Would you drink a beer that tastes like liquor? How about a liquor that tastes like beer?

wattdickie-bottles

BrewDog, an independent brewery based in Scotland has launched a beer-based spirit called WattDickie. It’s named for the two owners whose keyboard seems to be missing the space bar. (Their website is here.)

But their creativity seems to be working okay. Although, the idea has been done before, but the other way around. Therein lies the tale.

Messrs Watt and Dickie developed the new product using a “radical brewing and ice distillation process.” It’s 35% AbV and is created using an IPA style beer. At 70 proof it must pack a wallop.

I’ve been following these gents for some time (see May 16, 2012 posting) and admire their independence and cheekiness (for those of you in the States, that’s called chutzpah). Martin Dickie, had this to say about their new creation:

“What we have here is not a beer, but its alter-ego. This is Mr. Hyde. This is the shiver down the spine of the grease slick adman relying on people lapping up the ‘same old-same old’ from their sticky bottle of snake oil. This is a drink by the misfits, for the misfits. It’s a beautiful, absurd experiment.”

It will sell for £2.99 for a 6cl bottle and will be available in BrewDog bars and their online store at the end of June. Get this – according to Just Drinks, it is expected to be available in 700ml bottles later this year.Image

I wonder what it tastes like.

Back in the day, Seagram, spurred on by the vagaries of the owner, produced a beer-flavored whiskey called Old Breed. (See the May 24, 2010 posting for the full story.)

Failure does not begin to describe the reaction to this neither fish nor fowl new product. The comments were universally negative (with “awful taste” at the forefront) and the product was pulled faster than a New York minute. That is, of course, when management mustered enough guts to tell the owner his baby was ugly.

Now, I’m not saying that WattDickie is in the same class as Old Breed. But, calling their brew or concoction a “new style of spirit,” makes me wonder. Is it indeed a new worthwhile alcohol product or a bad idea whose time has come again?

As they say, “the proof of a pudding is in the eating.” So, to my readers in the UK – try it and let me know what you think.

(My thanks to Drew DeSarno who brought this to my attention and supplied the Old Breed photo.)

 

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Ireland

Jameson, Diageo and Seagram…

Having just returned from a holiday in the Emerald Isle, I thought I would share some thoughts, especially about my favorite topic.

Jameson

Seagram had the distribution rights to this Irish whiskey for quite some time and, frankly, didn’t do much with it. With the exception of St. Patrick’s Day promotions and pushing the Irish Coffee drink, the brand went nowhere for years. I suppose it’s understandable, with millions of scotch sales at the heart of the portfolio, there was little room for this great brand.

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Follow the leader

This week’s issue of Advertising Age has a story about flavored whiskey with the headline “Brown liquors get shot of flavor as distillers look to broaden audience.” The sub headline – “Can cherry bourbon and Tabasco SoCo woo women without scaring off men?”

Right off the bat, a few things bothered me. Brown liquors? Careful Ad Age, your bias is showing.

As to the appeal to women, I suppose that’s correct but the real story is innovating the whiskey category to broaden its appeal – to all audiences, not just women – and to expand usage occasions as well.

Ad Age also forgot the brand that created the category in the first place – Wild Turkey American Honey that was launched in 2006 and has been a big seller since then.

Here’s my view on the flavored whiskey category.

When Beam introduced Red Stag by Jim Beam (Black Cherry), many people (myself included) didn’t think it would work. But I at least gave them credit for a brand extension rather than a line extension. What’s the difference? As my friends at Absolut used to say, if you add an extension, it must feed the brand not eat the brand. Extend usage and consumers without cannibalizing the core franchise.

Launched in 2009, Red Stag sold 100,000 cases that year and 190,000 in 2010. I’m told that by the end of 2011 the brand will have sold 500,000 cases since the launch. Further, according to Nielsen data, Red Stag accounted for 15% of all the growth in the Bourbon category in 2010. That, my friends, is feeding the brand.

The attractive thing about Red Stag is that it’s “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Infused with Natural Flavors.” At 80 proof, it’s whiskey not a liqueur. It’s the only one on the market that’s whiskey according to the regulations.

Based on the success, the race is on.

Brown Forman has two entries in the market both interesting, but more whiskey specialty and liqueur than Beam’s entry. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey is a 70 proof product, has great reviews and is more expensive than Red Stag. Gutsy pricing move.

Even gutsier is the Southern Comfort entry – Southern Comfort Fiery Pepper. It’s a liqueur (like the base brand and the Lime extension) at 70 proof. As the name suggests, it’s certainly not fruity and is co-branded with Tabasco hot sauce.

The Evan Williams folks (Heaven Hill) introduced Evan Williams Honey Reserve and are launching a Cherry Reserve. Both at 70 proof, they are classified as liqueurs.

In addition to brands, the race seems to be between cherry and honey.

Which brings me to the Seagram’s 7 Crown entries – Dark Honey and Stone Cherry. (Can someone tell me what a stone cherry is? How is it different from a cherry without a stone? Sounds like a brand manager hoping consumers will add a “d” to the word stone.)

This one is worthy of some further comments, as though I could resist.

First, it’s probably a good idea – what do they have to lose and 7 Crown could use the face-lift. Second, the brands are 71 proof, not 70. That’s probably because the flavorings have alcohol and those amounts are not taxable. I think it’s called draw back credit. Third, it sells for $19.99 or about the same price as Red Stag. That’s more than gutsy — that’s chutzpah.

Flavored whiskeys could be just the ticket to revise and grow the whiskey market. It changes perceptions, increases usage and brings non-whiskey drinkers into the mix.

Somewhere, Mr. Sam (founder of Seagram) is spinning in his grave.

 

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