The World’s Best-Selling Spirits May Not Be Familiar to Americans

Indian whisky, soju and RTDs dominate the annual Brand Champions list

Bottles of Jinro soju, the world's best-selling spirit
Bottles of Jinro soju, the world's best-selling spirit.
Jeon Han / Republic of Korea / Creative Commons

Jinro. Royal Stag. Chum Churum.

You may not be familiar with these tipples — no surprise, as American drinkers are missing out on some interesting global spirits — but they’re three of the top 10 biggest-selling spirits brands in the world, according to a report by The Spirits Business.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, total spirits sales dropped 8.7% in 2020. However, three brands in the top 10 showed steady growth, with White Claw hard seltzer zooming up to second place with year-to-year growth at just under 140%.

You know White Claw. But you probably don’t know the four Indian whiskies on the Brand Champions list. Or the Korean soju Chum Churum. And possibly not the Philippine rum Tanduay, which a brand spokesperson suggested did well during the past year because “Tanduay products remained affordable to consumers, especially in the lower economic classes that were affected by the adverse economic conditions brought about by the pandemic.” (Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but I don’t know a lot of brands who highlight “lower economic classes.”)

Tanduay rum, the world's best-selling rum
Tanduay, the world’s best-selling rum

If you’re looking for spirits brands that resonate more in North America, those entries would include Smirnoff (6th place) and the aforementioned White Claw, which sold over twice as much as Japan’s ‐196°C Strong Zero RTD highball, which sits at fourth place. Ready-to-drink is now the second-biggest alcohol category in the U.S., topping spirits and forecasted to topple wine by the end of 2021.

Outside the top 10, you’ll find some familiar names: Bacardi (11th), Johnnie Walker (12th), Jack Daniel’s (14th) and Captain Morgan (15th).


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