Scotch. The earth-colored Scottish liquor that’s enjoyed all over the world. Many of the top distillers have proud histories and avid consumers. People pay a pretty penny to have a short glass of Scottish heritage on ice. The top scotch brands in the world have some great stories behind them, and the road ahead looks bright. Whisky sales are bouncing back as the world opens up again.
The Walker distillery was founded in 1820 and has become a household name in the Scotch industry. It is the world’s most widely consumed brand of Scotch, known to even the most casual drinkers. It is in the top 10 most valued brands in the UK, with an estimated value of just under 9 billion dollars. It has several popular iterations (known as labels) which vary in price, with the blue label being their most prized offering.
George Ballantine founded the company in 1836 as a way to divest from his groceries business. By 1881, the whisky was being shipped to a worldwide market. Today, Ballantine’s target’s a younger demographic, with aims of embedding themselves in the arts scene of an increasingly vibrant and integrated world. Their whiskeys are known to be rich and sweet with a caramel flavor.
The whisky made from Girvan Grain is known as one of the best in the world. Charles Gordon set up the Girvan distillery in 1963 with some help from eager locals, with the facility being completed after a quick 9 months of work. Grant’s is matured in three types of wood, which combine to give it a spicy undertone (from the Virgin Oak) a smooth vanilla flavor (from the American Oak), and a sugary brown sweetness from the Bourbon cask.
With the motto “No rules, Great Scotch”, this Scottish whisky has been consistently breaking new ground in the world of whisky. It was registered in 1899 by William Lawson of W Lawson & Co, Dundee, and Lawson’s Liqueur Whiskey. Lawson was known to be an abrasive and risk-taking character, and it shows in the composition of his whisky. At its core is the single malt of Macduff distillery, mashed with various bold malts and grain whiskies which create a fruit-forward character.
James Chivas, a Scotsman, began to experiment with some of the aged whiskies that lay around in his Aberdeen grocery store cellar. The result of which was the blended whisky (a whisky combining two or more malt and grain whiskies, produced in different distilleries) we know today. On her first Royal trip to Scotland in 1842, Queen Victoria gave the Chivas Brothers a Royal Warrant; hence the “regal” in the name Chivas Regal is derived. Chivas regal is sweet, with fruity and woody undertones.
Black & White
Black and White whisky was first produced by James Buchanan & Co Ltd. James Buchanan was a renowned dog breeder, and this shows on the Scotch’s Label, which beats a black Scottish terrier and a white West Highland terrier. This high-quality blended Scotch whisky is popular worldwide, being only sold outside the United Kingdom. It is well-known for its signature taste, which is smooth, light, fresh, and peppery with notes of smokiness. It sold 1.4 million cases worldwide in 2015.
William Peel is often found on the list of the best-selling whisky brands worldwide and has a huge following in France. Owned by Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits (MBWS), part of the Belvédère group, its roots date back to 1755, William Peel is a blend of 18 Highland and Speyside malts combined with Lowland grain whisky. The brand offers four variations: original, Double Maturation, and coffee and honey-flavored liqueurs. On their website, their mission statement reads “Never compromise in quality”.
Jean Cayard, Frenchman, established La Martiniquaise in 1934 as a rum importer and domestic distribution company, with little idea it would grow to become the second-largest spirits group in France and find itself consistently in the top 5 of Scotch whisky producers in the world. As a result Label 5 is extremely popular in France, but the blended Scotch brand has a wide following in over a hundred countries around the world. Label 5’s maturation lasts for at least 12 years and is done in oak casks.
The Scotland-based whisky brand has been in production since 1846. Dewar’s grew from a small wine and spirits shop in Perth, Scotland to being one of the world’s most awarded blended Scotch whiskies. Currently, Dewar’s is owned by the Bacardi company, having been purchased in 1998. Dewars has been a pioneer in the marketing department and created the first video advertisement named “It’s Scotch!” in the year 1898. Their whisky is mildly sweet with rich and fruity undertones.
J&B (Justerini and Brooks) was formed out of a friendship between Giacamo Justerini and George Johnson. Justerini had gone to Britain to pursue a love interest and met Johnson who introduced him to the local distillery industry. Two generations later, Alfred Brooks purchased the company and began experimenting with blended whiskey made by Andrew Usher. Today, the light-colored whisky is popular worldwide and is one of the best Scotch whiskies for mixing.
White Horse Scotch Whisky is a blended whisky from Edinburgh which was first produced by James Mackie in 1861. It has a nice fruity aroma, with honey and peach overtones. White Horse sales rose by 19 percent to over 2 million cases sold in 2020. The brand’s strong growth was the highest among its peers, with sales mainly coming from Japan, Brazil, and Russia.
Arthur Bell & Sons Ltd produces the best-selling blended Scotch, in the UK. First produced in 1851, this incredible Scotch distinguishes itself by combining a carefully selected combination of grain and fine malt whiskies, all of which have been aged in selected oak casks for a fuller flavor, which is noted for its smoky finish. The Scotch brand is said to have sold over 2 million nine-litre cases in 2020.
A steady rise in demand for whisky from the developing countries of Asia-Pacific, particularly India and China, has seen the market grow in leaps and bounds. The 25% tariff on European agricultural products implemented by the USA has hindered growth in that region, so it will be interesting to see how the great Scotch companies respond to these new challenges.