GIVING IT TO THEM STRAIGHT

In an era when superficiality and hyperactive pace pervade most sectors of society, little wonder that many of the distilled spirits industry’s long-established “core” categories that represent stability — whiskey, vodka, brandy/cognac, rum, tequila — are flourishing. Many beverage alcohol industry observers agree that consumers mature dramatically from their mid-twenties to their late-thirties. They tend to move past the fleeting allure of “faddy” things like neon-colored drinks, jello-shots and shooters as they start to hunt for genuineness and products that match their own developing adult identities. As the past two decades have irrefutably demonstrated, affluent, educated consumers, especially in the key 25 to 40 year age demographic, demand quality more than any other product attribute when they need to escape contemporary life’s breakneck pace. The reasoning is: If my life is a morass of cell phones, i-Pods, computers, e-mail, Sunday afternoon business appointments, and weeknight PTA meetings, whatever I’m drinking had better be good.

Enter America’s booming straight bourbons and straight Tennessee whiskeys. These no-nonsense, grain-based, oak-aged spirits appeal to knowledgeable consumers as much because of their sturdy quality as with their deep-rooted American pedigree. Retailers, better than anyone, understand that their blue chip customers are known by their brands. As much as any alcoholic beverage sectors, premium and superpremium whiskeys make a clear social statement about the drinker. Brand loyalty is a hallmark trait of American straight whiskey drinking. People become known in their circle of friends as being an admirer of “Jim,” “Jack,” “Evan,” “Turkey” or “Maker’s.”


The leading straight whiskey in the U.S., Jack Daniel’s increased sales 7.4% nationally in 2004, to 4.225 million 9-liter cases. The brand is featuring this gift set for the holidays.

In an increasingly borderless world, the brand loyalty assertion is true on an international scale. As evidenced by their domestic and international growth, America’s straight whiskeys (in the Control States, Jack Daniel’s up 7.8% in 2004; Evan Williams up 7.4%; Maker’s Mark up 10.8%; Wild Turkey up 3.6%, to name a few) are the beverage alcohol equivalent of Levi’s blue jeans and Coca-Cola. Legal-age drinkers from Sydney to Hong Kong to Paris to Prague to Cape Town to Vancouver are as familiar with the labels of Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s as they are with the emblems of other purely American icons, like McDonald’s, Harley-Davidson, Apple computers and Goodyear tires. Make no mistake. America’s straight whiskeys are a global phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down.
What makes straight whiskeys so, well, darned American

Consumer fascination with American straight whiskey approaches mystique status, both at home and abroad. What exactly are they, though, in legal terms? Straight whiskeys, according to the U. S. Government, are distilled, grain-based spirits that must be made up of a minimum of 51% of one type of grain (the predominant grain is virtually always corn, the Americas’ quintessential native grain); distilled at no higher than 80% alcohol; and matured for at least two years in new charred oak barrels at no higher than 62.5% alcohol. Further, American straight whiskeys are, by law, completely natural distillates that contain no artificial flavoring or coloring.

Jim Beam Black is
offering this gift
set with a flask/
cigar holder
for the upcoming
holidays. Overall,
Jim Beam gained
2.4% nationally in
2004, with sales of
3.175 million
9-liter cases.

Maker’s Mark had
another stellar year
in 2004, increasing
sales nationally by
11.2% to 545,000
9-liter cases.

But, let’s be honest here. There are no frills with Jim Beam Straight Kentucky Bourbon, just 210 years and seven generations worth of distilling mastery in the world’s best-selling straight bourbon. No bells or whistles accompany Jack Daniel’s Old Time No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey, the planet’s most popular American straight whiskey that hails from bump-in-the-road Lynchburg, TN. No ornate packaging, just a red wax seal comes with Maker’s Mark Straight Kentucky Bourbon, one of today’s fastest-growing straight whiskey brands. Wild Turkey owns a terrific logo and an even better straight bourbon whiskey. And Evan Williams is an in-your-face whiskey aged for seven years in new, charred oak barrels. What, then, makes these American straight whiskeys so special and such a driving force in the global marketplace?

These and other domestic straight whiskies enjoy perennial popularity the world over because they are, in the vernacular of the day, the “real deal.” They are not artificially gussied up and, as such, are totally natural beverages. They are straightforward drinks, comprised mostly of fermented and distilled corn mash, that satisfy the libation needs of millions of people. Therein, in my opinion, lies their most crucial asset: They possess homegrown legitimacy that reflects the essential American virtues of ingenuity, wise use of natural resources and commercial enterprise. At their most basic level, straight bourbons and Tennessee whiskeys are America in a glass.

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Another recent superpremium from
Heaven Hill Distilleries is Elijah
Craig 18-Year-Old Single Barrel
Bourbon, which at 90 proof retails
for about $36.


Knob Creek, one of the vaunted
quartet of Jim Beam’s small batch
bourbons, is partnering with poker
hotshot Howard Lederer in an ongoing
poker and Knob Creek promotion.

 


 


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