The craft explosion has helped lift flavored spirits from the lower shelves up to the premium levels. Customers now look for high-quality ingredients and unique expressions as they spend more for flavored craft spirits. Recent growth in this category is led by brands like these five:
Winner of a Rising Star Growth Brand in 2018, the Brinley brand includes vanilla, coffee, mango and coconut flavored variants — and launched lime last year.
“Our Shipwreck Coconut Rum was on fire this year,” says Zach Brinley, CEO. “We believe it’s because high-end on-premise accounts are searching for an upgrade or craft option for Coconut Rum.”
Last year, the brand also began working with St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network to help protect sea turtles. “After learning that Sea Turtles were still being targeted by fishermen, and that only 1 in 1,000 baby turtles reaches adulthood, we knew we wanted to do something to help,” Brinley says.
In 2019, Brinley will experiment with adding 50-ml. “hitch-hikers” of the flavored variants onto 750-ml. bottles of the other rums to help encourage experimentation.
This brand of “southern style gin” includes lemonade and limeade flavors. “Legally, we have to call them flavored, but these are made with real juice in them,” explains Trey Azar, founder and master distiller. “Our goal was to create a shortcut to a cocktail. People like convenience and quickness, but they still want quality”
The branding is meant as female-friendly. “We saw an intimidation factor, especially with females, because cocktails seemed too complex,” Azar says. “Hence the simplicity of our products.”
Much of the marketing has been through consumer tastings and giving away airplane-sized samples at events. “You can’t drink a billboard,” Azar says. “You have to have trial to be successful.”
The whiskey brand, launched in 1960, has had recent success with its bourbon cream. First hitting shelves in 2016, this newer product was meant as a seasonal offering.
“That was a surprising one,” says Fletcher Buchman, Luxco brand manager. “It did so well out of the gate that it became a year-round SKU for us.”
Helping differentiate the product, it’s half the price of Buffalo Trace’s bourbon cream.
Known for their Kentucky straight and single barrel bourbons, Rebel Yell changed up their flavored options when they updated their packaging three years ago. Now their lineup includes root beer and ginger.
“We wanted to do something different that not everyone was doing at the time,” says Buchman of Luxco.
The ginger flavor reflects the bourbon cocktail trend, while root beer ties into the hard soda boom.
Rebel Yell promotes its flavored versions through social media as part of its overall marketing campaign, and on its websites with examples of cocktails that contain the ginger and root beer flavors.
This brand, acquired by Milestone Brands in 2016, has tapped into the active-consumer trend with their low-cal, low-carb flavors that include lime and grapefruit. Eric Dopkins of Milestone Brands also points to Dulce Vida’s use of real fruit and 100% agave.
Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @kswartzz or Instagram @cheers_magazine. Read his recent piece 12 Interesting Products at WSWA 2019.