Pernod Ricard has kicked off the festive season by unveiling its biggest investment in a spirits campaign to date, hoping to improve shoppers' understanding of spirits.

The French company is targeting wives and girlfriends who don't usually buy spirits, but want to buy their partner or father a bottle of whisky or cognac as a festive gift.

As well as launching a new range of gift boxes for its whisky brands including Glenlivet, Jameson and Chivas Regal, which will be supported by ads in retailer magazines, Pernod Ricard is teaming up with for online cocktail master classes. "At Christmas consumers often face a tough time trying to buy spirits that are not part of their usual repertoire," said Dan Reuby, head of marketing for spirits. "This campaign is designed to educate and guide them."

The cocktail classes are Pernod Ricard's latest venture into the world of web marketing. It follows a flurry of web-based activity in September, when it launched Malibu's dedicated network channel with Yahoo!, and a new online marketing campaign and website for Glenlivet.

Last month rival Diageo launched a joint initiative with Sainsbury's to encourage consumers to try out new whiskies over Christmas rather than stick to the same favourites.

The retailer re-categorised the sector based on Diageo's Malt Map initiative, which groups whiskies by taste profile rather than region.

Beers, wines and spirits is the leading category over the Christmas period, with a value of £3.5bn, £900m of which are spirits [Nielsen].