Top 10 modern cult spirits brandsBy Alice Brooker
Which spirits are you willing to defend to the grave? While there are many established or mothballed brands that have created cult-like fanbases, there is a new generation of labels that are becoming the go-to bottlings of the future.
There is no guessing as to which new spirits brands will amass herds of loyal fans eagerly anticipating new releases, or settle on a particular drink as their ‘go-to’.
There are a plethora of ‘established cult’ spirits on the market, those household names that generate a global frenzy with every new product release or whisper of news.
A number of these have come from the closing of beloved distilleries – think along the lines of Port Ellen and Brora in Scotland, or Japan’s Karuizawa.
But what about those newer brands reaching that coveted cult status?
Name-checked brands are a big indication of a spirit’s status – anyone for a Bacardí and Coke, or perhaps you’d prefer that with Jack Daniel’s?
Everyone’s interpretation of cult-like status will differ, but when consumers’ bar orders go from a simple drinks preference to lifestyle choice, you’ve probably crossed into cult-status territory.
Keep scrolling to discover the 10 spirits brands SB has singled out as the cult brands of the future.
Tito’s Handmade Vodka
2022 has been a busy year for Tito’s as it adjusts to having an ever-growing fanbase – this year the brand has landed in Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil, plus secured new distribution deals in Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Finland and Norway.
Yet, in the US, it still remains somewhat ‘patriotic’ to drink – arguably a national treasure for Americans.
Widespread support led Tito’s to overtake Smirnoff as the top-selling spirit in the US in 2019 too – a huge feat for the brand. Plus, what other brand could get away with launching a limited edition empty refillable can – “literally an empty can” – with the confidence it’ll fly off the shelves too?
2. White Claw
Having inspired mottos such as “ain’t no laws when you’re drinking Claws”, and memes displaying a baby being baptised with the canned hard seltzer (is it competing with holy water?), White Claw’s fanbase is not one to be messed with.
The brand even sparked a movement called ‘White Claw Summer’ in 2019 and Buzzfeed covered the drink with an article titled A Brief Explainer On Why Everyone’s Now Talking About White Claw For People Who’re Confused.
So, when you pass a White Claw drinker, know they’re not simply sipping on seltzer in a can – they’re displaying a personality trait.
3. Don Julio
Don Julio fans are getting on their tiptoes to reach this top-shelf Tequila, and the proof of its popularity is in the numbers.
The brand saw a 50.3% jump in case sales between 2020 and 2021, from 1.8 million nine-litre cases to 2.7m. In the same period, Don Julio, along with its stablemate Casamigos, gained share of the US spirits market and the Tequila category, boosted by ‘broad occasion appeal’.
Those who are familiar with the popular Below Deck series will know consumers’ strong adoration for Don Julio 1942 – it’s not just about brand loyalty, its dedication to a particular expression.
As a luxury Tequila, Don Julio’s fans are uncorking the bottle for celebrations – why sip anything else?
Also known as rap’s favourite drink, Hennessy Cognac is name-dropped in dozens of songs, which became particularly in the late 1990s.
While the bottle also held its own in your parents’ drinks cabinet, its resurgence came about when hip hop started to become global through MTV, and Cognac – Hennessy in particular – got its shout out by artists. 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Drake have all name-dropped the popular brand over the decades.
Since then, the brand has unsurprisingly become popular among a fresh generation of rap and grime music lovers, aspiring to be like their favourite artists.
The brand secured its place as the 2018, 2020 and 2022 Cognac Brand Champion, plus it has brushed shoulders with the likes of National Basketball Association (NBA) players, hip hop stars, music studios and artists.
5. The Macallan
A brand associated with prestige and quality Scotch, The Macallan has gathered whisky drinkers from across the world as loyal followers.
Its history and reputation for top-quality liquid and luxury packaging has led to its astounding success – and astronomical prices.
Plus, The Macallan is able to command high prices and never-waning demand on the secondary market. A 1989 cask fetched £225,000 (US$309,576) at an online auction earlier this year, while the brand’s 1967 whisky sold for US$437,500 last year.
This Scotch brand’s proven credentials and dedicated following mean it’s unlikely it will be replaced as the most in demand Scotch whisky on the secondary market any time soon.
Known to be a great mixing drink – “can I get a Bacardí and Coke please?” – the rum brand is cashing in on the global rise in demand of rum right now. Worldwide, rum’s total volume sales shot up by 10% to 150.6m cases in 2021, up from 136.9m, according to Euromonitor International.
Bacardí has seen consistent growth in past years, earning the title of our 2022 Brand Champion. It’s no wonder the brand keeps being consistently name-checked at bars around the world.
With demand increasing “across all areas… from flavoured rums to our premium range”, according Ned Duggan, global senior vice-president for the brand, it seems Bacardi’s fans are loyal not just to one bottle, but the brand in general.
If you’re looking for fellow Jägermeister lovers, your best bet is to hit up a nightclub where they’ll likely be ordering the classic Jägerbomb.
Rumour has it that the shot, which sees Jägermeister mixed with energy drink Red Bull and sometimes a splash of cranberry juice, came around towards the tail end of the 1990s –although its exact origins are unclear. Whatever the origin, the theatre of dropping the herbal liqueur shot into the energy drink – thus creating the Jägerbomb – continues to be a much-loved drinking ritual among revellers.
As the brand discovered that party-goers were drinking the herbal liqueur as an energy boost, it countered the trend with a new innovation in 2019: Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee.
Earlier this year, we chatted to the Mast-Jägermeister UK’s managing director Michael Cleary on the cold brew trend hitting the country.
If you ever clock – or you’re boujie enough to own – a drinks trolley, it’s likely the gin bottling featured is Tanqueray. The iconic green glass bottle has become the go-to pour when someone calls out for a gin-based Martini.
The London Dry iteration is made without citrus – a rarity in the gin distilling world nowadays – and a fact which may add to its versatility.
Plus, Tanqueray’s loyal fanbase will say a juniper-based spirit made with just four botanicals (the other three being coriander, angelica root and liquorice) is for true gin fans only.
In the past few years, it would be difficult to go a summer – or a winter – without spotting swarms of drinkers cradling bowl-shaped glasses of Aperol Spritz.
‘How did Aperol Spritz become the most iconic drink of the summer?’, articles were asking a couple of years ago.
The Specialty Spirits Brand Champion 2022 is suspected to have stormed to success as consumers opted for lighter drinks and serves containing natural ingredients, and also gravitated towards the ‘perfect serve’, according to Julka Villa, group head of marketing.
Between 2020 to 2021, Aperol saw its sales jump by 31.9%, and more is expected from its dedicated drinkers: “There is still huge opportunity for further growth,” Villa commented.
The brand was also smart to keep its orange army warm with an Aperol in hand during the winter months, following its determination to ‘deseasonalise’ the brand, with winter serves promoted via ski resort activations.
10. Patrón Café XO
Fans of Patrón Café XO were saddened when they learned that the brand was to be discontinued to allow Patrón to focus on “its core range of Tequilas”. Other brands rushed to fill the space of the coffee liqueur as fans mourned far and wide, and snapped up bottles of the popular coffee-flavoured, Tequila-based liqueur while they still could.
Enjoyed sipped neat, enjoyed as a dessert ingredient or mixed in cocktails, the words “travesty” and “panic buy” were thrown about on social media when the news hit. Patró Café XO’s drinkers can relax for now – the liquid is still available to buy on the brand’s website. This devoted band of followers is yet to be discontinued.