View Full Version : Modern Bourbons

04-16-2005, 09:55
In his excellent seminar at WhiskeFest Chicago, Dave Pickerell of Maker's Mark brought forth the term "modern bourbons," which he defined as every new bourbon brand introduced since Maker's Mark was launched in 1958. Although the term is somewhat self-serving, I find it useful and may adopt it. I have been using terms such as "super-premium," "luxury" and "small batch" to describe the same thing, but "super-premium" and "luxury" are problematic because some of brands aren't particularly pricey, and "small batch" has the problem of being a Jim Beam creation, being very vaguely defined, and like "super-premium" it doesn't really describe some brands, such as Maker's and even one of the original small batchers, Knob Creek. I have also used the term "new bourbons," but I included Maker's in that set and it is nearly 50 years old. Blanton's and the Beam small batchers are nearly 20 years old. So "modern" seems better than "new."

The significance of giving the segment a name is that for the last nearly two decades, the "modern bourbons" segment has been growing at a double-digit clip (admittedly from a very small base) while the "traditional bourbons" segment has been flat or shrinking, leaving the overall American whiskey category flat or shrinking. Now, however, the "modern bourbons" segment has grown to the point where it is lifting the category and for the last couple of years, American whiskey has been up slightly but consistently.

Here are the eight "new bourbons" I described in an article as "the new face of American whiskey." I don't mean this list to be complete, but I think it represents the segment's leaders and, not coincidentally, is one per company.

<ul type="square"> Maker's Mark Knob Creek Woodford Reserve Eagle Rare Single Barrel Bulleit Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Wild Turkey Russellís Reserve Ridgemont Reserve [/list]

04-17-2005, 10:26
Just wondering, Chuck, why would Eagle Rare represent Buffalo Trace as opposed to their namesake brand? All the other bourbons, I concur with your choices.

04-17-2005, 19:22
Lack of distribution, mostly, and because Mark Brown said so.

04-17-2005, 22:57
I was wondering, given the same time periods you have named "new bourbons" couldn't you classify them almost as "Baby Boomer" bourbons since it has been that group that probably most affected the changes in marketing and consumption? That group would then be followed by (excuse the use of a cigar term) Boutique bourbons designed to appeal to the more knowledgable established bourbon drinker which would include the Pappy family, BT Antique Collection, Beam Small Batch, and OFBBs. Classic would be the term I would use to describe the long standing bottlings like Wild Turkey 101, Jim Beam White, Evan Williams, and Old Fitzgerald. This is the way I tend to classify them personally, but this may conflict with more veteran Bourbonians.