While vodka producers like Smirnoff are looking to attract new clients with brand strategies that include reality TV shows, bourbon makers are taking a different route. Today, Bloomberg News reports that the big names in bourbon like Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam are trying to shake the liquor’s traditional “Grampa-on-the-Porch” image with new products that play up heritage, craftsmanship and a more complex and longer aging process.
Maker’s most recent release, named 46, is “finished in the original aging barrels but with the insertion of one-inch thick French oak staves” — a deviation from traditional processes, for sure, but one that, according to the brand, “[stays] true to the craft and heritage of Maker’s Mark.” Meanwhile Jim Beam is boasting an eight year aging process for its recently-debuted Black Label — that’s four years longer than original Jim Beam. “New bottle and label. Same great bourbon!” exclaims the company on their web site.
“Going upscale” is a strategy that appeals to the current food-world faddishness of all things gourmet and artisanal. And thus far, the strategy appears to be working — 46 is set to be sold out by January. Cool new distilleries are also popping up in unexpected places, like Kings County in New York, and Garrison Brothers in Texas.
Granted, all this change hasn’t dampened the market for old-school product: the president of Maker’s Mark told Bloomberg News that there has been “zero negative impact on sales” of the original brand.