in 2021, growing by more than a quarter in volume. Of the 9.6m cases Jameson sold last year, 5.8m were snapped up in the first six months of 2021. It was welcome news for the brand after the 5% tumble seen the previous year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jameson remained as active as ever during 2021 – which is reflected in its success. A key moment of innovation from the brand came in the form of Jameson Orange, which launched in August last year. The whiskey spirit drink was inspired by the Old Fashioned cocktail.
3. Suntory Kakubin
% change: 9.0%
Place last year: 5
Suntory Kakubin and its Highball RTD climbed two spots to sit in third position. The Japanese whisky was the only million-case-selling brand to report significant growth in 2021, up by 9.0% to reach 12.7m cases.
Suntory Kakubin and the Highball have enhanced their volume sales by almost 3m cases since 2017.
The name ‘Kakubin’ means ‘square bottle’, and is a reference to the brand’s packaging design.
2. Jack Daniel’s
% change: 10.0%
Place last year: 2
Double-digit growth took Brown-Forman’s Jack Daniel’s brand to 13.5m cases in 2021. It was a welcome rebound for the brand, which experienced a 1m-case sales drop the previous year. The 2021 volume just topped the brand’s performance in 2019 before the pandemic.
In October last year, management consulting company Interbrand named Jack Daniel’s the most valuable spirit brand in the world.
1. Jim Beam
% change: 3.3%
Place last year: 1
Taking pole position in this year’s list of the biggest-selling world whiskies is Jim Beam. Continuing its five-year streak of continuous growth, Beam Suntory-owned Jim Beam hit 17.0m cases last year.
Parent company Beam Suntory experienced double-digit growth in its full-year 2021 financial year, driven by strong performances in key markets such as China and India.