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View Full Version : Who are the other "normal" bourbon drinkers?



fussychicken
04-16-2011, 12:43
With many thousands and thousands of posts here in the forums, us "enthusiasts" know a pretty good amount about bourbon. We are the 5 percenters or maybe even the 1 percenters. And even though many bourbon producers will try to make us happy knowing that we can have a trickle down effect on sales, we are still very much a minority when it comes to overall bourbon sales.

With that said, who are these other "normal" bourbon drinkers? The "other" 95% of people that purchase bourbon?

I know this has been briefly talked about here, but I don't think in any great depth.
Super Brand Drinker?
We know that JD has done a good job of turning themselves into a somewhat trendy lifestyle brand. Which of course would explain some of the sales. But what about JB? What about Evan Williams? Not near as trendy or as cool. Who is buying all these millions of cases of JB, JD, and EW?
Old Man Drinkers?
It also seems that most of us have this image of older customers that have been fiercely loyal to a brand all their life as once or twice a week old man jim will head down to the liquor store to get his standard bottle. But if this is true, how many of these guys are out there? What happens when these guys pass on? Will the boomers do the same when they get old?
College Drinkers?
I would also imagine that most of us have an image of bourbon being a popular young mans drink. I know that I for one had plenty of bourbon in college, and that was small in comparison to many of my friends! But does this go away as you get older? It seems the 25-35 year old crowd doesn't go for rough and tumble bourbon anymore. "It was a college thing."
Premium Mainstream Drinkers?
What about companies like Buffalo Trace? All kinds of great offerings, but still mostly premium or better. Even their "normal" offering of Buffalo Trace seems kind of fancy and expensive compared to JD and JB. But Buffalo Trace can not live on just premium brands alone no? There has got to be some volume there somewhere. If so, who are these guys?
New Producer Drinkers?
And what if you are a new up and coming producer? All these guys seem to be focused on the enthusiast right now with their expensive offerings. Bur surely they are going to have to get more volume in the future to survive. Who and where are these volume customers?Anyway, a bit of a rambling post, but nevertheless, I am curious! Does anyone have any stats on this type of stuff? I'm sure the big companies have demographic information for most of this internally, but I've never seen any of it.

ebo
04-16-2011, 13:48
I'm not sure about 2-5, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the JD drinkers only drink it because it's "manly" and "macho". It has gained a cult status and following, for some reason that escapes me.

I also highly doubt that the many people it took to gain this "tough guy" status, drink it for the taste (sip it neat or with ice or water). Most just knock it back for the macho factor or drown it in Coke (because it really isn't that good). Obviously, this is just my opinion and I'm painting with a very broad brush, but this has been my observasion over many years.

JD single barrel, on the other hand, I find to be a fine product.

flintlock
04-16-2011, 17:10
I read somewhere that Maker's Mark is selling everything that isn't nailed down, and they anticipate they may double their annual sales in the next few years. So obviously there is a strong market for the mid-market, $25 bottle out there.

I expect in-bar consumption, usually mixed with soda, is where the vast bulk of domestic bourbon consumption winds up.

MarkEdwards
04-17-2011, 04:44
I read somewhere that Maker's Mark is selling everything that isn't nailed down, and they anticipate they may double their annual sales in the next few years. So obviously there is a strong market for the mid-market, $25 bottle out there.

I expect in-bar consumption, usually mixed with soda, is where the vast bulk of domestic bourbon consumption winds up.

From my own misspent youth, I drank a lot of either whiskey sours or bourbon and cokes, without regard to brand - just whatever the "bar brand" was, so I imagine this is the market for the lower end bourbons.

As for the Old Man Drinkers, in the US, we are so brand name dominated, that I suspect this will continue. Although I shudder to think of what brand loyalty is being developed by kids today. :grin:

Happyhour24x7
04-17-2011, 20:59
I'm not sure about 2-5, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the JD drinkers only drink it because it's "manly" and "macho". It has gained a cult status and following, for some reason that escapes me.

I also highly doubt that the many people it took to gain this "tough guy" status, drink it for the taste (sip it neat or with ice or water). Most just knock it back for the macho factor or drown it in Coke (because it really isn't that good). Obviously, this is just my opinion and I'm painting with a very broad brush, but this has been my observasion over many years.

JD single barrel, on the other hand, I find to be a fine product.

Very broad brush indeed. While there is a certain amount of truth in that a lot of people order "jack and coke" by default, don't forget that just because a particular whiskey doesn't appear to YOUR taste that it might be just right for others, and not just ones looking to be a "tough guy". I drink many different kinds of whiskey and other spirits, but Jack is a reliable go to- it's available, reasonably priced, and in my opinion, delicious. and yes, I drink it neat.

On the main question of the thread, I think the other poster got it right- most people will order a bourbon and coke or a shot regardless of the brand, and JB is by far the predominant rail bourbon out there...hence, huge sales. JB doesn't appeal to my taste at all, but unlike EBO, I will not say it's bad whiskey; it's just not my preference.

ebo
04-18-2011, 18:00
Very broad brush indeed. While there is a certain amount of truth in that a lot of people order "jack and coke" by default, don't forget that just because a particular whiskey doesn't appear to YOUR taste that it might be just right for others, and not just ones looking to be a "tough guy". I drink many different kinds of whiskey and other spirits, but Jack is a reliable go to- it's available, reasonably priced, and in my opinion, delicious. and yes, I drink it neat.

On the main question of the thread, I think the other poster got it right- most people will order a bourbon and coke or a shot regardless of the brand, and JB is by far the predominant rail bourbon out there...hence, huge sales. JB doesn't appeal to my taste at all, but unlike EBO, I will not say it's bad whiskey; it's just not my preference.
I believe I said I was painting with a very broad brush... and it is only an opinion... not fact. I do base my opinion on many years of observation in various bars :grin: .

I am well aware that there are those, like yourself, that really do like JD old #7. But, by and large, I still contend that the majority of JD drinkers only claim to like it because of the "macho" factor attached to it.

I don't hate the stuff, myself. I just don't think there is anything all that special about it... at least not so special as to command such a cult following. Just my .02 :cool:

tehbeardman
04-18-2011, 18:18
It is an interesting discussion topic. I'd say in a lot of ways, the Super Brand Drinkers and College Drinkers overlap a lot of the time. I'm not too far removed from college and I'd say I could be labeled at that time as such. Lots of whiskey mixed with coke or 7up.

For me, I didn't know anybody that drank bourbon so when we'd go to the store to get whiskey, the big names you recognize and so you'll lean towards trying them. I've drank quite a bit of JD (although I got my whiskey start on Canadian Club). I think for a lot of people they try a jack and coke since it's fairly popular, find out they like it, and just stick with it.

I think the new producers rely heavily on the local market to get a brand off the ground. For instance, there is a local distillery just south of Omaha that started out making beer (Lucky Bucket, if you haven't had it, try it. Its really tasty) then they made a premium vodka, and now they have distilled their own whisky that is aging in barrels in their own facility. Their beer has been such a hit, many people are willing to give anything they make a shot. Just my $0.02

craigthom
04-19-2011, 15:24
Do we know what Buffalo Trace's sales figures are? I suspect that their highest volume brand is Ancient Age.

Robmo
04-20-2011, 09:05
Interesting question!...

An old article in forbes magazine does address the "who" question in passing:

"[Today American whiskey is really two quite distinct businesses: the low-end, so-called "value" bourbons and the more expensive stuff. Unsurprisingly, the demographics are different too. The "new" whiskies are drunk by educated, affluent, urban consumers with discriminating tastes and the wherewithal to indulge them, while the traditional, cheaper brands are largely confined to the American South and drunk by older, less-educated consumers who, as Samuels puts it, "spend a lot of time going to funerals." ]"

http://www.forbes.com/2004/10/27/cx_np_1027feat.html

I have no clue about old men as my dad never touched alcohol...but I know a little about old women. My grandmother was a Jim Beam drinker. I have no idea why she liked that brand as I never got a chance to ask her. But I vaguely suspect it had little to due with its taste compared to other brands, but simply because it was familiar to her, and available and cheap (she had to get by on a meager pension and monthly social security checks).

I suspect young people are particularly attracted to brands with the most marketing power. When I was growing up I could literally only name Jack Daniels and Jim Beam off the top of my head and I suspect most people don't care to think much beyond the brands that have already been etched ("branded") onto their hippocampus by our Madison Avenue masters.

"Children are exposed to 40,000 commercials every year. By the age of 18 months, they can recognize logos. By 10, they have memorized 300 to 400 brands, according to Boston College sociologist Juliet B. Schor. The average adult can recognize thousands. "
from
http://www.commercialalert.org/issues/culture/neuromarketing/mapping-the-mind-searching-for-the-why-of-buy

A fascinating book that utilizes evolutionary psychology to explain why people choose certain brands is this: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Must-Have-Hidden-Instincts-Behind-Everything/dp/0099437929

theDon
04-20-2011, 09:33
I am on a journey to the "Old Man Drinker" stage in life. After years in the dusty hunting game and trying new expressions, I am getting burnt out on all the politics and price hikes and proof changes. I will keep a few special bottles for special occasions, but I am drinking my way through the bunker fairly steadily and all the while narrowing my scope to that one daily pour that will keep me happy. A brand that doesn't dick around with quality and doesn't feel the need to advertise it's worthless product to a mass demographic. Just an honest bourbon for an honest price. I have found that in Tom Moore BIB so far, those of you in other parts of the country it's VOB, but with the aquisition by BT, I'm worried about it's future and mine.

McKinney
04-21-2011, 12:41
I echo RobMo's belief people stick with the familiar. Both sides of my family are from Kentucky (sadly, dry counties) so we always had bourbon in the house (closest liquor store sat just across the county line). That bourbon was always a single bottle of JB and each time my brother or I had an earache, toothache, and pretty much any kind of ache mom dosed us with JB and tea. I'm not sure she believed it cured anything, but it did get us to stop crying and drowse off.

As a kid I noticed the bottle's volume fluctuated randomly rather than in concert with family ailments so I strongly suspect JB was used for more than its medicinal value.

To this day when I visit I notice there is still one bottle of JB sitting in a cabinet and I notice the bottle's level has dropped a bit from the last visit. Why did mom settle on JB rather than WT, EW, or AA? Because that's what her dad drank and what her brothers still drink. To her that's bourbon and I think she's a bit amused and bemused by my ever growing collection of "fancy" bourbon.

fussychicken
05-03-2011, 16:40
Interesting comments all. I wonder how the super name brands like JB and JD will transition with demographic changes. Of course they seem to be doing well right now, especially with global expansion, so maybe it isn't a worry for them.




"[Today American whiskey is really two quite distinct businesses: the low-end, so-called "value" bourbons and the more expensive stuff. Unsurprisingly, the demographics are different too. The "new" whiskies are drunk by educated, affluent, urban consumers with discriminating tastes and the wherewithal to indulge them, while the traditional, cheaper brands are largely confined to the American South and drunk by older, less-educated consumers who, as Samuels puts it, "spend a lot of time going to funerals." ]"

http://www.forbes.com/2004/10/27/cx_np_1027feat.html




I get the feeling that the new super brands will be somewhat of a mix of these two. Similar to what Don (and probably me one day) is looking for. Makers seems to be riding the wave between these two right now pretty well.

While the super brands like JD and WT101 bank on the "bad boy" marketing image it will be interesting to see if anyone can create a new bourbon super brand using some other message.

Flyfish
07-01-2011, 08:01
Interesting comments all. I wonder how the super name brands like JB and JD will transition with demographic changes. Of course they seem to be doing well right now, especially with global expansion, so maybe it isn't a worry for them.





I get the feeling that the new super brands will be somewhat of a mix of these two. Similar to what Don (and probably me one day) is looking for. Makers seems to be riding the wave between these two right now pretty well.

While the super brands like JD and WT101 bank on the "bad boy" marketing image it will be interesting to see if anyone can create a new bourbon super brand using some other message.


If "super brand" means selling massive quantities, fluctuations in mass culture must combine with mass marketing. If "super brand" means selling all that you can make, scarcity itself can drive sales. Look what Beam did with the supposed shortage of Knob Creek or what happens as soon as any of the Van Winkles appear on the shelves. Aficianadoes may be only 1% of the market but I'll bet you a case of your favorite bourbon that they drink far more than 1% of the juice. And what are the odds that all of the BIBs are consumed by "poor white trash"? I have been drawn to a wide variety of bourbons not by mass marketing campaigns (which you never even see for the "lesser brands") but by the posts on websites like this one. It is not just in politics that interpersonal communications on the internet is undermining the mass media.