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Ten Whiskies To Try This Year

We all have our favourite whiskies, but which are the most loved Scotch whisky brands on the planet? Like you would expect, the top 10 list of global whiskies includes certain well-known brands, but there are there are also lesser-known brands. And there’s not any single malt on the list. Richard Woodard reports.

If you’re ever in need of be reminded that blends are the heart room of the Scotch whisky industry Take an overview of the top 10 most-sellers brands in the world.

Not one of them is only a single malt. In fact, none are in the top 20 – with the list dominated by household names, but with a few lesser-known brands.

Things don’t change much But, they do change. The largest of the bunch, Johnnie Walker, continues to lead the pack, outselling its nearest three competitors combined. And the top five have not changed in the past few years.

It’s a little more intensely fought lower down the list – there’s an almost three-way tie for sixth spot between Famous Grouse and William Lawson’s, and William Peel – while Diageo’s price-fighting Black & White blend has surged into the top ten after breaking past the two million case mark in 2017.

Our list is based on the volume of sales, which have been supplied by the most reputable drinks industry data source and analyst, the IWSR Magazine, and which is measured by sales of nine-litre cases.

It’s a picture that changes dramatically when you make the top 10 on the basis of the value of the product, not its volume; in that sense the higher costs of single malts can bring Macallan and Glenfiddich into the global top 10 with The Glenlivet lurking on the fringes, while William Lawson’s William Peel and Black & White drop out of the top 10.

But, as they say, is yet another the story…

1: Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

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

The world’s most popular Scotch whisky dwarfs the opposition with sales of more than 2.5 times more than the closest competitor. It’s a long way far from its original Kilmarnock grocery store which was established in 1820 by John Walker back in 1820.

Johnnie Walker has occupied the world’s top spot since the mid-1950s, and is still in the top spot thanks in part to its instantly recognisable square bottle as well as its slanting label. It also has a striding man logo, which was first sketched by cartoonist Tom Browne in 1908.

Since since then since then, The Walker family has widened to include a variety of colour variations, including Double Black to Green and Blue. And 2017 brought more innovation, including Blenders’ Batch and Ghost & Rare launches along with 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 Ricard

While blended Scotch has had a tricky time in many markets over the past couple of years, the sales of Ballantine’s have kept expanding, averaging almost 1 million cases of sales every year starting in 2013.

Similar to Johnnie Walker, its story begins in a shop – George Ballantine’s store in Edinburgh specifically and opened in 1827. Since then, its history has been shaped through the launch in 1910 of flagship blend Ballantine’s Finest, and by the decision in the late 1960s of its Canadian owner to concentrate on the sale of its whiskies throughout Europe.

This way of thinking has been in place for years both for good and evil and Ballantine’s was hurt by the demise of Spanish Scotch market following the millennium but has turned out to be a huge success story in Poland because people there are increasingly swap vodka for Scotch.

What remains constant are the three main single malts used in the mix, Glenburgie, Glentauchers and Miltonduff and the perfect marriage of smoothness and complexity that is evident in classic expressions such as Ballantine’s 17 Year Old.

3: Grant’s


In 2017, sales: 4.5m cases
Versus 2016: +1.1%
Ranked 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 recent years However, a strong increase in sales in the last year has helped it take the top spot in the world rankings. spot from Chivas Regal.

Unusually, the story begins at the beginning with one malt. William Grant only started selling blended whiskies in 1898, which was more than a decade after establishing Glenfiddich distillery near Dufftown. After a couple of branding blunders beginnings, the Grant’s Standfast became the one that gained popularity as well as ‘Standfast’ being written on every bottle until today.

This year, the company announced a wholesale revamp of the Grant’s line, renaming the main expression Family Reserve as Triple Wood, and introducing new peated, Sherry- and rum-finished variants.

4. Chivas Regal

Chivas Regal 12 year old

In 2017, sales: 4.4m cases
Versus 2016: +1.1%
The 2016 ranking: 4
Popular In …: Duty free China, US, Japan
Chivas Brothers/Pernod Ricard is the owner.

The past decade has been something of a rollercoaster for “the first luxury Scotch’. However, it’s in perfect harmony with its turbulent past.

The Chivas Regal brand was initially introduced as a (then unheard of) blend that was 25 years old and aimed at the high society of early 20th-century America, Chivas Regal has had multiple rebirths under various ownerships but ultimately settled on a 12-year-old Chivas Regal dating from before the Second World War onwards.

In the decade following the millennium’s boom in luxury in China, it was China’s most popular spirit import, before sales plummeted in the wake of Chinese government’s anti-expense crackdown. Since then, it has limped along before staging some modest growth last year.

Recent developments include blended malt Ultis finished in Cognac Chivas Regal XV and a tie-in with Manchester United FC. Sales in China are finally rebounding, in addition, Chivas Regal is back (again).

5: J&B

J&B artwork

In 2017, sales: 3.3m cases
Versus 2016: -3.3%
Ranked in 2016: 5
The most popular and awe-inspiring …: Spain, France, South Africa
Owner: Diageo

It might seem strange to think that a product with roots deep in the genteel areas of London’s clubland been transformed into a party whisky from the Mediterranean But that’s not the bizarre story of J&B.

A wine shop located in Pall Mall, Justerini & Brooks began blending whisky in the 1880s, however, the business took off during the 1930s when they announced the launch of J&B Rare, a light-coloured and a light-bodied blend targeted towards the American taste.

It worked It was a success, however Stateside popularity was later surpassed by J&B’s spearheading of Spain’s Scotch boom, which was exemplified by bar-booze establishments that served generous pours of ‘Jota B’ and Coke.

The decline in Spain has slammed J&B very hard as sales are sagging in a year-to-year basis for several years now. Light, fresh and grassy, with Knockando and Auchroisk single malts in the center, J&B is now waiting to kick off the celebration with a bang.

6= Famous Grouse

The Famous Grouse Bourbon Cask

In 2017, sales were 3.04m cases
Versus 2016: +0.5%
In 2016’s ranking, 6
Very popular …: UK and duty free, US
Owner: Edrington

The Scotch that is the most popular in Scotland remains popular in the UK overall and more than 50% of its sales taking place in the UK. Brits may have a faltering interest in blends however Grouse is still hugely popular with its market share increasing to over 25 percent.

The roots of the brand are in another grocer’s establishment, this time in Perth, as well as Matthew Gloag. The year was 1897. Two different blends that included The Grouse Brand and, at a lesser cost, The Famous Grouse – were released. The latter was the one that took the attention of.

The current Grouse collection has gone through several changes and tweaks and the primary collection now featuring the name, accompanied with The Famous Grouse Smoky Black and The Famous Grouse Mellow Gold.

The Naked Grouse, now blended malt, has officially left the family, while this year saw the launch of a new Cask Series exploring maturation character.

6: William Lawson’s

William Lawson’s

Sales in 2017: 3.04m cases
Versus 2016: +4.7%
In 2016’s ranking, 8
Affluent in …: France, Russia, Mexico
Owner of Bacardi

A sweet blend with Macduff’s single malt as its main ingredient, William Lawson’s is owned by the rum big Bacardi in 1993. In that year, it acquired its Martini & Rossi sparkling wine and vermouth business (which was itself acquired by Lawson’s 30 years before).

Since then, William Lawson’s has been the mainstay in some of the most rapidly growing markets in Scotch like Russia and Mexico, and won popularity in the most popular destination of them all, France.

William Lawson himself was a Scot who came to Ireland and entered the whiskey business there. Lawson was dismissed as a director of the company in 1903, however the whiskey he named his name to continued to be popular.

8. William Peel

William Peel

In 2017, sales were 3.03m cases
Versus 2016: +2.9%
The 2016 ranking: 7
Very popular in …: France
Owner: Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits

“Who is William Peel?” some might be asking – but it’s the most popular whisky in the world that consumes more Scotch than any other on the globe: France. Barring a small presence on the market in Poland, William Peel sells the majority of its whiskies at French stores and in hypermarches and these sales have been increasing over the last several years since.

There’s no romantic historical association with this blend. William Peel was created by drinks entrepreneur Bernard Magrez in 1964, initially as a brand umbrella for single malts but then it was developed into a mass-market blend.

Magrez has since shifted into an area of high-end wine (owning several top-of-the-line Bordeaux estates and Chateau Pape-Clement). Chateau Pape-Clement) and William Peel is now with Marie Brizard – a company in some difficulty when we last wrote, following a series of profits warnings.

9: Dewar’s

Dewar’s 12 Years Old

The 2017 sales report: 2.5m cases
Versus 2016: -5.2%
In 2016’s ranking, 9
Popular in …: US, Spain and Spain, duty free
Owner The owner is Bacardi

A few years ago Dewar’s was outsold Bacardi William Lawson’s stablemate, however, the contrasting fortunes of both have seen them swap positions, with Dewar’s impacted by the sliding popularity of the blends in The US as well as Spain.

Yet, Dewar’s White Label is still one of the industry’s classic blends, its honey- and vanilla-accented flavor profile is perfectly attuned to the post-war American palate. Dewar’s continues to sell 1 million cases of whisky there every year.

Early success was built on the shared talents that were shared by brothers John as well as Tommy Dewar – the latter well-known for his charismatic marketing nous and two-year-long journey across the globe.

The company has now reiterated its commitment to age-related statements through the introduction of Dewar’s 25 Year Old, which will replace Signature.

10: Black & White

Black & White advertisement

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

Four years ago, Black & White would be hardly have made it into the top 20 list of the world’s best-selling Scotch whiskies, let alone the top 10. The growth in popularity since then has been awe-inspiring.

The majority of the success has been built on Black &White’s price-competitiveness and its long-standing ties to other Diageo blend Buchanan’s. It is a hugely popular product in Black White’s Latin American heartland.

Legend says the legend says that James Buchanan, one of the Victorian whisky barons, chose as brand Mascots the white Scottie canine and a white Westie, also known as a West Highland terrier, following going to a dog show.

Since then, Black & White’s branding for canines has been extensively traveled – at one point the most loved mix in England, and even drunk in the presence of Emperor Japan in the early 20th century. The drink has also featured in F Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, and Ian Fleming’s Moonraker.