There may have been record snowfall amounts, air temperatures and prices that elver and scallop fishermen earned for their catch in Maine last year, but it was not a record year for sales of the state’s most popular brand of liquor.
The Massachusetts-based makers of Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy need not worry about the status of its signature product, however. The perennially dominant brandy, which netted M.S. Walker $10.6 million in sales in Maine in 2015, as usual outsold by far any other brand of booze in the state, according to figures compiled by the state Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations. The standard 70-proof variety of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum, which generated $6.1 million in gross revenues in Maine last year, was the state’s second most popular alcoholic libation.
Allen’s best-selling year in Maine in recent memory was in 2009, when more than 1 million bottles of varying sizes were sold for a total of $12.95 million.
Allen’s closest coffee brandy competitors, Mr. Boston and Gold Crown, had $707,000 and $533,000 total sales respectively in Maine last year.
But when it comes to an increase in popularity, there is another brand that has experienced a meteoric rise in sales over the past few years that is unmatched in the past decade, if not longer. Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, made by New Orleans-based Sazerac, has seen its annual sales value in Maine expand by nearly 1,000 percent — from $325,576 to $3,506,854 — since 2012.
And when it comes to one particular bottle size, Fireball outsold all others. Its 50 milliliter bottle, which is about the size of a deck of cards and retails in Maine for only 99 cents, sold more than 1.6 million units in the state last year, generating $1.4 million in revenue for Sazerac by itself.
The top-selling bottle of Allen’s, the 1.75-liter size, had 300,000 unit sales in Maine, generating $5.3 million in revenues for M.S. Walker. Overall, more than 930,000 bottles of varying sizes of Allen’s coffee brandy were sold in Maine last year.
Fireball’s rise in popularity in Maine is consistent with a surge in sales nationwide, according to articles published online by Thrillist and BloombergBusiness.
“The flavored whiskey went from almost total anonymity to massive popularity in just a few years’ time,” the Thrillist piece notes.
The BloombergBusiness article indicates that, according to Chicago-based research firm IRI, nationwide sales of Fireball in 2011 amounted to “a mere $1.9 million” at gas stations, convenience stores and supermarkets.
“[In 2013, national] sales leapt to $61 million, passing Jameson Irish whiskey and Patron tequila. And that number doesn’t include bars, where most people commune with the drink,” BloombergBusiness reported.
The BloombergBusiness article describes in detail how Fireball sales took off after Sazerac hired a 25-year-old pitchman named Richard Pomes in 2010 to travel around the country and promote the cinnamon-flavored whiskey at popular bars. The article does not indicate whether Pomes, who resigned his brand ambassador post in 2012, or his successor, Bob Bowling, ever brought the spicy libation to Maine.
The rise of Fireball has made it the sixth-most popular liquor in Maine. Rounding out the handful of other top-selling brands in the state last year were Absolut Vodka with $4.4 million in sales, Bacardi Superior Rum at $4.3 million, Jack Daniel’s Black Label Whiskey at $3.7 million and Orloff Vodka at just under $3 million.
Overall, more than $150 million worth of liquor was sold in Maine in 2015.