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Sizzling Fireball Spawns Flurry Of Competitors, With Jack, Beam Offerings Starting Strong

September 17, 2015

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, as the saying goes. And when a brand has been as hot as Fireball over the past few years, it’s no surprise that a flurry of similarly positioned (and similarly named) products have entered the market lately.

Fireball, a Canadian whisky-infused, cinnamon-flavored liqueur brand from Sazerac Co., first began to make its name in 2010, when it sold 125,000 cases. The following year, the 33%-abv brand ($16-$18 a 750-ml.) surged to 450,000 cases as it started becoming an on-premise favorite for shot consumption.

Other cinnamon-flavored whisk(e)y products soon began cropping up. Brown-Forman introduced Early Times Fire Eater Cinnamon Flavored Whiskey (33% abv/$16) in 2012, and Hood River Distillers launched Sinfire Cinnamon Flavored Whiskey (35% abv/$16) that same year. Both offerings enjoyed early promise, but apparently cooled off soon after.

In 2013, Fireball not only surpassed the 1-million-case threshold, but also the 2-million case mark, with a near threefold increase to 2.4 million cases, according to Impact Databank. Midway through 2013, Heaven Hill rolled out Cinerator Hot Cinnamon Flavored Whiskey—a departure from its competitors because of its relatively high alcohol content (45.5% abv/$15). Cinerator has gotten off to a strong start, selling nearly 50,000 cases in 2014.

Last year, the cinnamon whisky space became even more crowded, as the two biggest names in American whiskey—Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam—launched forays into the category. In early 2014, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire (35%/$25) was tested in eight initial markets before rolling out nationally a few months later. By year-end, Tennessee Fire had sold 77,000 cases in the U.S. Meanwhile, in August 2014, Beam Suntory unveiled Jim Beam Kentucky Fire (35% abv/$18), which sold 88,000 cases for the calendar year. Both Tennessee Fire and Kentucky Fire were recently recognized as Impact “Hot Prospects,” and both appear headed for even bigger things. Tennessee Fire had grown by nearly 600% through the end of June in NABCA channels, while Kentucky Fire has enjoyed similarly impressive progress.

While several of these new cinnamon-flavored brands show considerable promise, Fireball continues to charge ahead. After finishing 2014 up 65% to just under 4 million cases, it’s now on pace to become one of the U.S. market’s top five spirits brands—and surpass the 5-million-case mark—this year, according to Impact Databank projections.

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