FYI News, Notes and Trends

Irish Whiskey Steps Up

*Once the most popular spirit in America (pre-Prohibition era), Irish whiskey has all but disappeared from the general landscape of U.S. distilled spirits. In terms of overall consumption, the smooth, generally triple-distilled spirit comprises a mere 0.3% of U.S. spirits sales, totaling just over 360,000 9-liter cases. But, during the past few years, the Irish whiskey category has seen steadily increasing sales and the addition of several new products after decades of no new product activity. Indeed, in 1999, Irish whiskey was the one whiskey category that saw sales rise (up 11%) while all other whiskeys declined. That increase was led by the top-selling Irish whiskey in the U.S., Jameson, with an almost 15% gain to 160,000 9-liter cases.

Now, Jameson’s U.S. marketing arm, Austin, Nichols, is hoping to build on Jameson’s recent gains by launching the brand’s largest-ever U.S. advertising campaign, to the tune of $2.3 million for the first quarter. The “Rush Hour” campaign is positioned to appeal to young professionals who often lead “rushed” lives. The ads are intended to “connect with these consumers and provide them with an opportunity to step out of their rushed lives, if only for a short time,” said Jameson brand manager Jeff Agdern.

“This is image-based marketing,” he continued, “but it will only be successful because of the proven quality of the juice in the bottle. We would like consumers to add Jameson into their portfolio of premium drinks.”

1200fyiBarry Crockett (right), master distiller for the Midleton Distillery, which produces Midleton and Jameson Irish Whiskeys, among others, samples a selection from the first Midleton Very Rare 2000 cask, a special bottling commemorating the 175th anniversary of the Midleton Distillery. Billy Lee (left), cooper for the distillery, had just drawn the sample of the 2000.

Meanwhile, the venerable distillery that produces the several expressions of Jameson, as well as Power’s, Midleton Very Rare and other Irish whiskies, marked its 175th anniversary recently. The celebration included the unveiling of two spectacular Irish whiskeys. The first, meant to commemorate the 175th anniversary, is Midleton Very Rare 2000, the result of a blend of 13 to 25 year old whiskeys from casks (first-fill bourbon barrels) hand-picked at the peak of their maturity by master distiller Barry Crockett. Approximately 500 cases of Midleton Very Rare 2000 will be available in the U.S., with a suggested retail price of about $125 per bottle.


An even more limited release is the Midleton Very Rare 26 Year Old, also introduced at the distillery’s anniversary celebration. Produced in pure pot stills and port finished, the whiskey comes in an elegant wooden box and is individually numbered. Only 420 bottles of this remarkable spirit will be available in the U.S. next year, at a suggested retail price of about $600 per bottle.

Anti-Shipping Bill Passes Senate

*On October 11, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill that provides states with new power to ban interstate shipments of beverage alcohol products. Under the bill, state attorneys-general can now seek federal court injunctions against out-of-state businesses that ship beverage alcohol products into their state, potentially violating that particular state’s direct shipping laws. This development casts a pall over burgeoning internet sales of beverage alcohol products, potentially keeping consumers from purchasing products from out-of-state wineries and retailers.

Sponsored by Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the “Twenty-First Amendment Enforcement Act” has been attached to an unrelated bill intended to reduce the sexual exploitation of immigrant women and children. President Clinton has said he will sign the bill into law. The Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) supports the legislation. Others, concerned with states’ protectionist, anti-competitive laws, continue to oppose it.

Still, the language of the bill is narrowly focused, according to the Wine Institute, and “does not grant the states any additional power.” In addition, the bill reportedly would ask the courts to look into the constitutionality of the state’s existing beverage alcohol laws before an injunction could be issued.

Twenty states currently allow interstate shipment of beverage alcohol, under a variety of conditions, and consumers will still be able to legally purchase from out-of-state in these jurisdictions. Others states outlaw it, with penalties ranging from fines and misdemeanors to charges of felony.

Business Briefs

*Mark Marcon has been named vice president of the U.S. division of Hargreaves, Charbonneau & Associates, Inc., a full-service advertising agency located in Detroit, MI, and Windsor, Ontario. Marcon’s extensive sales and marketing experience includes 17 years working for Allied Domecq Spirits and its related companies. In his new position, he will be responsible for developing new business in the U.S…. Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide has made three executive promotions: Michael V. Cheek has been appointed to the new position of president of B-F’s Global Spirits Group, responsible for the company’s worldwide spirits sales and territorial marketing; James L. Bareuther is now president of the North American Group (succeeding Cheek), responsible for all spirits brands in North America, Australia and New Zealand; and Thomas P. Burnet, president of the company’s Wine Group, has also been named an executive vice president of the company… Shaw-Ross International Importers and Brittany Import Company announced a merger; the new company will maintain the Shaw-Ross name while combining brand portfolios and key personnel. Notable brands from Brittany that will now complement the Shaw-Ross portfolio include Fris Vodka, Gaetano Cordials and Jack & Bernie’s Bloody Mary Mix. From Brittany, George DiBenedetto joins Shaw-Ross as executive vice president, national sales director, and Greg Tignanelli as vice president, central division… Holly Evans was named marketing manager at Seagram Chateau & Estates Wine Co…. Canandaigua Brands has changed its corporate name to Constellation Brands, Inc., to better reflect the scope of the company.


At the 9th Annual Sky Ranch Hall of Fame Dinner, in Miami, FL, several members of the beverage alcohol community were inducted into the Sky Ranch Hall of Fame. The new Sky Ranch Hall of Fame members, seen here, are flanked by Sky Ranch Foundation Chairman George McCarthy (far left, of Allied Domecq Wine & Spirits and also chairman of DISCUS) and Sky Ranch President Ralph Aguera (far right, of Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide). The honorees are, from left holding plaques, William O’Connell, of Bacardi USA (who accepted for Eduardo Sardina); Lainee Donovan Brown (who accepted for her late father, Thomas J. Donovan, founding treasurer of the Sky Ranch Foundation); Charles Bailes III, of ABC Fine Wines & Spirits, headquartered in Orlando, FL; Siomara Lindner, of Bacardi USA and the South Florida WAABI; and Norman Bonchick, of National Distributing Co., Deerfield Beach, FL.


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