How did J&B Rare become the fifth highest-selling spirit in the world?
J&B Rare is introduced to the United States
Long-established London wine merchants Justerini & Brooks introduced J&B Rare, a blended Scotch whisky, from 1936.
J&B Rare was conceived of as an export brand. Its straw-gold body, and light, smooth, delicate character was designed to appeal to the American taste for rye whiskey. It is made with up to 50 percent single malt whisky, including Knockando, Auchroisk, Strathmill and Glen Spey.
Charles Guttman (1893 – 1969) of the Paddington Corporation was appointed as the United States distributor, and he initially established the brand in the New York City area.
Justerini & Brooks merged with Twiss, Brownings & Hallowes to form United Wine Traders in 1952.
Abe Rosenberg (1908 – 1985) became a partner in the Paddington Corporation from the mid-1950s. He began to expand J&B Rare distribution outside of its New York City heartland into the wider United States. 70,000 cases of J&B Rare were sold in 1954.
J&B Rare would compete fiercely with Cutty Sark, another Scotch whisky tailored for the American market which had been introduced by Berry Brothers, wine merchants of London, in 1923.
Justerini & Brooks refused to bolster sales by price-cutting, and J&B Rare was the most expensive non-aged Scotch whisky on the market.
Sales grew quickly as J&B Rare benefited from a shift in American tastes away from heavier Scotch whiskies such as Black & White and Ballantine’s, towards lighter blends. 700,000 cases of J&B Rare were sold in the United States in 1961, and it was the leading Scotch whisky in the New York City area.
International Vintners & Distillers
United Wine Traders merged with Gilbeys to become International Vintners & Distillers (IDV) from 1962. Gilbeys’ strong international distribution network helped to establish J&B Rare in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Ireland.
J&B Rare became the highest-selling Scotch whisky in the United States, with one million cases exported in 1962. The New York City area remained the heartland of the product. The brand remained virtually unknown in its native Britain.
Two million cases of J&B Rare were exported to America in 1967. J&B Rare was exported to 84 countries.
2.7 million cases of J&B Rare were sold in 1971, accounting for a substantial 55 percent of IDV profits.
IDV was acquired by Grand Metropolitan in 1972.
J&B Rare was the seventh highest-selling spirit in the United States by 1974, and the bestselling Scotch.
Rising sales of J&B Rare helped to render Grand Metropolitan the second largest distiller of branded Scotch whisky in the world by 1977. J&B Rare held ten percent of the global Scotch whisky market. Justerini & Brooks were awarded with a Queen’s Award for Export Achievement in 1978.
A push for sales outside the United States was a success, and J&B Rare was the second highest-selling Scotch whisky in the world by the mid-1980s.
J&B Rare was the fifth highest-selling spirit in the world by 1993.
J&B Rare was the tenth highest-selling Scotch whisky in the world in 2021. Its key markets are Southern Europe, South Africa and the United States.