Looking at the Booker Noe posts in another thread, I had to notice Chuck's post and quote. I don't quite agree with what Chuck has said, but I do think I understand what he meant. The quote however has me thinking about the revival of bourbon. Was Booker and Small batch bourbons the cause of the revival? Or was it Elmer t Lee and the single barrel concept? Or can you really say we have a revival until there are increases in sales at all levels of product? Just a few questions to consider.
I think that the revival did start with the single barrel concept. Marketing small batch bourbons was Jim Beam's way of answering the challenge of single barrel. Did Booker "create" the small batch concept? I would say no, it had been around for a long time (extra aged Old Fitzgerald products are a prime example of "small batch bourbons" from Stitzel-Weller). What Booker did was take this concept and make it work. It was his hard work and dedication that convinced people that "small batch" was a legitimate style of bourbon and equal to the single barrel concept. These two ideas (with Elmer T Lee working just as hard to promote the "single barrel" concept) created new interest in the spirit and slowed the decline in sales. The market has now leveled off and showing hope for improvement. These two concepts have led to more interest in extra aged products, thus United Distillers came out with the "Heritage" collection. I would not say United Distillers created this catagory, because it has been around for a long time. Julian Van Winkle (and his father before him) have been marketing extra aged products for decades.
I think the "Industry Revival" is due to the work of many people. Booker Noe and Elmer T Lee are two of those that deserve the credit, but I would also throw in some people like the late Ova Haney, Julian Van Winkle, Bill Samuels, Jimmy Russell, Lincoln Henderson and Max Shapira and the Beams at Heaven Hill. They have all have worked hard to increase the interest in bourbon as a spirit and produce interesting products to fill the new catagories.