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American Whiskey

American Whiskey

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Published by applejak
The American whiskey business is turning out perhaps the best products in its history.
The American whiskey business is turning out perhaps the best products in its history.

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Published by: applejak on Aug 11, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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08/30/2012

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By Jack Robertiello
T
he whiskey business breeds naturally happypeople, the kind who, even as the weekenters its 60
th
hour, like to refect on theirgood ortune. So, it’s never a surprise when their viewis sunny. But these days, despite overall economicworries, those olks making bourbon and rye seemespecially pleased with their work.
Is American WhiskeyBetter Than Ever?
whiskey
at a peak
“I think we’re making the best stu that’sever been made,” says Harlen Wheatley, mas-ter distiller or Bualo Trace Distillery, homeo multiple whiskies, including Old Charter,the Antique Collection (George Stagg, EagleRare, Thomas Handy) and the Bualo TraceExperimental series. “And that’s not just us;that’s everyone. Whiskies are better today be-cause we have better control, consistency andunderstanding o the processes. Basically, ourphilosophy is that the best bourbon has not yetbeen made and we areconstantly look-ing or the bestever.”It’s a ar cry rom the dark days when vodkaboomed and whiskies struggled to stay alive,when the industry consolidated to the pointthat you can now count on one hand the num-ber o major American whiskey distillers. Butin the past ew years, sales have surged hereand abroad; the quality o American whiskeyis so high, and the prices so low.According to the Distilled Spirits Coun-cil, American whiskey accounts or 11.2%o total spirits market share in the U.S. andAmerican whiskey consumption is up 11.2%since 2003. Within the category (since 2003),high-end premium oerings are up 25.5% andsuper-premiums have seen the most growth(71.1%) in volume.
   M  a  n   h  a   t   t  a  n  c  o  c   k   t  a   i   l
 
“We all make good bourbon now andthey are quite a bargain,” says Wild Turkeymaster distiller Jimmy Russell. Russell cites asan example his own Russell’s Reserve 10 YearOld Bourbon, which retails or around $30,the price o many super-premium vodkas.The lower price point or super-premiumproducts allows an entry into the category ornew consumers. “I we weren’t made in theU.S., we’d probably be asking twice the pricewe’re charging today,” says Woodord Re-serve master distiller Chris Morris. “The newconsumers coming into bourbon are beingintroduced to the premium and super-premi-um whiskies which are high quality products– they are getting whiskies that are elegant,highly avorul and nuanced.”
NEW MARKET GROWTH
Prices have played a signifcant part inAmerican whiskey’s resurgence, but qualityhas been the key. The changes in approachthat started with the introduction o spe-cialty, small batch and single barrel bourbonsin the 1990s has helped renew interest andexcitement. This reawakening introducednew consumers to the essential, richly avor-ul qualities o American whiskey, and evenled them to neglected styles, like rye, whichhas recently escalated. The change has rees-tablished old brands such as Rittenhouse Ryeand Four Roses, and helped smaller brandslike Bulleit ignite.“The way Rittenhouse has taken o givescredibility to other whiskies; they work handin hand,” says Heaven Hill’s director o cor-porate communications, Larry Kass. And thegrowth in new whiskies hasn’t been limitedto major cosmopolitan markets; even in thetraditional Kentucky market consumers arewelcoming the new premium products,says Heaven Hill’s master distillerParker Beam.As a result, whiskies at all pricepoints are doing well, and consum-ers are rushing to try them, so muchso that many new products disappearrom retail and restaurant shelvesquicker than suppliers can makethem. Russell mentions that the Rus-sell’s Reserve Rye introduced in 2008was sold out beore the year was over.Things are going so well, in act, thatWhiskeyland is in the midst o a buildingboom. Jack Daniel’s is installing nine moreermenters at its Lynchburg, TN, acility;Heaven Hill, maker o Evan Williams, Eli-jah Craig and many other brands, recentlyboosted capacity by 50% at its distillery inLouisville; Wild Turkey is in the process o expansions that will nearly double its capac-ity in a ew years; Maker’s Mark is preparingor another growth spurt; and Jim Beam, theworld’s largest bourbon maker, is spending$70 million on acility growth.American whiskey makers may have re-sponded slowly at frst to the consumer moveto super-premium products, but opportunitiesstill abound with only about 5% o bourbonvolume at that rarifed level. But they are cer-tainly in the midst o a reocus there; BeamGlobal’s new whiskey, or instance, called, is being positioned as a modern alterna-tive to traditional rye whiskies. “The packag-ing was purposely designed to be modern andsleek and present some intrigue to the brandusing none o the traditional whiskey cues,”says brand manager Mara Melamed.
EXPERIMENTATIONBOOSTS INTEREST
Perhaps as much as price and quality, experi-mentation has helped spur consumer inter-est as well. Distillers like Wheatley, Morris,Parker Beam and others have moved beyondage and strength dierences to play withthe basic elements o whiskey: changing thegrain mix, altering ermentation and distilla-tion methods, using unusual barrels to fnishthe whiskey. New iterations include the limited pro-duction Woodord Reserve Masters Collec-tion, the most recent being the Woodord1838 Sweet Mash while Heaven Hill o-ers the vintage Evan Williams and limited
 
FROM 2003 - 2007:
25.5%
GROWTHIN HIGH-ENDPREMIUM VOLUME
11.2%
GROWTH IN TOTALWHISKEYCONSUMPTION
Statistics for U.S. Bourbon and Tennessee whiskeySource: Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.

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