LONDON: Smirnoff, Bacardi and Johnnie Walker are the top-selling international spirits brands, a new study has revealed.

According to IWSR, the insights group, 25.1m cases of Smirnoff vodka were sold in 2011, up 3.2% year on year. To qualify for the rankings, products had to be available in at least three geographical regions.

Bacardi, the rum brand, claimed second place, posting 1.5% growth on an annual basis to 18.4m cases. Johnnie Walker, the scotch whisky, was third, logging a 7.6% lift to 16.7m cases.

Absolut, another vodka brand, occupied fourth, having seen a 2.8% expansion compared with 2010 to reach 11.2m cases in 2011. Jack Daniel's, the US whisky, made up the top five, improving by 6% to 10.9m cases.

"The global nature of these brands almost serves as a hedge against the economic and regulatory vagaries of specific regional and country markets," the study said.

More broadly, Diageo, the UK-based firm, had eight brands in the top 50, including Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker, as well as Captain Morgan rum in sixth, up by 4.4% to 9.3m cases.

"In Latin America, basically, our business is spirits and therefore that is definitely driving the growth there," Paul Walsh, Diageo's CEO said on a recent conference call. "And I would say also in Asia, it is definitely tilted towards spirits growth."

Pernod Ricard, the French company, had the most entries in the top 50, headed by Absolut. Ballantine's scotch whisky was its next highest-ranked offering, in 12th on 6.2m cases.

"We believe the world is premiumising; it's about drinking better quality," said Martin Riley, CMO of Pernod Ricard. "It's not about volume; it's about value, and it's about ... encouraging consumers to appreciate the kind of wine brands and spirit brands we produce."

By category, vodka lines took up 13 spots among the biggest-selling brands.  Three Ukrainian brands featured here, led by Nemiroff, in seventh on 7.5m cases, albeit declining by 18.9% from 2011.

Similarly, Khlibniy Dar was off by 14.4% to 6.7m cases, and Khortytsa endured a 5.2% contraction, to 6.2m cases, the report added.

The fastest-growing brand overall was William Lawson's Scotch, part of Bacardi-Martini Limited, in 45th position, but seeing demand rise by 31.7% year on year, with a particular spike in Russia.

Data sourced from IWSR; additional content by Warc staff