Fireball Cinnamon Whisky held onto its top revenue spot in Maine in 2019 with $12.2 million in sales, but longtime Maine favorite Allen's Coffee Flavored Brandy took another hit, losing its second place ranking to Tito's Handmade Vodka. Allen's sold $9.2 million worth of coffee brandy in Maine last year, while $11.7 million worth of Tito's was sold. Credit: Bill Trotter

Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy, for years by far the best-selling liquor in Maine, has lost ground again in its competition against other popular brands of hard alcohol.

In 2018, the once-perennial favorite was displaced from the top-value spot — though it continued to be the most popular liquor in terms of volume — by Fireball Cinnamon Whisky.

Last year, Allen’s fell another notch in terms of statewide sales value, slipping behind Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Fireball held onto the top revenue spot with $12.2 million in sales, while Tito’s placed second with $11.7 million, according to sale figures released Tuesday by the state Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.

Allen’s came in third in terms of value, selling $9.2 million worth of its coffee-flavored brandy in Maine in 2019, down from $9.6 million in 2018.

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The liquor, made by M.S. Walker of Somerville, Massachusetts, continues to hold the top spot in Maine in terms of quantity, selling more than 90,000 cases last year, with each case representing the equivalent of 9 liters of liquor. Fireball sold 66,000 cases and Tito’s sold 71,000 cases.

Credit: Bill Trotter

The disparity between the sales value and volume totals can be attributed to the varying popularity of differing bottle sizes of each brand. Allen’s and Tito’s each sell more 1.75-liter bottles — often called “half-gallons” — than they do any of their smaller sizes.

Fireball’s runaway best seller is the 50-milliliter bottle, also called a “nip.” It sold 2.8 million nip bottles in Maine last year, pulling in $3.6 million in sales for that bottle size alone.

Fireball’s sales skyrocketed in Maine after its 2007 rebranding and a subsequent aggressive promotion effort that started in 2010. In 2013, Fireball’s total statewide sales were $770,000 but more than doubled in 2014 and again the following year. In 2016 and again in 2017, Fireball’s Maine sales increased by more than 50 percent.

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When Fireball’s sales in Maine hit $8.3 million in 2017, it had become the second-most popular brand of liquor in the state, having shot past all other brands except Allen’s. Fireball is owned by Louisiana-based Sazerac Co. and bottled regionally in Lewiston by subsidiary Boston Brands of Maine.

In recent years Tito’s Handmade Vodka, owned by Texas-based Fifth Generation Inc., also has exploded in popularity in Maine and elsewhere. In 2018 it ranked third in sales in the state at $9.2 million, behind Allen’s $9.6 million and Fireball’s $10.1 million sales totals. Since 2013, when its statewide sales totaled $273,189, Tito’s revenue in Maine has increased by nearly 4,200 percent.

Though it continues to sell well in Maine, Allen’s has much smaller sales elsewhere in New England and virtually none outside the region. Its peak sales year was 2009, when $12.9 million of it sold in Maine. In 2018, for the first time since at least 2004, its sales in Maine dipped below $10 million.

Sales data in the state prior to 2004 are unavailable, though an M.S. Walker official has said Allen’s dominance in the Maine market stretches back to the early 1980s.

Statewide, total liquor sales last year rose 5.8 percent to reach $199.5 million. Maine is one of 17 states that control alcohol sales within their border, controlling which spirits can be sold and their prices.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....