2018 Annual Report

Top Brands

Owned Spirits

Our vibrant mix of made-in-Canada whiskies and spirits gives consumers the choice and taste variety they’re looking for.


Our success with the newly acquired Ungava Spirits brands was one of our top stories of the year.

Domestic retail volume and value of our flagship brand, Ungava gin, increased by 32% and 31%, respectively, compared to fiscal 2017, significantly outperforming the Canadian gin category. With 75% of sales volume currently in Québec, we’re working to transform it into a truly national brand and an export success story. A new communication platform, a 375ml format that’s perfect for convenience and trial, and a newly formed team of cocktail brand ambassadors encouraging sampling will boost our cause going forward.

Cabot Trail maple-based liqueurs (Coureur des Bois) also achieved double-digit growth in domestic retail volume (+39%) and value (+41%) compared to fiscal 2017, supported by a packaging change, listings in most provinces, and a joint sampling program with Chic Choc Spiced rum operated out of the Chic Choc truck.

106,000 9L cases shipped (all Ungava Spirits brands, including wine and export) +58% compared to fiscal 2017 (full year of shipments in fiscal 2018, whereas fiscal 2017 was only post-acquisition)

Crafted from premium Canadian maple syrup, fresh cream and a special blend of a grain-based alcohol and rum, Cabot Trail Maple Cream is an authentic Québec product that can be enjoyed on ice, in cocktails or with coffee.

Lamb’s Rum

Lamb’s rum, one of the top-selling rum families in Canada, was significantly affected by declining consumer appetite for standard rum and difficult economic conditions in our regional strongholds of Newfoundland and Alberta. Nevertheless, Lamb’s rum is a large and profitable brand for us and we continually find ways to make it relevant to younger consumers in particular.

We scored wins in Newfoundland with our newly launched Lamb’s Pineapple rum and, at the end of the year, with Lamb’s Sociable RTD. Lamb’s Sociable is a pineapple-flavoured rum cocktail in a can, crafted specifically for its key market – where locals say “sociable!” (rather than “cheers!”) when they share a drink with friends. 

Also in Newfoundland, we celebrated local stories by running a highly successful Local Hero Competition that invited people to nominate and vote for individuals who had given back to their communities in amazing ways. The grand prize for the most deserving individual was a $20,000 cheque, a song dedicated to them by Newfoundland folk band Rum Ragged, and a party thrown in their honour.

We ran a promotion where if you bought a bottle of Lamb’s, you also received a pair of socks from Wicked Wool Socks, a local company that’s making a name for itself selling socks sporting popular Newfoundland sayings. In this case, one foot read “If you can read this” and the other followed with “Bring me a Lamb’s.”

419,000 9L cases shipped (includes export) -6% compared to fiscal 2017

Polar Ice Vodka

Among the top-selling vodka brands in our country, Polar Ice vodka is made in Ontario at the Hiram Walker distillery. We’re making the most of its Canadian provenance to appeal to our target consumers. New packaging boldly proclaims PRODUCT OF CANADA on the front label. We celebrated Canada’s national cocktail – the Caesar – on National Caesar Day by teaming up with The Keg Steakhouse + Bar on a fun Keg Size Caesar infographic and a contest to win a private menu tasting. In Ontario, we also created a new reason for choosing Polar Ice by introducing a flavour variant made from fresh Ontario peaches.

In the face of challenging market conditions, with increased competitive pricing pressure, particularly in the standard vodka category, we changed our pricing strategy in parts of the country beginning in the third quarter. We also made a heavy push on driving brand awareness and trial of our more premium Polar Ice Arctic Extreme.

365,000 9L cases shipped (includes export) -2% compared to fiscal 2017

Polar Ice won Gold at the 2017 Global Vodka Master Competition.

Mixable Liqueurs

Outpacing the traditional liqueur segment, the retail value of McGuinness liqueurs grew by 2% compared to fiscal 2017.

Key drivers of success were new flavour offerings, like Butterscotch, which align with consumer trends, and an expanded range of products available in the 375ml format. The smaller, lower-priced format is a great way to encourage consumer trial.

McGuinness also benefited from co-branded programs activated in retail and on-premise and through social media. For example, the campaign for McGuinness Melon, a natural choice for green-coloured cocktails on St. Patrick’s Day, included a social media influencers program as well as retail displays and recipe neck tags with Jameson Irish whiskey, Absolut vodka and Jacob’s Creek sparkling wines.

161,000 9L cases shipped -2% compared to fiscal 2017