Millionaires' Club: Ones to watch

Drinks International's annual league of million-case brands returns. Here is a list of the ones to watch for next year.


A couple of brands are teetering on the edge and will undoubtadly make next year’s list and so to the oh-so-nearly brands which came so close to the Millionaires’ Club 2016 door they could smell the mahogany. William Grant & Sons’ Sailor Jerry sold 0.997m cases in 2015, just 3,000 cases short of cigars and sandwiches. It’s tempting to say one rather large and indecent New Year’s Eve party would have been enough to bring up the million. But either way, 2015 was good to Sailor Jerry, with 7% volume growth globally.

The spiced rum has been edging forward over the years (0.8m in 2011, 0.9m in 2012-2013) and in 2014 was backed on this very page to make the Club. It took two years not one, but with such solid growth and spiced rum an established force in steady premium spirits markets – the likes of the US, UK, Australia and Canada – we can expect a prolonged stay once it makes that final step.

Grant’s other nearly man, Tullamore Dew, fell just 35,000 cases short, also a one-decimal round-up from making our list of million-case brands. Grant’s puts the brand’s 12% hike down to the craft effect. It freely admits Tullamore is not a craft brand, but within this consumer fetish there is an appreciation for authenticity. Tullamore has it now more than ever – distilling is back at Tullamore, after a mighty £30m splurge on a new distillery. The brand is the no.1 Irish whiskey in Germany, Sweden, Czech Republic and Slovakia and is either fighting with or fighting to get into the slipstream of Jameson in the US.

Bushmills, near the foot of the list, seems to have stalled somewhat on 0.8m cases. Now portfolio palls with Jose Cuervo at JB y Compania and Laceros SA de CV, it is outside of Diageo’s great fulcrum and could struggle to establish more sales accounts. Yet Irish whisky is buoyant so, once the brand settles into its less privileged but also less neglected surrounds, it could in a few years join Tullamore Dew in the Millionaires’ Club.

On scotch watch we have Haig. Not to be confused with David Beckham’s eau de toilette – the single grain Haig Club – this old-timer has been around for years, it’s Gold Label doing business in Greece, Spain, India and South America and Haig Dimple turning over nicely in the US, Germany, Greece and Australia.

It would be nice to see this old boy of scotch make the big time once more.

Our On the Brink table projects relegation from the Club based on last year’s growth. The most precarious here is the big domestic Venezuelan rum Cacique, which could suffer worse than 2015’s -54% implosion next year. In Venezuela consumer goods inflation rose 275% last year and is expected to grow more in the face of weak currency and an economy pinned to an ever devaluing oil supply. When milk and toilet paper are in short supply, rum isn’t the most important thing on Venezuelan minds.