US whiskey is a Jack of all trades

Appealing to different consumer groups and tastes is key for Brown-Forman

• Something for everyone: the Jack Daniel’s range.
Something for everyone: the Jack Daniel’s range.

COVERING a range of different flavour profiles and price points is the key to a successful American whiskey range, advises the firm behind Jack Daniel’s.

Brown-Forman UK’s whiskey portfolio includes Woodford Reserve as well as Jack Daniel’s Old No.7, Tennessee Honey, Gentleman Jack and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, all of which are distributed in the UK by Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands.
Speaking to SLTN Nidal Ramini, head of advocacy at Brown-Forman UK, described the American whiskey category as a “bartender favourite”, that is proving more popular with consumers, supported by the continuing popularity of TV shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire.
“Places are really pushing American whiskey and getting behind it, and I think consumers are beginning to understand there’s a difference between certain products and certain occasions,” he said.
And with the varied Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve portfolios the company is ideally placed to capitalise on this popularity, said Ramini.
“I think Brown-Forman can safely say we’re the American whiskey captains,” he said.
“We own and market the biggest brand in the world with Jack Daniel’s. And what we’re trying to do is to build up this category, to really make American whiskey a powerful category outside of Old No.7.
“Woodford Reserve is doing brilliantly. We’re seeing some great numbers coming from that, and (Tennessee) Honey opens up a whole load of occasions for us as well; maybe the younger consumer who loves the Jack Daniel’s brand but is a little bit nervous about what it’s going to taste like because it’s whiskey.
“Honey is slightly sweeter as well, and has an easier palate.”
The company is aiming to cater to a broad range of customers with its whiskeys, from the entry-level ‘Jack and Coke’ drinker to those sipping Single Barrel on the rocks or an Old Fashioned made with Woodford Reserve.
This versatility is a key focus for a newly-appointed team of American whiskey ‘specialists’, who are visiting bars, as well as wholesalers, to provide training across the range.
In Scotland, Brown-Forman has recruited bartender and reigning SLTN Mixologist of the Year Mal Spence.
“It’s a small industry, and anyone that’s doing something brilliant, you always want to have a look,” said Ramini.
“So I was aware of Mal’s work at The Blythswood and beforehand, and everything that he was doing.
“So when we were thinking about who would be fantastic to have, in either Glasgow or Edinburgh, someone mentioned Mal and I said ‘if he could do it, it’d be brilliant’.
“He was delighted to do it, which was fantastic for us.”

Mal Spence, whiskey specialist for Scotland.
Mal Spence, whiskey specialist for Scotland.

The recruitment of the whiskey specialists comes a year after the appointment of Tom Vernon as American whiskey ambassador.
“We brought Tom in to do a specific job around this time last year – primarily to push Woodford Reserve, working with training and education, but really putting some visual presence behind that brand, as well as working on Gentleman Jack and Single Barrel,” said Ramini. “But when we got the ball rolling the demand for his time was absolutely huge. He couldn’t be in two places at once, let alone five.
“We decided that what would be great would be to have a tactical team of guys who could work specific areas.”
And Ramini stressed that the current popularity of American whiskey is good news for more than just brand owners.
“One of the reasons we wanted to have Mal on board was to really get into these bars, speak to the bartenders, the bar managers, and explain to them what we’re seeing coming from cocktail research, what consumers are saying they want, and that it’s good for their bottom line,” he said.
“It’s a premium product, you can charge a premium and it upscales your offering as well.”