The fall of Kamchatka Vodka captures Ohioans’ drinking habits

Nothing quite exemplifies the trend of Ohioans “moving up” in their choices of liquor consumption than Kamchatka Vodka.

For years — make that “decades,” according to Ohio Division of Liquor Control spokesman Matt Mullins — Kamchatka Vodka was the No. 1-selling brand of booze in Ohio. Often by a healthy margin.

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One of Kamchatka’s main selling points: a low price. Even today, it’s a scant $7.35 for a “fifth” (750 milliliter bottle) in Montgomery County liquor stores. That’s a lot of punch for the penny.

But in the 2015 Top 10 list released Tuesday by the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Liquor Control, the mighty Kamchatka had dropped to No. 10. Shockingly, three other vodkas — all more expensive — outsold it: Smirnoff ($13.30), Absolut ($18.90) and the upstart Tito’s ($19.25)

A brief change to its formula more than three years ago, since reversed, didn’t do the Kamchatka brand any favors, but state and local spirits specialists say Ohioans’ increasing willingness to spend more on premium liquor was the driving force behind Kamchatka’s fall from grace.

“Today’s consumers are seeking quality over quantity and buying more premium priced products than ever before,” said division of liquor control director Jacqueline Williams. “This practice of ‘trading up’ helped achieve record dollar sales without encouraging increased consumption.”

Williams’ agency reported Tuesday that dollar sales of spirituous liquor reached a record level in 2015, surpassing $1 billion for the first time. Sales rose 7.3 percent, exceeding the previous year’s total by $70 million.

Overall volume consumption rose as well, but at a lesser pace — about 3.9 percent, to 13 million gallons. Those numbers hammer home the point that Ohioans are “trading up” to more premium brands.

Chuck Gress has witnessed the trend up close: he is the liquor manager for Arrow Wine & Spirits’ Far Hills Avenue store in Kettering.

“There is a lot more variety in the products we have on our shelves now, and most of them are premium products,” Gress said. “Half of what is on our shelf now wasn’t here 20 years ago.” Those include dozens of flavored vodkas, a wide selection of single-malt scotches (“We used to carry one,” Gress said), and most recently, the fast-growing bourbon segment.

“We’re seeing people move toward the premium products, definitely,” Gress said.

Here’s the “Top 10” list for 2015, and below that, we also show you the Top 10 in 2010, and the Top 10 in 2005.

The following were the top 10 selling brands of spirituous liquor by gallons sold in Ohio for 2015:

1. Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey – 379,492 gallons

2. Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey – 298,406 gallons

3. Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey – 291,609 gallons

4. Captain Morgan Spiced Rum – 288,676 gallons

5. Bacardi Superior Light Rum – 287,901 gallons

6. Smirnoff Vodka – 283,801 gallons

7. Absolut Vodka – 272,521 gallons

8. Black Velvet Canadian Whiskey – 266,670 gallons

9. Tito’s Handmade Vodka – 259,328 gallons

10. Kamchatka Vodka – 250,578 gallons

The top 10 selling brands of spirituous liquor (by gallons sold) for 2010 were the following:

1. Kamchatka Vodka – 408,277 gallons

2. Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey – 342,840 gallons

3. Bacardi Superior Light Rum – 295,820 gallons

4. Smirnoff Vodka – 283,332 gallons

5. Captain Morgan Spiced Rum – 280,229 gallons

6. Absolut Vodka – 271,495 gallons

7. Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey – 267,140 gallons

8. Jagermeister – 261,959 gallons

9. Korski Vodka – 236,976 gallons

10. Black Velvet Canadian Whiskey – 232,623 gallons

The top ten selling brands of spirituous liquor (by gallons sold) in Ohio for 2005 were the following:

1. Kamchatka Vodka - 362,693 gallons

2. Jack Daniels #7 Black Label Tennessee Whiskey - 353,653 gallons

3. Bacardi Light-Dry Rum - 332,125 gallons

4. Jagermeister - 301,734 gallons

5. Absolut Vodka - 273,519 gallons

6. Captain Morgan Spiced Rum - 261,786 gallons

7. Black Velvet Canadian Whiskey – 260,289 gallons

8. Jim Beam Straight Bourbon – 256,601 gallons

9. Korski Vodka - 240,624 gallons

10. Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey – 231,178 gallons

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