Recently, there's been ample discussion of the massive mergers and acquisitions taking place in the beer industry, especially in relation to AB InBev and SABMiller. Of course, these types of megadeals are no stranger to the spirits industry, either. So who makes what, and who owns whom?
Here's a look at the major players in the world of booze conglomerates. While every brand and every company may not be listed below (and we're not even going to bother diving into realms that have little stateside bearing such as soju or Indian whisky), what follows is a who's who of top liquors and labels.
- Value/Company Status: $71 billion market cap; $16.8 billion sales; No.245 on the Forbes Global 2000 list of world's biggest public companies
- Gin: Tanqueray, Gordon's, Booth's
- Rum: Captain Morgan, Ron Zacapa, Cacique
- Tequila: Don Julio
- Vodka: Smirnoff, Ketel One, Cîroc
- Whisk(e)y: Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, Bulleit, Seagram's, George Dickel, Caol Ila, Talisker, Lagavulin, Oban, J&B, Bell's, Buchanan's, Cardhu
- Other: Baileys, Guinness
Diageo is the biggest dog in the room. Johnnie Walker is the world's top selling blended Scotch, and Smirnoff is the world's top selling vodka. Bailey's is the world's top selling liqueur, and while Guinness is not a spirit, the beer giant adds more heft to the overall portfolio. J&B and Bell's are both among the top selling Scotch blends.
All of that before even getting to Tanqueray, Crown Royal, Bulleit, plenty more Scotch, and additional interests ranging from Schnapps and mixed drinks, to wines and more liqueurs. With over 30 distilleries and growing, Diageo is the biggest whisky producer in the world. The company also owns 34 percent of Moët Hennessy (see below), adding interests in Cognac and Champagne to its bustling lineup.
- Value/Company Status: $32.5 billion market cap; $10.6 billion sales; No.439 on Forbes Global 2000
- Brandy: Martell
- Gin: Beefeater, Seagram's, Plymouth
- Rum: Havana Club, Malibu
- Tequila: Avion, Olmeca Altos
- Vodka: Absolut
- Whisk(e)y: Chivas Regal, Jameson, The Glenlivet, Ballantine's, Wiser's
- Other: Kahlúa, Ricard
Pernod Ricard is the world's second largest distiller based on overall production, with a diverse set of flagship brands. That list includes Absolut, the number one selling premium vodka, Chivas Regal, the number two premium Scotch, Jameson, the number one Irish whiskey, Beefeater, the number two premium gin, Ballantine's, the second largest Scotch brand, Martell, the second largest Cognac brand, and Havana Club, the number three rum globally.
One interesting note is that when the Seagram Company was split up and sold in 2000, the beverage division was divvied up between Pernod Ricard and Diageo. The aftermath, particularly as it relates to the whiskey being made at what is now known as the MGP distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, helped fuel the fire and fuss behind the ongoing sourced whiskey controversy.
- Value/Company Status: $10.7 billion sales
- Brandy: Courvoisier, Terry Centenario
- Gin: Larios, Gilbey's
- Rum: Cruzan
- Tequila: Sauza, Hornitos, Tres Generaciones
- Vodka: Pinnacle, Effen, Vox
- Whisk(e)y: Jim Beam, Yamazaki, Maker's Mark, Canadian Club, Knob Creek, Teacher's, Kakubin, Laphroaig, Bowmore, Auchentoshan, the Ardmore, Hakushu, Hibiki, Kilbeggan, Alberta Premium, Tyrconnell
- Other: Skinnygirl, DeKuyper, Midori
When Suntory acquired Jim Beam in 2014, the deal thrust the company near the top of the pecking order, for a cool $13.6 billion price tag, which eventually cost closer to $16 billion. It officially made Beam Suntory the world's third largest distiller. Suntory Whisky's Japanese trifecta of Yamazaki, Hakushu and Hibiki, as well as Kakubin, added to Jim Beam's strength in bourbon, along with key Irish and Scotch assets, and a range of brands in other categories from Courvoisier to Sauza.
The deal sent ripples throughout the spirits industry, with rumors swirling of future mergers and acquisitions in its wake. No further dominoes have fallen, but that could change in short order.
- Value/Company Status: $4.6 billion estimated sales; Largest privately held spirits company
- Brandy: Baron Otard, D'USSÉ
- Gin: Bombay
- Rum: Bacardi
- Tequila: Cazadores
- Vodka: Grey Goose, Eristoff
- Whisk(e)y: Dewar's, William Lawson's, Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Royal Brackla, Craigellachie, Angel's Envy
- Other: Martini, St-Germain, Bénédictine
The Bacardi portfolio includes more than 200 labels, spearheaded by its namesake rum, by far the top selling rum brand in the world. That's followed by a strong presence across nearly every category, with Bombay gin, Grey Goose vodka, Dewar's and William Lawson's Scotch, and Martini vermouths.
While Pernod Ricard owns the Havana Club brand, Bacardi had long ago purchased the Havana Club trademark in the United States. Expect the legal wrangling to continue, particularly as the potential for Cuban rum sold in the United States nears.
- Value/Company Status: $19.4 billion market cap; $3 billion sales; No.1,267 on Forbes Global 2000
- Tequila: Herradura, El Jimador
- Vodka: Finlandia
- Whisk(e)y: Jack Daniel's, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, Canadian Mist, Early Times
- Other: Chambord
Brown-Forman is spearheaded by Jack Daniel's. The Tennessee whiskey powerhouse is the world's second biggest whiskey brand, behind Johnnie Walker.
In the wake of Suntory's acquisition of Beam, reports circulated that Brown-Forman could be on either end of a deal, potentially being bought by the likes of Bacardi, or conversely, potentially buying the likes of Rémy Cointreau. Talk has quieted down as of late, and while the company is public, the Brown family controls the bulk of the common stock.
- Value/Company Status: The beverage division of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE (LVMH); $4.3 billion sales (13 percent of LVMH's $33.3 billion revenue in 2014, per LVMH)
- Brandy: Hennessy
- Rum: 10 Cane
- Vodka: Belvedere
- Whisk(e)y: Glenmorangie, Ardbeg
- Other: Grand Marnier, Dom Pérignon, Moët & Chandon, Krug, Veuve Clicquot
Hennessy is the top Cognac brand in the world by a long shot. Combined with that, the company also obviously has a huge presence in the wine market as well, thanks to its lineage which merged Moët & Chandon with Hennessy.
Whisky production at both Ardbeg and Glenmorangie are overseen by Dr. Bill Lumsden, the Glenmorangie Company's Director of Distilling. As mentioned above, Diageo formed a partnership with Moët Hennessy and owns one third of its shares.
- Value/Company Status: $4.5 billion market cap; $1.5 billion sales
- Rum: Appleton Estate
- Tequila: Cabo Wabo
- Vodka: Skyy
- Whisk(e)y: Wild Turkey, Russell's Reserve, Glen Grant, Old Smuggler
- Other: Campari, Aperol, Cinzano, Cynar, Frangelico, Averna, Irish Mist
The Campari Group is strong with, as one might expect, liqueurs and aperitifs, including not only Campari itself, but also Aperol, Cynar, Averna, and Frangelico, plus Cinzano vermouths. On the whiskey front they're represented first and foremost by the Wild Turkey lineup, while Glen Grant is one of the world's best selling single malts. Skyy is a top 10 selling vodka, and Appleton Estate is a top 10 selling rum.
- Value/Company Status: $14.6 billion market cap; $5 billion sales; No.1,250 Forbes Global 2000
- Brandy: Meridian
- Gin: Caorunn, Coldstream
- Rum: Mekhong, SangSom, Phraya
- Vodka: Kulov
- Whisk(e)y: Old Pulteney, Balblair, anCnoc, Speyburn, Knockdhu
- Other: Chinese & Thai spirits
ThaiBev is known for producing Mekhong and Sangsom, two spirits brands that any visitor to Thailand will be able to tell you about, as well as a huge range of various Asian spirits. Their international arm is International Beverage Holdings, or InterBev, which has a Scotch lineup including Old Pulteney, Balblair, anCnoc and Speyburn, all from Inver House Distillers and their five distilleries. The company also owns Chang beer, along with assorted foods and non-alcoholic beverages.
WILLIAM GRANT & SONS
- Value/Company Status: $1.2 billion sales; Independent, family-owned company
- Gin: Hendrick's
- Rum: Sailor Jerry
- Tequila: Milagro
- Vodka: Reyka
- Whisk(e)y: Glenfiddich, Grant's, The Balvenie, Tullamore DEW, Monkey Shoulder
- Other: Drambuie
William Grant & Sons is an independent and family-owned company which has managed to become the third largest Scotch producer, trailing only Diageo and Pernod Ricard. The bulk of that production level comes from William Grant's blended Scotch label. However, it's Glenfiddich and The Balvenie which rightfully steal the attention of single malt aficionados. They're also well represented with Irish whiskey, thanks to Tullamore Dew, and have built up a stable with at least one brand in most major spirits categories.
- Value/Company Status: $3.1 billion market cap; $900 million in sales
- Brandy: Rémy Martin
- Gin: The Botanist
- Rum: Mount Gay
- Whisk(e)y: Bruichladdich
- Other: Cointreau
The bulk of Rémy Cointreau's overall sales is their Rémy Martin cognac, along with their second namesake, Cointreau. Rémy Martin also produces the ultra premium Louis XIII Cognac lineup. The company additionally owns Bruichladdich and Mount Gay rum, along with several other spirits and liqueurs. Bruichladdich produces its eponymous Scotch, along with The Botanist Gin, and the Octomore and Port Charlotte whiskies.
THE EDRINGTON GROUP
- Value/Company Status: $650 million estimated sales; Privately held company
- Rum: Brugal
- Vodka: Snow Leopard
- Whisk(e)y: The Macallan, The Famous Grouse, Cutty Sark, Highland Park
The Famous Grouse is the best selling Scotch in Scotland and has been for several decades. Cutty Sark is another high selling blended whisky, while the Macallan is one of the world's top selling and most recognized single malts. Brugal is the leading rum in both the Caribean and Spain, and since being acquired by Edrington, has capitalized with unique cask aging involving the same type of barrels the Macallan utilizes, for instance.
MORE COMPANIES TO KNOW:
- Anchor Distilling: Beyond the Old Potrero whiskeys and other spirits that Anchor Distillery produces, the company imports a wide range of spirits to the U.S. The list includes selections such as Tempus Fugit and Luxardo liqueurs, BarSol pisco, Kavalan and Nikka whiskies, and several Scotch brands.
- Asahi Group: Asahi is a massive company, ranking No.698 on the Forbes Global 2000. However, it's most prominently involved in the beer industry, as Asahi Breweries, along with soft drinks and food products. Asahi is the top selling beer in Japan, and the company also just made a nearly $3.5 billion offer to buy Peroni and Grolsch from SABMiller. Yet, as owners of Japanese whisky company Nikka, the smaller rival to Suntory, they deserve mention in a spirits discussion as well. Interestingly, Asahi's rival on the Japanese beer front, Kirin Holdings, owns Four Roses Bourbon.
- Constellation Brands: A mammoth wine company, Constellation also owns SVEDKA Vodka, and Black Velvet Canadian whisky.
- Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits: Formerly known as Belvédère, Marie Brizard owns William Peel, which is one of the largest blended Scotch whiskies, Sobieski vodka, and now the Marie Brizard lineup of liqueurs.
- Mast-Jägermeister: Jägermeister.
- Heaven Hill: Billed as America's largest independently owned and operated distilled spirits company, Heaven Hill has a strong focus on American whiskey, including brands such as Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Pikesville, Bernheim, and Rittenhouse. Other brands include Burnett's vodka and gin, Hpnotiq, and Admiral Nelson's rum.
- Patrón Spirits Company: In addition to the full lineup of its namesake Patrón tequila, Patrón Spirits Company also produces tequila-coffee liqueurs under the Patrón XO Cafe series, and fruit liqueurs under the Citrónge lineup. The company now also has stakes elsewhere, with Ultimat Vodka, and Pyrat Rum.
- Proximo Spirits: Proximo imports Jose Cuervo, and is owned by the family behind Cuervo. Proximo also owns or imports brands including Bushmills Irish whiskey, Kraken rum, 1800 Tequila, Three Olives and Hangar 1 vodkas, and Stranahan's Colorado whiskey.
- Sazerac Copmany: Sazerac is most commonly linked to its lineup of Buffalo Trace whiskeys, including Buffalo Trace, Pappy Van Winkle, Eagle Rare, W.L. Weller, Blanton's, and Sazerac. But, the company also owns Barton Brands and everything they produce, as well as Fireball and Peychaud's Bitters. They've already been busy this year having just acquired Southern Comfort, along with Tuaca from Brown-Forman for about half a billion dollars. It's interesting that Sazerac is behind both the Van Winkle and Fireball brands, two wildly divergent but equally popular labels.
- SPI Group: SPI produces Stolichnaya vodkas, along with several other vodkas and spirits, and has a growing wine portfolio. However, SPI has been involved in a legal entanglement involving ownership of the Stoli brand with FKP Sojuzplodoimport, a Russian state-owned company.