“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 Woodord 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 avorul 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 disappearrom retail and restaurant shelvesquicker than suppliers can makethem. Russell mentions that the Rus-sell’s Reserve Rye introduced in 2008was sold out beore 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 moreermenters 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 preparingor 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 reocus 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.
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 dierences 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 Woodord Reserve Masters Collec-tion, the most recent being the Woodord1838 Sweet Mash while Heaven Hill o-ers the vintage Evan Williams and limited