Five minute focus

18 April, 2008

Fred Noe, seventh-generation family distiller at Jim Beam Distillery

Bourbon's new fan base

Bourbon is a category that's really starting to gather momentum and younger consumers are coming into the marketplace. They're more adventurous than their parents and see Bourbon as something different - US whiskey is this generation's Scotch whisky. People are starting to enjoy ultra-premium, handmade Bourbons and are gravitating towards them. Small batch Bourbons such as Knob Creek are bringing into the Bourbon category consumers who have never drunk it before.

Staying consumer-focused

You've got to teach people what makes a Bourbon a Bourbon. These products should be hand-sold - it's about letting people enjoy them. The UK is a great market and we hope to expand it with education and getting our product tasted. Things like speaking at the World Whisky Conference, training bartenders and holding tastings in the off-trade will deepen people's knowledge of the brand. Retailers need to show consumers what's inside the bottle - it's got a heritage.

How to drink Bourbon

It's important to understand the mixability of Bourbon - we are not big on the rules. Bourbon is very versatile and it's up to the consumer what they drink it with - ginger ale, soda water, fruit purees, orange juice or in cocktails. Jim Beam is sweet and it's got a bite to it. The flavour lingers after you swallow because of the ageing in the barrel. If you taste it and make a face, it's too strong and you need to add some more water.

Production rules

In the past 10 years computers have become much more widely used in the distillery, which allows us to be more consistent. The production process and the recipe ha ven't changed since 1795 - it's the control of the process that has. There have also been big changes in the size of the operation. We're in expansion mode right now by increasing the size of the Booker Noe plant.

Keeping it in the family

It's a tremendous honour for me to have my face next to my dad's on the newly redesigned bottle. I had on-the-job training from my dad at the distillery in Clermont, Kentucky, and my 20-year-old son, Frederick Booker Noe IV, will follow in my footsteps once he's finished college.

Jack versus Jim

Jack Daniel's and Jim Beam are definitely competitors in most markets. In the glass they are different - Jim Beam is sweeter and our product has a nicer finish when you swallow it. But we can also stand together and promote the Bourbon category as a whole. It's not about choosing Jack or Jim, it's about working together to give consumers an alternative to other spirits.




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