Allen’s brandy hits 1M mark in 2007 sales

Posted Oct. 03, 2008, at 6:40 p.m.

For the first time in its complicated history in Maine, Allen’s Coffee Brandy has become the first brand of alcohol to sell more than 1 million bottles in the state in a year.

According to 2007 sales figures released by the state Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, 1,024,282 bottles of various sizes of Allen’s Coffee Brandy were sold in Maine last year, or about 30,000 more bottles than in 2006. The total value of the bottles sold in 2007 was $12.2 million.

In 2006, there were nearly 994,000 bottles of Allen’s Coffee Brandy worth a total of $11.8 million sold in the state. The year before that 992,000 bottles worth $11.6 million were sold in Maine.

Because the state tracks the sales of different sizes of alcohol brands separately, Allen’s Coffee Brandy holds four of the state’s top 10 selling liquor units in 2007 — one of the reasons it often is referred to as “the champagne of Maine.”

Allen’s largest unit size, a 1.75-liter bottle or half-gallon, held the top spot with 321,712 units sold in 2007 for a total value of $5.7 million. The brandy’s 1-liter bottle size ranked third, the 750 ml size ranked sixth and the 375 ml size ranked ninth. No other brand of liquor appears more than once on the top 10.

Allen’s Coffee Brandy has been the top-selling liquor in Maine for at least the past decade, state officials have said.

Michael Boardman, assistant director of the state’s alcohol bureau, said Friday that officials do not know why the brand of alcohol sells so well in the state.

“We’re not really sure. A lot of people ask that question,” he said. “It’s very unique to Maine. It doesn’t do well in most other locations.”

Orloff Vodka, Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum and Bacardi Light made up the usual group of brands competing for second place. Orloff, Maine’s fourth-most-popular brand in 2006, was the second-most-popular brand last year, selling 302,862 bottles worth a total of $2.9 million. Captain Morgan’s sold more than $5 million worth of rum in Maine but came in third in quantity with 263,040 bottles sold. Bacardi Light was fourth with 245,491 bottles sold. Half-gallon bottle sizes of vodka brands Smirnoff, Absolut and Five O’Clock rounded out the top 10.

Sales of alcohol in Maine do not always increase from year to year. Captain Morgan’s sold about 10,000 more bottles in the state last year than it did in 2006, according to the state’s list of last year’s top 25 selling brands. The same list indicates that sales of Bacardi Light decreased by about 8,000 bottles from 253,000 sold the year before.

The national economic downturn may be forcing Mainers to spend less money on things such as building supplies and gasoline, but Boardman said he was not qualified to explain why Allen’s Coffee Brandy sales in the state have increased. He said it is likely that Allen’s revenues will continue to rise in Maine.

“I have no reason to believe that it won’t, based on the trends,” Boardman said.

Perhaps because of its dominant sales position in Maine, Allen’s Coffee Brandy also has been associated with Maine’s substance abuse troubles. Members of the state’s criminal justice community have said the brand name frequently appears in police incident logs, along with Budweiser beer and Twisted Tea, a blended brand of tea and alcohol. These other brands are not classified as liquor and therefore are not included on the state’s list of top-selling units of hard alcohol.

In the 1990s, state Superior Court Judge Robert Crowley was quoted as saying coffee brandy “is very prevalent in the criminals who come before me. I don’t know whether brandy is more bang for your buck but it runs the gamut.”

“I see it in bar fights, domestic assaults, [drunken driving] and worse crimes,” the judge said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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