First Drinks Brands, the distribution business owned by whisky distiller William Grant & Sons, plans to spend GBP40m on marketing this year, following its deal to distribute Remy Cointreau brands in the UK.

Up to GBP40m (US$58.7m) will be spent on advertising and promotion in 2009, across "key" brands in First Drinks' portfolio, which includes Remy Martin's Cognacs, Piper-Heidsieck Champagne, Grant's whisky and Russian Standard vodka, the firm has announced.

First Drinks managing director Chris Mason, speaking at an event held in London last night (7 April) to mark the start of the group's partnership with Remy, said that First Drinks saw value sales rise by 13% in 2008.

He said that the rise compared to a UK spirits market up by only 0.3% in value for the year.

Among the highlights of the group's year in 2008 was Russian Standard vodka, which doubled case sales in the UK to 180,000 during the year, First Drinks said. A new 35cl Russian Standard bottle size is set to be launched in the country later this year.

Mason said that he saw strong potential in premium spirits, despite the recession enveloping the UK economy, adding that he believes the country's premium spirits market could grow in value by 30% between now and 2013. The market is currently worth around GBP138m.

The addition of Remy's brands to the First Drinks portfolio, made official after the French firm's exit from the Maxxium Worldwide distribution venture on 31 March, means that First Drinks now claims to be the UK's biggest distributor of premium spirits.