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The Most Popular Whiskies

We all have our favorite drams, but which are the most loved Scotch whisky brands around the globe? Like you would expect, the top 10 in the world includes several famous brands, but also less well-known brands. Not a single malt in sight. Richard Woodard reports.

If you’re ever in need of be reminded of the fact that blends are the heart room of the Scotch whisky industry If you need to remind yourself, take an examination of the top 10 most-sellers brands in the world.

Not one of them is one malt at all – in fact, none are in the top 20 list and the list is dominated by household names, and a few less heralded brands.

Certain things aren’t changing However, some things don’t change. The largest of to date, Johnnie Walker, continues to stride ahead of the pack, consistently outselling its closest competitors by three. And the top five has not changed in the past few years.

It’s more fought down the list – there’s close to a three-way tie in the sixth position between Famous Grouse and William Lawson’s blend and William Peel – while Diageo’s price-fighting Black & White blend has increased its position to the top 10 after smashing past the two million case mark in the year 2017.

Our list is based on the volume of sales, which have been supplied by the most reputable drinks industry data provider and commentator The IWSR Magazine, and which is calculated in relation to the sales of cases that weigh nine litres.

The picture changes significantly when you create the top 10 on the basis of value, not volume; according to that, the higher prices of single malts can bring Macallan and Glenfiddich into the top 10, and with The Glenlivet lurking on the edges, while the likes of William Lawson’s, William Peel and Black & White drop out of the top 10.

However, as they say, is yet another incident…

1: Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Sales in 2017: 18.1m cases
Versus 2016: +2%
Ranked in 2016: 1
Popular in …: Duty-free US, Mexico, Brazil
Owner: Diageo

The world’s most loved Scotch whisky is a cut above the rest, selling more than 2.5 times as many bottles as its closest rival. It’s come a long way far from its original Kilmarnock grocery store, which was opened by John Walker back in 1820.

Johnnie Walker has occupied the global number one spot since the mid-1950s and has remained there thanks in part to its distinctive square bottle, slanting label and striding man logo first drawn by the cartoonist Tom Browne in 1908.

Since that time, Walker has seen a significant expansion of its product line. Walker family has grown significantly to include several colors, ranging starting from Double Black to Green and Blue; and 2017 saw new innovations, such as the Blenders’ Batch and Ghost & Rare launch and the rechristening of the Platinum Label as Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years.

2: Ballantine’s

Ballantine’s Finest

In 2017, sales: 6.7m cases
Versus 2016: +3.8%
Ranking in 2016 2
Popular In …: France, Poland, Spain, Germany
Owner Chivas Brothers/Pernod R.

Although blended Scotch has faced an up and down time in several markets over the past couple of years, Ballantine’s has been expanding, averaging almost 1m cases of sales a year from 2013.

Like Johnnie Walker, its story starts in a shop – George Ballantine’s store in Edinburgh, to be precise and opened in 1827. Since then, its story has been shaped by the release in 1910 of the flagship blend Ballantine’s Finest and also by the decision in the 1960s of its former Canadian owner to concentrate on the sale of its whiskies throughout Europe.

This philosophy has lasted both for good and evil – Ballantine’s was impacted by the demise in the Spanish Scotch market in the post-millennium period, but has turned out to be a huge success in Poland because people there are increasingly trade vodka in exchange for Scotch.

Remaining constant are the core single malts used in the mix, Glenburgie, Glentauchers and Miltonduff as well as the exquisite blend of smoothness and sophistication found in classic expressions like Ballantine’s 17 Year Old.

3: Grant’s


Sales in 2017: 4.5m cases
Versus 2016: +1.1%
Ranking in 2016: 3
Popular in …: France, UK, Poland
Owner: William Grant & Sons

Like a lot of its rival mixes, Grant’s has found some of its markets increasingly challenging in the recent past however, a significant increase in sales in the last year has helped it take the top spot in the world rankings. spot over Chivas Regal.

Unusually, the story begins in a single-malt. William Grant only started selling blended whiskies in 1898. This was more than a decade since he established the Glenfiddich distillery near Dufftown. After a few branding mishaps beginnings Grant’s Standfast was the name that gained popularity and the word ‘Standfast’ has been in every bottle until today.

In the spring of this year the company announced a major overhaul of the Grant’s line, renaming the main expression Family Reserve as Triple Wood, and introducing new peated, Sherry- and rum-finished varieties.

4: Chivas Regal

Chivas Regal 12 Year Old

Sales in 2017: 4.4m cases
Versus 2016: +1.1%
The 2016 ranking: 4
Popular In …: Duty-free, China, US, Japan
Chivas Brothers/Pernod R. Ricard, the owners.

The last decade has been a rollercoaster for “the first luxury Scotch’ – but that’s in perfect harmony with its turbulent history.

Initially introduced as a (then unheard of) 25-year-old blend targeting the elite of the early 20th century America, Chivas Regal has had multiple rebirths under several different owners, settling on a core 12-year-old expression from around the Second World War onwards.

During the post-millennium luxury boom in China it was the top spirit import, before sales plummeted following the effects of Chinese government’s anti-expense crackdown. Since then, it’s struggled to recover before seeing the slightest recovery in last year.

Recent innovations includes blended malt Cognac-finished Chivas Regal XV and a tie-in with Manchester United FC. Today, sales in China are finally recovering, in addition, Chivas Regal is back (again).

5: J&B

J&B artwork

In 2017, sales: 3.3m cases
Versus 2016: -3.3%
In 2016’s ranking, 5
The most popular in …: Spain, France, South Africa
Owner: Diageo

It may seem odd that a product with its roots deep in the luxurious areas of London’s clubland been transformed into a party whisky from the Mediterranean however that’s the bizarre story of J&B.

A wine merchant from Pall Mall, Justerini & Brooks began mixing whisky around 1880, but the company really started to grow in the 1930s following the introduction of J&B Rare, a light-coloured and light-bodied blend aimed towards the American palate.

It worked It was a success, however Stateside popularity was later surpassed by J&B’s role in spearheading the Spanish Scotch boom, which was exemplified by party bars offering generous glasses of ‘Jota B’ along with Coke.

Spain’s decline, however, has hit J&B severely, which has led to sales sagging in a year-to-year basis for some time. Light, fresh and refreshing and refreshing, with Knockando along with Auchroisk single malts in the center, J&B is now waiting for the right moment to start the party once more.

6= Famous Grouse

The Famous Grouse Bourbon Cask

The 2017 sales report: 3.04m cases
Versus 2016: +0.5%
2016 Ranking: 6
The most popular in the …: UK Duty free, US
Owner: Edrington

Scotland’s favourite Scotch remains big in the UK generally, with more than half of its global sales occurring there. Brits may not have a steady enthusiasm for blended drinks, but Grouse remains a hugely loved growing its market share to more than 25%.

The brand’s roots lie in another grocer’s establishment, the time, in Perth, along with Matthew Gloag. In 1897, two blends such as The Grouse Brand and, at a lesser cost, The Famous Grouse – were released. The latter was the one that people hung the attention of.

The contemporary Grouse range has seen many changes and tinkerings and the primary collection now featuring the eponymous expression, flanked with The Famous Grouse Smoky Black and The Famous Grouse Mellow Gold.

The Naked Grouse, now blended malt has officially exited the family, and this year has seen the introduction of a new Cask Series exploring maturation character.

6 The story of William Lawson’s

William Lawson’s

The 2017 sales report: 3.04m cases
Versus 2016: +4.7%
The 2016 ranking: 8
The most popular in …: France, Russia, Mexico
Owner The owner is Bacardi

A sweet and sour blend that contains the single malt of Macduff at its heart, William Lawson’s is owned by rum big Bacardi for the last three years, since the company bought the Martini & Rossi sparkling wine and vermouth business (which was itself acquired Lawson’s 30 years earlier).

Since since then, William Lawson’s taken the lead in some of the Scotch’s fastest-growing markets like Russia and Mexico, and won popularity in the largest of all, France.

William Lawson himself was a Scot who moved to Ireland, entering the Irish whiskey industry. He was fired as director of the company in 1903 but the whiskey he named his name to lasted.

8. William Peel

William Peel

The 2017 sales report: 3.03m cases
Versus 2016: +2.9%
In 2016’s ranking, 7
The most sought-after In …: France
Owner: Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits

“Who is William Peel?” some might be wondering – but this is the whisky that has the highest sales in the world that consumes more Scotch than other whiskies on the planet: France. Except for a few small locations within Poland, William Peel sells almost all of its products within French shops and supermarkets and these sales have been rising ahead of the market for several years since.

There’s no romantic historical association with this blend. William Peel was created by drinks entrepreneurs Bernard Magrez in 1964, initially as a brand umbrella for single malts. It was later rebranded then as a mass-market blend.

Magrez is now in this world of exquisite wine (owning numerous top-quality Bordeaux estates, including Chateau Pape-Clement), and William Peel is now with Marie Brizard – a company which was struggling as of the writing time, following several profit warnings.

9: Dewar’s

Dewar’s 12 Year Old

Sales for 2017: 2.5m cases
Versus 2016: -5.2%
In 2016’s ranking, 9
Popular In the …: US, Spain Duty free
Owner Name: Bacardi

In the past few years Dewar’s was outsold Bacardi William Lawson’s stablemate however, the different fortunes of Lawson and Dewar has seen them switch positions, with Dewar’s impacted by the sliding popularity of blends in Spain and the US and Spain.

However, Dewar’s White Label is still one of the best-known blends, with its honey- and vanilla-accented flavors perfect for the post-war American palate. Dewar’s continues to sell 1 million cases of whisky every year.

The early success was based on the shared talents of the brothers John as well as Tommy Dewar – the latter famed for his flamboyant marketing nous and two-year-long journey around the world.

The company has now reaffirmed its commitment to age statements through the introduction of Dewar’s 25 year old to replace Signature.

10. Black & White

Black & White advertisement

The 2017 sales figures: 2.3m cases
Versus 2016: +27.1%
Ranking in 2016: 12
Popular in…: Brazil, Mexico, India, South Africa
Owner: Diageo

A few years ago Black & White would not have even made the top 20 of the top-selling Scotch whiskies at least not even the top 10. Its rise in popularity since then has been astonishing.

A large part of this popularity has been due to Black & White’s competitive pricing and its long-standing ties to its fellow Diageo blend Buchanan’s. It is a extremely popular blend in Black & White’s Latin American heartland.

Legend has it there was a legend that James Buchanan, one of the Victorian whisky barons, chose as brand characters an dark Scottie animal and an white Westie, also known as a West Highland terrier, after attending a dog-show.

Since then, the Black & White’s canine branding has been widely traveled. It was once the most loved blend in England, and even drunk by the Emperor of Japan in the beginning of the 20th century – and has been mentioned in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, and Ian Fleming’s Moonraker.