Why You’ve Never Heard of the World’s Five Most Valuable Spirits

These Chinese producers are worth up to 15 times more than the largest U.S. booze brand

Bottles of Baijiu Chinese spirit are displayed at a bar in central London on May 15, 2019
Bottles of Chinese baijiu are displayed at a bar in central London.
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

Five of the top 10 most valuable spirits brands are Chinese — and they’re not banking on whiskey.

In the just-released Spirits 50 list from Brand Finance, five Chinese producers — Moutai, Wuliangye, Yanghe, Luzhou Laojiao and Gujing Gong Jiu — dominated, coming in at the top of the list of the most valuable spirits companies. The top whiskey brand (and the only U.S. brand) in the top 10 is Jack Daniel’s, which came in at number six.

The annual list is a good reminder that in some parts of the world, it’s baijiu that dominates the drinks trade. Baijiu is a rather broad category with four recognized and very distinct styles. “[It’s] a sprawling category of spirits, with about a dozen distinct iterations that have little in common besides being grain spirits from China,” as Derek Sandhaus, the author of Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits, founder of DrinkBaijiu.com and co-founder of Ming River Sichuan Baijiu, told us a few years back.

“China is home to the largest spirits market in the world and it has been flourishing in recent years as alcohol consumption increases and purchasing power is on the up,” says Richard Haigh, the managing director of Brand Finance. “Although we are beginning to witness a rise in popularity of international spirits across the country, the nation’s traditional Baijiu spirit still dominates on home soil with immense volumes sold each year, particularly by market leaders Moutai and Wuliangye. This dominance is reflected in their brand values being significantly ahead compared to other brands across the sector.”

Some interesting tidbits from the Brand Finance report:

  • Moutai increased its value by $6 billion dollars in a pandemic-ravaged 2020, and remains $20 billion larger than second-place Wuliangye and almost 15 times more valuable than Jack Daniel’s.
  • Four of the five Chinese brands saw their worth increase in 2020. Every non-Chinese brand in the top 10 saw its value drop last year.
  • The U.S. only saw two distillers (JD and Bulleit) in the top 50.
  • Overall, the total value of the world’s top 50 most valuable spirits brands increased by 5% in 2020.

Interestingly, Brand Finance chose Don Julio (which was down 3% in 2020) as the “world’s strongest spirits brand,” based off of their Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 88.8 out of 100 and AAA brand strength rating. The organization highlighted the tequila brand by noting its authenticity, quality control, support of communities and the restaurant sector, and strong sales within a spirits category that’s growing exponentially.


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