Brown spirits remain red hot, allowing for new whiskey brands to emerge. Below we look at five young brands that have already made a big impact.
1) Redemption Rye
After launching in 2016, this brand grew 60.6% in 2017 to 53,000 cases according to our 2018 Growth Brands Awards. Cocktails have helped fueled this success.
“Early on, we recognized the brand’s growth potential on-premise and invested in the channel and created whiskey brand ambassadors (former bartenders themselves) to work with bartenders to ensure Redemption was considered as they were building their cocktail programs,” explains Tom Steffanci, president of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits.
Redemption Rye can now be found in many of the top cocktail accounts in the country, he adds.
The brand has embraced pre-Prohibition cocktails, which commonly contained rye, as well as celebrations leading up to Repeal Day, Dec. 5. Last year these included sponsoring the cocktail podcast Life Behind Bars, working with the NY Bartenders Guild and other on-premise events.
Steffanci expects more Repeal Day activations in 2018, along with “a hands-on approach . . . with top whiskey-minded mixologists, bartenders and influencers.”
2-3) Woodford Reserve Rye and Double Oaked
Known for constant innovations, Woodford Reserve recently created two new expressions with its Rye and Double Oaked. The former grew 47.4% in 2017 to 28,000 cases, while the latter increased 34.6% to 35,000 cases.
The Rye is spice-forward but not overpowering, explains Mark Bacon, Woodford Reserve global brand director. The mash bill is only 53% rye, much lower than typical. “It’s a smoother rye, where others are overly spicy,” Bacon says.
The Double Oaked is Woodford Reserve bourbon aged another year in deeply toasted, lightly charred new-oak barrels. “It’s such a smooth and sweet product that we often hear from consumers who don’t drink bourbon — but do drink Double Oaked,” Bacon says. “Ultimately that helps bring then into the bourbon family.”
Both brands were featured in Woodford Reserve’s 2018 national bartender competition, Manhattan Experience. “Woodford Reserve Rye has quickly become a favorite among bartenders for cocktails,” Bacon says.
Launched in 2017, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye came out strong with 32,000 9-liter cases sold. Why the rapid success? Quality, along with consumers’ trust for the brand, says Ana Kornegay, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye brand director.
“Our unique 70% rye grain bill makes for an incredibly balanced whiskey that has both spicy and sweeter notes that create a delicious cocktail or stands alone neat or on the rocks,” she says.
The launch included tastings and social-media promotions. “Our 2018 plans are fluid, but we do anticipate a continued focus on distribution and sampling,” Kornegay says.
5) Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock & Rye
Mixed drinks have driven whiskey growth, including this new bottled cocktail that hit shelves in 2016. Its 19th-century recipe combines straight rye, Florida navel oranges, raw honey, Angostura Bitters and a small dose of rock candy.
Consumers like that Rock & Rye can be “consumed neat, on the rocks, as a shot or in a mixology cocktail,” explains Robyn Greene, SVP of marketing and brand innovation at The Cooper Spirits Company. “Our authentic packaging and dynamic brand story don’t hurt either.”
Last year the brand customized a 1978 Chevy G20 as a rolling cocktail lounge for a national tour. In 2018 they have continued the tour, and have hosted pop-up events at bars and venues across America.