The chain was seeking to deter bulk buys by limiting purchases to three bottles per customer.
It was also promoting Famous Grouse at £12 for a 70cl bottle, as a supermarket price war on spirits brands started to come to the boil.
Both Tesco and the Co-op have settled at £11 for major brands such as Smirnoff and Gordon’s, while Morrisons was selling Bacardi’s Eristoff vodka at £10.59.
Sainsbury’s has opted for a two-for-£22 multibuy in England and Wales on brands including Smirnoff, Eristoff and Baileys. Its spirits buyer Stephen Smith said: “Of course consumers are shopping on price but they are primarily looking for bargains.
“Their luxury budget may remain the same. However, they will look at the best way to stretch this, shopping for offers and particularly looking for deeper cut offers.”
Corrin Lawson, spirits category manager for Tesco, said: “Consumers will shop around and wait for deals and we will see more cautious purchasing patterns than have been evident in previous years.
“Certainly price will be the lead message this year.
“All consumers will be able to buy these promotions and deals regardless of social demographic.”
Leading suppliers said they were braced for a battle over price.
John Bradbury, Whyte & Mackay off-trade sales director, said: “Prices are already dropped to where they were in December 2010.
“That shows there is more focus on price and we can see the deep cut activity is starting earlier than ever before.”
Chris Ellis, off-trade channel director for spirits at Pernod Ricard UK, said: “While we understand promotions have a role to play in driving footfall in-store, an over-reliance on price alone is not allowing the UK drinks industry to
collectively realise the full benefits of the premium opportunity.”
He added that this was especially the case at Christmas when consumers are “looking to buy better-quality brands to treat themselves and others.”
David Everett, off-trade sales director at Maxxium UK, added: “We must ensure a brand’s equity is not damaged and commoditised by such activity.
“It is in everyone’s interest to seek ways in which to promote at realistic levels, which are sustainable, and allow for continued investment in brand building.”
Mark Collins, marketing controller for breakout brands at First Drinks, said: “I don’t know what year has been easy for the spirits category – it’s always challenging.
“Every year pricing is keen and I don’t think it’s going to be any different this time.”