International Intrigue: The Top 10 Regional Spirits

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Data from the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis Global Database has revealed that consumer interest in regional spirits is on the rise.

The spirits brands growing the fastest produce soju, baijiu, Indian whisky, and more. The IWSR’s newest data identified the top 100 brands based on absolute volume growth from 2017 to 2018.

Let’s look at the top 10 brands.

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Baijiu is new to most Americans but the white spirit remains the most-consumed spirit in the world by volume. According to the IWSR, baijiu brand Jing Jiu holds the number 10 slot, having grown 11.5 percent from 2017 to 2018. A brand that may be easier for operators in the United States to acquire is Ming River, created by three American baijiu enthusiasts who traveled to China and went all in to create their own brand.

Soju, most of which is produced by South Korea, is often referred to as Korean vodka. It’s made from rice, wheat, barley, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tapioca, and other starches. Some describe soju as low-proof but the ABV range is rather drastic, with some expressions coming in at over 50 percent.

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Two brands of soju landed themselves slots among the top 10 of the IWSR’s list of top 100 brands. Chum Churum earned the number four slot, growing by 10.3 percent from 2017 to 2018. The number one spirit is also a soju. Jinro Soju grew 6.4 percent during the same period.

Indian spirits showed up in a big, big way, clinching six top-10 spots. Four of those are held by Indian whiskies: Officer’s Choice (number 9, 5.6 percent growth), McDowell’s Whisky (number 5, 7.8 percent growth), Royal Stag (number three, 15.5 percent growth), and Imperial Blue (number two, 19.4 percent growth). McDowell’s is part of the Diageo portfolio, whereas Royal Stag and Imperial Blue are Pernod Ricard products.

McDowell’s Brandy (also a Diageo product) saw 17.8 percent growth from 2017 to 2018, earning the number 8 position. An Indian vodka achieved the number 7 slot after seeing massive 48 percent growth. The premium vodka and its flavored Remix series are triple distilled and made from pure rice grains, and have a foothold in Canada.

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The number 6 spirit on the list is a Philippine rum. Tanduay Rum produces expressions: White, Silver, Gold, Dark, Double Rum, Coconut and Cappuccino. The brand is more than 160 years old and began distribution in the United States back in 2013.

It’s clear much of the growth of these brands came from markets other than the United States. However, this top-10 list provides excellent insight into what regional spirits may be next to hit in bars, restaurants and nightclubs across America.

Top 10 Spirits Brands, Based on Absolute Volume Growth

  1. Jinro Soju (Hite-Jinro)
  2. Imperial Blue Whisky (Pernod Ricard)
  3. Royal Stag Whisky (Pernod Ricard)
  4. Chum Churum Soju (Lotte)
  5. McDowell’s Whisky (Diageo)
  6. Tanduay Rum (Tanduay; Distribution in United States)
  7. Magic Moments Vodka (Radico Khaitan; Distribution in Canada)
  8. McDowell’s Brandy (Diageo)
  9. Officer’s Choice Whisky (ABD)
  10. Jing Jiu Baijiu (Jing Brand)

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